Whilst there is a clear mess at the top of the Lightweight division, with at least two fighters proclaiming to be champions the contenders also make up a messy bunch with former challengers, emerging hopefuls and those who made their name in lower weight classes. It's not a bad list of contenders, but it's a messy list, and that can actually be really interesting as the scene develops around them.
Luke Campbell (20-3, 16)
Englishman Luke Campbell is now 32 years old and has already come up short in world title bouts twice, however he is expected to get a third shot later this year, with the WBC ordering him to face Javier Fortuna for their title. Stood at 5'9" and fighting out of the southpaw stance Campbell is a nightmare to face, with fantastic technical skills, freakish size, solid power, impressive speed and a real gritty toughness. He's now in "now or never" territory and we suspect he'll know he cannot afford a loss to Fortuna when they finally clash.
Javier Fortuna (35-2-1-2, 26)
Explosive Dominican fighter Javier Fortuna will, as mentioned, face Luke Campbell for the vacant WBC title. He's only 30 but he's a bit of a young veteran and has been a professional for over a decade already. He was once seen as a sensational talent, but hasn't reached the heady heights many expected of him, with his biggest honours being the WBA "interim" Featherweight title. Despite that he does have a bit of time on his hands and proved their was still lie left in his career in recent bouts, including solid wins over Sharif Bogere and Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar. The big issue with Fortuna is that he can be unpredictable. On his best day he's a real nightmare, and the hope is that he can string together a couple of good performances to make his before it's too late.
Richard Commey (29-3, 26)
Big punching Richard Commey is a former IBF champion from Ghana who is looking to bounce back from a 2019 loss to Teofimo Lopez. Although not the most technically polished Commey is a big, rangy, strong, powerful an tough guy at the weight. Althouygh he was stopped by Lopez last time out there should be no question marks about his chin, the shot he got dropped with was an absolute bomb and he some how got back up and tried to fight on before being stopped. At 32, and turning 33 in March, he's perhaps got 1 more run to a title in him, though he has had a hard career and the loss to Lopez will leave will leave him with rebuilding to do.
Ryan Garcia (19-0, 16)
It turns out that pretty boy fighter Ryan Garcia is much more than a social media sensation. The 21 year old still has question marks over his head, but he genuinely impressed in 2018, as he blitzed both Jose Lopez and Romero Duno, and proved that he genuinely could punch and was quick against good fringe contenders. We would be surprised if Garcia got a world title fight in 2020, unless the title bodies decide to create even more paper belts, however he certainly has time on his side and will be in the mix for a long time. His success at Lightweight will only be limited how long he remains at the weigh and we wouldn't be that surprised to see him fighting at 140lbs sooner rather than later.
George Kambosos Jr (18-0, 10)
Unbeaten Australian contender George Kambosos Jr is one of the less well known contenders in the division, but one of those who has worked his way towards a world title fight over the last few years. The 26 year old scored his biggest win to date in December, when he beat Mickey Bey, and is now said to be heading to a world title eliminator later in 2020. Although he's unbeaten and has been stepping up his level of competition he is very much untested at world and his upcoming eliminator will be his first real test at the fringes of world class.
Denys Berinchyk (12-0, 7)
Exciting Ukrainian fighter Denys Berinchyk is pretty much the forgotten member of the 2012 Ukrainian Olympic team, despite winning a silver medal and beating both Anthony Yigit and Jeff Horn en route to that medal. Berinchyk is aggressive, very talented, powerful and can set a high pace, which he has proven he can keep up for 12 rounds. Sadly the Alexander Krassyuk promoted fighter has been unable to land the big fights that his career needs and has instead become better known for his unusual and innovative ring walks than his fights. At the age of 31 Berinchyk needs a big fight this year if he's to make an impact at the world level, following the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk, and fingers crossed he does get the break out win his talent deserve.
Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9)
Another of the lesser known contenders in the division is Japanese 28 year old Shuichiro Yoshino, the unified Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion. The talented Yoshino isn't well known in the West but has proven himself as the best in Asia and is likely to be looking for a big bout in 2020. He'll be kicking off the year on February 13th, when he faces Izuki Tomioka in a mandatory defense of the Japanese title, but after than his year is unclear. Whilst he's not a big name he's a fighter with a lot of talent, deep amateur experience and a brutal left hook, as Harmonito Dela Torre found out in October. Certainly one to keep an eye on for this year.
3 Fights we want:
Vasyl Lomachenko Vs Teofimo Lopez
Devin Haney Vs Luke Campbell
Gervonta Davis Vs Denys Berinchyk
The Lightweight division is one of the most peculiar at the moment, having a unified champion, a vacant title and a champion heading up to Welterweight. This is leaving the division a bit of a mess, but sadly it's a mess that doesn't have a great deal of focus. Thankfully it does have a good number of contenders coming through the ranks, and looking to fill the holes at the top.
If you missed out at the champions in the division that's available to read here- The state of the Division - Lightweight - The Champions
Richard Commey (27-2, 24)
Hard hitting Ghanian fighter Richard Commey has had a hard knock career, winning his first 24 bouts before losing a razor close decision to Robert Easter Jr, in an IBF title fight, then losing another close decision to Denis Shafikov. Since then he has bounced back and will be getting a second world title fight on February 2nd when he faces Isa Chaniev in Texas, for the IBF title. At the age of 31 Commey won't get many more chances and will know that he needs to beat Chaniev if he's going to get the big pay days his career deserves. He's heavy-handed, tough, has a great work rate and is a real nightmare to fight. A real physical force.
Isa Chaniev (13-1, 6)
Having mentioned Commey's February 2nd bout it makes sense to talk about his upcoming opponent, 26 year old Russian fighter Isa Chaniev. Chaniev's career, which began in 2015, saw him take 9 low key wins before stepping up and beating Rimar Metuda. That win was followed by a loss to Fedor Papazov in May 2017 and since then he has really come of age, with 3 impressive against Jean Pierrer Bauwens, Juan Martin Elorde and Ismael Barroso. He's earned a shot at the title, but will likely be the under-dog against the hard hitting Commey. He's a good fighter, who has been impressive recently, but maybe getting his shot just a touch too early.
Luke Campbell (19-2, 15)
Baby faced Englishman Luke Campbell is a 31 year old southpaw who looked shaky early in his career, following an excellent amateur career, but has developed into a fantastic boxer-puncher. As an amateur he won European and Olympic gold medals, and came runner up in the World Championships. As a professional he showed some problems adapting to the professional style losing in 2015 to Yvan Mendy and being dropped in 2016 by Argenis Mendez. Since then he has matured, adjusted his style, avenged the loss to Mendy and given Jorge Linares a really tough contest. He's expected to get a second title shot in 2019 and would likely be favoured against anyone in the division, other than Vasyl Lomachenko and Mikey Garcia.
Robert Easter Jr (21-1, 14)
Rangy American boxer Robert Easter Jr is a former IBF champion, having won the belt in 2016 when he narrowly beat Richard Commey. He held the title for close to 2 years before losing it in July 2018 to Mikey Garcia. His seems impressive on paper, with wins against Luis Cruz, Denis Shafikov and Javier Fortuna, but the reality is that he was very fortunate against Shafikov, a bout that had some of the worst scorecards in recent memory, and Fortuna, and his title win was also very questionable. Despite some fortunate results Easter is still a top contender, his resume is a strong one and given his dimensions he could be a nightmare for anyone. We just wonder whether he would be better off moving up in weight and letting his frame fill out a bit rather than drain his body so much to make a weight that doesn't seem to suit him particularly well.
Anthony Crolla (34-6-3, 13)
Well liked Englishman Anthony Crolla, dubbed "Million Dollar", is one of the sports good guys and at 32 years old he is on the verge of one more big fight. The former WBA Lightweight champion secured himself another shot at the WBA title when he beat Daud Yordan in November, and is now being lined up to fight Vasyl Lomachenko. Although not a huge puncher he hits hard enough to get respect from his opponents, has underrated technical ability, is tough and has a great work rate. Sadly a couple of losses to Jorge Linares showed he was a touch under the level of the divisional elite, but that doesn't change the fact that he is a top contender, and a live fighter against anyone but the very, very best.
Edis Tatli (31-2, 10)
Finland's 31 year old Edis Tatli is edging towards a world title fight. The European champion has got a strong following at home, where he has fought 32 of his 33 professional bouts, and he is very highly ranked by both the IBF and WBC, with an IBF world title eliminator in 2019 against Japan's Masayoshi Nakatani. Although not a big puncher Tatli is a hard worker in the ring, and has scored notable wins over the likes of Yvan Mendy, Francesco Patera, Mzonke Fana and Antonio De Vitis. A very talented and over-looked fighter, but one who has had a hard career with 232 rounds already under his belt, and a lot of gruelling 12 round contests.
Masayoshi Nakatani (18-0, 12)
Having mentioned Talti's potential next opponent could be Masayoshi Nakatani it makes sense to talk about the rangy Japanese boxer-puncher. The Osakan is almost 6' tall and has a 71" reach, giving him size advantages over almost anyone else in the division. He's only 29 but already has 11 OPBF title defences and has beaten a number of good fighters, such as Shuhei Tsuchiya, Yoshitaka Kato and Ricky sismundo. Despite those good wins there has been growing frustration over the way his career has gone and it really feels like he needs to have a big bout now, or risk going stale. He's a talented boxer-puncher and a fight with Tatli would tell us a lot about both men
Nihito Arakawa (31-6-2, 18)
At 37 years old Japanese tough guy Nihito Arakawa is in the final stages of his career, but is still highly ranked by the WBO thanks to holding the WBO Asia Pacific title, which could help him secure one last big bout. The Tokyo man, now fighting out of the Watanabe gym, is best known for his 2013 bout with Omar Figueroa, a bout he lost by a long way. Over the 2 years that followed that loss Arakawa went 1-3, but has now rebounded with a run of 6-0-1, claiming the Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific titles along the way. He's still tough, but his hard and long career is likely to show when he steps up again. Still given how he fights we'd love to see him get one final big bout in 2019, before hanging them up.
Mercito Gesta (32-2-2, 17)
Once highly touted Filipino fighter Mercito Gesta has come up short in a couple of world title bouts, losing to Miguel Vazquez and Jorge Linares, but bounced back from the loss to Linares with a win over Robert Manzanarez to remain in the mix. He would be an under-dog against the bigger names in the division but is a proven fighter, who has a wealth of experience, good skills and relatively large following, as well as name value in the US. Sadly Gesta was one of the many fighters who was dubbed the next Pacquiao, a tag that never seems to do a fighter any good, and his early promise has never been fulfilled, and likely never will be.
Roman Andreev (22-0, 16)
Russian fighter Roman Andreev is a limited but dangerous fighter who has beaten the likes of Rey Labao and Craig Evans. At 32 years old he's an old fighter, but will feel like he still has time on his side, having only had 91 professional rounds under his belt. He can be out boxed, as we saw when he faced Evans in February, but has good power, toughness and a will to win, and could well pick up a title in a division that looks set to be blown open. Sadly if he does win a belt it's hard to imagine him holding it long, and we suspect he would be little more than a transitional champion. At the time of writing he is ranked #1 by the WBO, but would really need Vasyl Lomachenko to vacate the title to have any chance of winning the belt.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.