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Credit: DAZN Boxing

Buncey’s BOXXER Bulletin: Haney, the Lightweights, and the Real Kings of the Ring

In this week’s column, presented by RDX Sports, veteran columnist Steve Bunce looks at the upcoming crop of top-level lightweights, who have drawn comparisons with the Four Kings that dominated the sport in the 1980s – as Devin Haney faces his toughest test to date against Jorge Linares in Las Vegas on Saturday.

They had no fear of losing, no reason not to fight – that’s what made Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran ‘the Four Kings’.

Right now there are five men fighting in the lightweight division that have an opportunity to set up a series of fights to rival the iconic quartet. It will take some brave decisions and some fearless behaviour, but it can be done.

Remember, the Four Kings fought across four weight divisions, losing, winning, creating history and their rivalry remains the greatest series of fights in boxing history. There will never be another Four Kings.

The legendary Four Kings (left to right) comprised Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns and Roberto Duran / Credit: Boxing Guru

However, the men currently holding the belts and the top positions at lightweight, can certainly set an agenda for the rest of the sport to admire. 

This Saturday, in Las Vegas, Devin Haney defends his WBC lightweight title against former champion, Jorge Linares. It is the first of four fights in four weeks, involving four of the five great lightweight fighters.

Haney is still only 22, unbeaten in 25 fights and if he can look good against Linares, an impressive win will put pressure on the other four men to perform. If Linares was five years younger, he would be part of the group.

Next up is Teofimo Lopez on June 19th. He defends his WBO, IBF and his version of the WBA belt against Australian, George Kambosos Jr. It was Lopez who beat Vasyl Lomachenko and it is Lopez who is making the most noise. Lopez is just 23 and unbeaten in 16 fights. 

And on June 26th, Lomachenko returns in a hard fight against one of the leading lightweight contenders, Masayoshi Nakatani. It is, in many ways, the most important fight of Lomachenko’s career. It is a real test to see if, at 33 and after a life in the boxing game, he still has the hunger and desire and speed. Lomachenko was too easily outpointed last October by Lopez.

Lopez defied the odds to beat incumbent P4P king Lomachenko last October / Credit: Boxing News

On the same night, Gervonta Davis will try and win a version of the super-lightweight title when he gains a few pounds and fights Mario Barrios for the WBA’s regular belt. It is a risky fight, Barrios can bang and he is so much bigger than Davis.

So far Davis has stopped, hurt and finished early 23 of the 24 men he has beaten. Davis has threatened for about four years now to become boxing’s top attraction, but bad luck, bad behaviour or bad decisions have left him on the outside. This could be his year. 

There is every chance that Haney and Lopez follow Davis to super-lightweight at some point; there is also every chance that Davis will return to the lightweight division.

The final member of the gang is Ryan Garcia, unbeaten in 21, just 22 and the man who stopped Luke Campbell in January of this year. Garcia has stopped or knocked out 18 of his 21 victims. However, his status is ambiguous at the moment after he withdrew from a recent fight because he had personal issues to resolve.

Garcia survived an early knockdown before stopping Campbell in December / Credit: Getty Images

Haney, Lopez, Lomachenko, Garcia and Davis would all bring something different to a fight, any fight against each other. It would be a shame if the five go their separate ways, win and lose titles and never try to put something legendary together.

Davis against Lopez, Haney against Garcia, Lomachenko against Garcia, Lopez against Haney; there is not a single bad combination. The Davis and Garcia fight has been mentioned, the insults have started. Hopefully, it will not be the latest quality fight to start and end on social media – there are simply too many like that and too often.

They have a chance, a real chance of chasing glory and putting on their own version of the Four Kings. And remember people still have favourites and theories about those legendary nights and fights. 

First, Haney has to beat Linares, which is far from certain.

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