Richard Commey defends his IBF Lightweight title for the second time when he meets Teofimo Lopez at Madison Square Garden on December 14th on a show promoted by Top Rank and televised in the USA by ESPN.
After only 14 professional bouts, Lopez will be challenging a seasoned and battle-ready champion who feels he has failed to receive the respect that he deserves.
In Commey's last defence in June, he scored an 8th round stoppage of former WBO titleholder Ray Beltran, a great name to have on his record even though Beltran failed to make the 135lb lightweight limit. The champion hasn't lost since back-to-back setbacks against Robert Easter Jr and Denis Shakikov in 2016, the Easter Jr fight was for the vacant IBF title and although Commey had his opponent down in the 8th round, he lost a close decision on the judges' scorecards.
Like so many African boxers, Commey has had to take fights away from his native Ghana. Assignments in the UK, Denmark Germany, Russia, and South Africa before settling in New York have given the 32-year-old plenty of experience. Having been the "B" side so many times has added a layer of resolve that has made the African a tough proposition for anyone in the division.
The 22-year-old Teofimo Lopez is being fast-tracked to boxing superstardom by Top Rank. With only 14 fights (all wins), with 11 Ko's behind him, he has been touted as a future champion since his 6th round Tko of William Silver. Since then, he has gone on to wins over Mason Menard (34-3-0), Diego Magdaleno (31-2-0), Edis Tatli (32-2-0), and Masayoshi Nakatatni (18-0-0). Few boxers so young face this sort of opposition in consecutive fights as they are normally still learning the game at this stage.
Fighting in the lightweight division at present looks a daunting prospect. Vasiliy Lomachenko, most fans P4P No1, holds 3 of the 4 world title belts and looks in a whole league of his own. Devin Haney is another outstanding proposition, and so is the Golden Boy promoted Ryan Garcia. The lightweight division may never have possessed this array of potential superstar talent.
So, can Commey upset Top Ranks plans?
That plan is for Lopez to win the IBF title from Commey and then go straight into a huge money unification match against Lomachenko. Once the Ukrainian has collected all four titles he will go back down to his natural super-featherweight division where he is most comfortable. Lopez, Haney, and Garcia will all then be fighting for vacant belts and we will enter a new era in the 135lb division. This, of course, relies on Commey falling to Lopez.
Commey is a solid if not spectacular champion that is capable of dragging Lopez into the trenches, but ultimately youth will prevail and the younger, more skilful challenger will outbox the champion.
Prediction: Lopez to win on points.