by Cliff Rold

WBC titlist Mikey Garcia (36-0, 30 KO) looks like everything he was ever advertised to be. WBA beltholder Jorge Linares (42-3, 27 KO) finally appears to have reached his potential. At lightweight, that’s just the start for the current field.

It’s a hell of a start.

Despite the loss of Terence Crawford to the Jr. welterweight ranks, lightweight appears to have reloaded with one of its best core groups since the first half of the 2000s. Jose Luis Castillo, Stevie Johnston, Acelino Freitas, Diego Corrales, Joel Casamayor, and a then-Pretty Boy Floyd put together a six year stretch of fights that left a lasting impression, most of them coming at 135 lbs. proper.

Today’s lightweights don’t appear to have quite the same depth or overall quality but that doesn’t mean they can’t fight. It certainly doesn’t mean fans don’t want to see them fight each other.

Along with Garcia and Linares, IBF titlist Robert Easter (19-0, 14 KO) is developing and might be just a fight or two shy of genuine prime time. As far as the title scene goes, that leaves only one name. He’ll be defending this Saturday in Manchester.

Terry Flanagan (32-0, 13 KO) will attempt the fifth defense of his WBO belt against arguably the toughest challenger of his reign. 2014 Boxcino winner Petr Petrov (38-4-2, 19 KO) has been on a roll since losing to future WBC champion (and Garcia knockout victim) Dejan Zlaticanin in 2013. He won all three of his ESPN tournament fights and three more fights since.

It’s been enough to see him enter the divisional top ten at TBRB, Ring Magazine, and ESPN. Russia’s Petrov has been stopped only once, testing Jr. welterweight in 2011 and being sent back to the more comfortable confines of lightweight by heavy-handed Marcos Maidana.

He’s a tough, hard-nosed fighter with solid fundamentals. Of all the titlists at lightweight, Flanagan may have the most question marks. His defenses so far, which included an ancient Mzonke Fana and a much smaller Orlando Cruz, indicate a protected commodity. Wins over Jose Zepeda (even if injury aided) and a Diego Magdaleno who’d never been stopped before indicate he doesn’t need to be.


There is no protection here. Petrov assumes a mandatory role for the WBO, though there is also a mandatory due against undefeated Felix Verdejo (23-0, 15 KO). Verdejo is actually rated one slot higher than Petrov as the organization’s top contender. This being boxing, there are two guys getting mandatories.

It will work itself out. The point is the fights, and this is a pretty good one on paper. Fans worldwide will have access via a live feed on Twitter, something unheard of until, well, the technology was available on Twitter.

For fans that like to see as much as possible, it’s a good time to be a boxing fan.

Petrov, like fellow lightweight contender Denis Shafikov (38-2-1, 20 KO) is the sort of guy who can hang around all night and make a fight more difficult with each passing round. Flanagan is tall and rangy for the weight, with the sort of frame that suggests he may not be at lightweight forever. It might make for a nice clash.

It’s also a fight that could get ugly. Flanagan is a southpaw and Petrov comes forward. That can result in head butts and more physicality. All of those are obstacles that could make for a tougher night for Flanagan.

If Flanagan can retain, he has options. 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Luke Campbell (16-1, 13 KO), another UK product, could be a clash down the road along with Verdejo.

None of this precludes Flanagan mixing in with the top of the class in unification fights eventually. Right now, most fans might pick Garcia-Linares as the most desirable showdown in the division. For the time being, that is a pretty clear 1-2 clash. Flanagan has a chance here, against a credible opponent, to state his case to be included as the third man behind them.

If nothing else, a solid performance by either man Saturday adds another layer to the increasingly rich ingredients in this division. Lightweight was stone cold for several years. The years after the solid 2000s, and the subsequent runs of Juan Diaz and Juan Manuel Marquez, were sparing. Brandon Rios, Crawford, and Adrien Broner all had stops in the class but none stayed long and few genuine showdowns emerged.

It takes a little depth to really rev the competitive engine in a weight class. This weekend, we get a chance to see how much depth there might be at lightweight right now. Recent results suggest we should get a positive outcome.        

Cliff’s Notes…

All the people insisting Andre Ward would find a way to get out of the Sergey Kovalev rematch have moved on to ridiculing him for taking so long to sign for the rematch or some other absurdity. Put aside a lengthy contract dispute that kept him inactive for a couple years. Ward’s last eleven fights, as a group, are full of tough outs and this will be another. As long as a fighter is taking the tough fights, the rest is noise…Props to the WBC for what looks like a sort of mini-tournament call at Jr. bantamweight. Nothing is signed and delivered yet but if we see Suriyan Sor Rungvisai-Roman Gonzalez II and Carlos Cuadras-Juan Francisco Estrada next for all of the above, that’s a big win for serious fight fans…I respect the craft that went into the show “Legion” but I’m still not entirely sure it entertained me. It’s like Twin Peaks for comic nerds, and Twin Peaks isn’t for everybody…Gaiman’s “Norse Mythology” is just a great read…Manny Pacquiao is fighting Jeff Horn. Something had to under-deliver in 2017.     


Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at