Who’s the best lightweight in the world?
There is no obvious answer to that question because there are a number of talented boxers who fight in one of the deepest divisions in the sport, at least at the top end of the 135-pound weight class.
Devin Haney has a strong argument that he’s No. 1 because he’s the undisputed champion, which is a significant accomplishment even if you believe titles have lost their luster.
I have great respect for the gifted Haney but I believe another fighter is better than he is: Gervonta Davis, who faces Hector Luis Garcia on pay-per-view Saturday in Washington, D.C.
Here is a look at the top seven 135-pounders, with their strengths and weaknesses. They’re listed in order of ability.
NO. 1 GERVONTA DAVIS (27-0, 25 KOs)
Strengths: Davis has the most impressive combination of ability and power in the division. He’s a smooth, polished boxer with underrated defensive skills. And no one else in the division has punching power to compare to his. Watch the brutal ending of his fight with Leo Santa Cruz. Also, his resume is solid, with victories over Jesus Cuellar, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Santa Cruz, Mario Barrios, Isaac Cruz and Rolando Romero.
Weaknesses: Davis’ downfall could come from trouble outside the ring, although that hasn’t affected his performances as of now.
NO. 2. DEVIN HANEY (29-0, 15 KOs)
Strengths: Haney is a wonderful boxer, with quick hands and feet to go with his elite boxing acumen. It’s beautiful to watch him do his thing. And like it or not he’s the champion. He dethroned George Kambosos Jr. by a wide decision last June and then did the same in a rematch in October. He also has an impressive resume, particularly given the fact he’s only 24. He has one-sided victories over Jorge Linares, Joseph Diaz Jr. and Kambosos (twice).
Weaknesses: Haney isn’t a light puncher but he doesn’t the game-changing power of Davis, who’s a more-complete fighter.
NO. 3 SHAKUR STEVENSON (19-0, 9 KOs)
Strengths: Stevenson is as gifted as any boxer in the world in terms of his skill set, including Haney. The quick, graceful 2016 Olympic silver medalist has been untouchable in his rise to a unified championship at 130 pounds, even against top-level opposition. He has victories over Jamel Herring, Oscar Valdez and Robson Conceicao in his last three fights. He’s special.
Weaknesses: Stevenson has the same problem as Haney, a relative lack of punching power. That leaves him a step behind the more-complete Davis. Plus, Stevenson has yet to fight as a full-fledged 135-pounder. He seems to be ready to move up in weight but one never knows how he’ll adjust to fighting bigger men.
NO. 4 VASILIY LOMACHENKO (17-2, 11 KOs)
Strengths: No one in the division is more skillful than the boxing wizard from Ukraine. The two-time Olympic champion jumped into title contention immediately after turning professional because of that ability, which has allowed him to win major titles in three division in only 19 fights. The 34-year-old arguably has the best footwork in the sport.
Weaknesses: Lomachenko looked like an aging fighter in his unanimous-decision loss to Teofimo Lopez in October 2020, which cost him his position at or near the top of pound-for-pound lists. He rebounded to win his subsequent three opponents but many still wonder whether his best is behind him. He could change that perception if he fights Haney, as expected.
NO. 5 RYAN GARCIA (23-0, 19 KOs)
Strengths: Garcia has a lot in common with Davis, his fellow social media star. The former amateur star has unusual hand speed and a polished skillset. Plus, he, too, can end any fight in an instant with crushing power. And he’s also starting to build an impressive resume, including knockout victories over Luke Campbell in 2021 and Javier Fortuna last July.
Weaknesses: The victory over Fortuna was important for Garcia but he’s the least accomplished among the top 135-pounders. Of course, he’ll have the chance to change that assuming Davis beats Hector Luis Garcia and then faces “King Ry” this year.
NO. 6 FRANK MARTIN (17-0, 12 KOs)
Strengths: Martin looked like a world beater in his most recent fight, a wide decision over previously undefeated Michel Rivera. He gave a near flawless performance, although he was unable to stop his Dominican opponent. It appears Martin has the all-around ability to give anyone problems.
Weaknesses: Martin must still prove that he belongs with the best in the division. The victory over Rivera was impressive but Rivera entered the fight with limited experience. Martin will have to beat a next-level opponent to join the likes of Haney and Davis at the top of the division.
NO. 7 WILLIAM ZEPEDA (27-0, 23 KOs)
Strengths: Zepeda is a force of nature, a capable boxer who makes his living by applying unrelenting pressure on his opponents. He overwhelmed Joseph Diaz Jr. to win a wide decision in October, a breakthrough performance that lifted the Mexican into the conversation we’re having here. No one is going to be in a hurry to fight him.
Weaknesses: Zepeda remains relatively unproven. The victory over Diaz was a good step but Diaz appears to be in decline. Plus, Diaz has neither the boxing ability of fighters like Haney and Stevenson nor the power of Davis and Ryan Garcia. We’ll see how he does when he faces one of the above.