Whether as the chief support or in his recently upgraded headlining act, the goal remains the same for Richard Commey.

The former lightweight titlist returns to the ring for the first time in 14 months, having not fought since a crushing 2nd round stoppage at the hands of Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12KOs) in Dec. 2019 to end his IBF lightweight title reign. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic stalled plans for a comeback tour in 2020, a journey which now begins with a crossroads bout this weekend versus lightweight contender Jackson Marinez (19-1, 7KOs).

“It’s redemption time,” Commey told ESPN’s Crystina Poncher during Thursday’s final pre-fight press conference for Saturday’s bout. “I plan to become a two-time world champion.”

His bout with Marinez airs live on ESPN from MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Original plans called for the 10-round lightweight fight to serve in supporting capacity to a WBO light heavyweight title fight between Joe Smith Jr. (25-3, 21KOs) and Maxim Vlasov (45-3, 26KOs). The title clash was dropped from the bill on Thursday upon learning that Vlasov tested positive for COVID-19.

With that, Commey advances to the evening’s main event although he is saving his victory lap for an actual in-ring result on Saturday night.

“It’s always sad when you put all the hard work in and then, at the last minute, you can’t fight,” Commey said of the two light heavyweights who saw an entire training camp go for naught. “It really hurts. I feel for them because I’m a boxer as well. If it happened to me, I would feel very bad.

“I hope (Vlasov) recovers fast and they get the chance to fight again soon.”

Meanwhile, Saturday still represents the first step towards a second title run.

Commey (29-3, 26KOs)–a Ghana-bred boxer who now lives in The Bronx and trains with Andre Rozier—began a promising 2019 ring campaign with a 2nd round knockout of Isa Chaniev to win the vacant IBF lightweight title, claiming the strap on his second try. Four months later came a successful title defense, stopping former lightweight titlist Rey Beltran in the 8th round of their June 2019 ESPN headliner. A third fight on the year provided an unexpected yet welcomed active campaign, though ending in disaster when he was stopped inside of two rounds by Lopez, who has since emerged as the lineal lightweight champion and unified IBF/WBA/WBO titlist.

Plans were discussed for Commey to return in 2020, though travel during the pandemic made that problematic. Terms were finally reached for a showdown with Marinez, who enters off of a highly questionable 12-round points loss to Rolando Romero last August in a fight where most observers had the Dominican contender winning with room to spare.

It was a good enough performance for Commey to respect as a threat to his future goals.

“I think he did win that fight [with Romero],” insists Commey. “It’s the right time for this fight. I’m coming back off of a loss. He’s coming back off (what should have been) a win. It makes sense. I’ve seen him fight. It’s a great fight to come back into the mix.

“I don’t have much to prove to myself. It’s just about becoming a two-time world champion. When I win this fight, it will put me back in the mix and prepare me for the future.” 

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox