There’s one thing for certain in the lightweight division– Devin Haney is the unified, “real” world champion.
But, actually, THAT might even be up for debate, at least when it comes to that “real” designation.
The 24-year-old Haney does, indeed, hold all four recognized sanctioning body belts in the 135 lb. division (with Gervonta “Tank” Davis holding the “regular” world champ designation of the WBA). However, there are a handful of lightweights who could certainly challenge his status as the best in the division.
There’s Gervonta Davis, of course. “Tank” has elite skill and elite one-punch power. He’s also the undisputed top draw in the division and has a serious case for being the top active American draw at the moment. Despite taking some heat for overall level of opposition, his lightweight resume is on par with anyone’s.
Then there’s Shakur Stevenson, who is universally regarded as an elite-level talent with a skill set that rates him among the very best in the sport. Officially, he’s only had two fights as a lightweight, but he’s already the WBO’s no. 1 contender and has made it known that he wants a crack at Haney.
The third fighter with a claim to that top lightweight spot is Vasiliy Lomachenko, who lost a disputed unanimous decision to Haney this past May. Many felt that the former three-belt unified lightweight champ (and two-time Olympic gold medalist), deserved to get the nod against Haney and that, alone, gives him a place in the “who’s no. 1” debate at 135.
Below Haney, Davis, Stevenson, and Lomachenko is a solid second tier of contenders, waiting for their chance to break into the elite tier.
Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz gave “Tank” Davis his toughest fight to date and is ranked in the top 5 of all four sanctioning bodies. His tenacious style would be enough to give anyone a challenge.
William Zepeda is an undefeated southpaw banger with 24 knockouts in his 28 professional victories. He’s currently ranked no. 1 by the WBA.
The Derrick James-trained, Errol Spence-promoted Frank “The Ghost” Martin proved his “for real” status with a one-sided win over Michel Rivera in his last fight. He’ll be facing Olympic bronze medalist Artem Harutyunyan in a WBC lightweight title eliminator this Saturday.
George Kambosos Jr. scored an upset victory over Teofimo Lopez in November of 2021 to win three of the four recognized lightweight belts. Then, he suffered two consecutive losses to Devin Haney. The Australian battler will be making his return to the ring on July 22 against Maxi Hughes.
Keyshawn Davis is still very new to the game, with only 8 professional fights. He’s shown enough in those eight fights, though, to be considered a “for real” prospect. He’ll be knocking at the doors of the top dogs soon enough.
Mercito Gesta is in the midst of a big career comeback, with back-to-back wins over Joel Diaz Jr. and Joseph “Jo Jo” Diaz. He’ll be facing William Zepeda on September 9 in very compelling 135 lb. clash of contenders.
Jorge Linares has lost his last three bouts and is 3-5 in his last eight contests, but he’s still a former three-division world champ. His skills and faculties still seem in place and he could present a challenge to any of the top lightweights.
And there are others at 135. Notable names from the best of the rest include Edwin De Los Santos, Floyd Schofield, Jamaine Ortiz, Raymond Muratalla, Michel Rivera, Giovanni Cabrera, Jose Valenzuela, and Denys Berinchyk.
In short, 135 is stacked with a good mix of elite-level talent, rough battlers, rising stars, tough veterans, and high-end gatekeeper-types. Things should be very entertaining there for a good, long time.