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OFTEN the best rivalries in boxing are the ones featuring boxers who are polar opposites, both in terms of personality and fighting style, and whose opinions differ on every conceivable subject.
At lightweight, we have a good one brewing in the form of Vasyl Lomachenko and Gervonta Davis, both of whom own world titles – albeit in different weight divisions – and require a big-name rival to elevate their standing to that next level.
They are opposites in every possible way. In the ring, Lomachenko is a picture of grace, intelligence and technical wizardry, while Davis is all youthful vigour, athleticism, aggression and spite. Out of the ring, meanwhile, Lomachenko goes about his business quietly and respectfully, whereas Davis seems to be following the lead of his mentor, Floyd Mayweather, and has developed a habit of bumping into trouble at every turn.
“They are businessmen, they are not athletes; they are making money,” Lomachenko, the WBA and WBO lightweight champion, said on THE FIGHT Podcast with Teddy Atlas. “I am an athlete and I want to fight with the top fighters for history. For my history and for boxing history,”
Lomachenko and Davis, the WBA super-featherweight king, have one common opponent: Jose Pedraza. Interestingly, while Lomachenko seemed a little subdued when outpointing the Puerto Rican last December, Davis dazzled when stopping him inside seven rounds in 2017. It ultimately means very little in the grand scheme of things, but Lomachenko still feels obliged to point out a key difference between the versions of Pedraza the pair faced.
“I was much different thing when he fought Gervonta Davis,” Lomachenko said. “He [Pedraza] had to lose a lot of weight. He was fighting him at his weight class. I wasn’t at his weight class [super-featherweight].
“When Pedraza fought Davis, he went and he fought. He was coming forward. With me, he wasn’t coming. He was running back.”
One gets the impression Lomachenko and Davis will disagree on just about everything and that, for the rest of us, is just fine. In fact, it’s this element that makes them Lomachenko and Davis such an appealing future rivalry.
A far less appealing rivalry is the pointless one created by boxer Paulie Malignaggi and mixed martial artist Conor McGregor 18 months ago.
What started in 2017, when McGregor used Malignaggi for a few sparring sessions ahead of his ludicrous ‘boxing match’ against Floyd Mayweather, has now become the disease that won’t go away.
Today, in fact, having just signed a contract with bare-knuckle boxing company BKFC, Malignaggi has decided to again goad his Irish archenemy, this time telling him to do away with the gloves and settle a score nobody cares to see settled with their bare fists.
“Conor the coward @TheNotoriousMMA with two-minute rounds. I’m sure even YOU can’t quit at this! Time to settle it (in) @bareknucklefc,” said Malignaggi in a tweet.
According to reports, it’s more likely Malignaggi meets Artem Lobov in the bare-knuckle fighting arena. Lobov, after all, recently severed ties with the UFC, following an unsightly losing run, and, as a McGregor sparring partner, would give a potential fight against Malignaggi some bite and a story-line of sorts. Still, it’s hardly something anybody is any rush to see.
Malignaggi, absent from the ring for two years, doesn’t need to fight again and probably shouldn’t fight again. He proved plenty in a 44-fight career and won world titles at super-lightweight and welterweight. However, as tends to be the case with most retired boxers, staying away is easier said than done and the ‘Magic Man’, despite his savvy and the ease with which he has taken to various media roles, has seemingly struggled to accept his time beneath the spotlight has passed.
“BKFC is the new wave in combat sports,” he said. “They’re doing great things. I’m very excited to be a part of this organisation.
“I’ve accomplished some big things in my boxing career. I look forward to what this next phase brings.
“After a long boxing career, it’s easy to miss the limelight and the rush that combat brings. I look forward to getting back in action, and the new challenge of fighting for BKFC.”
Admittedly, it sounds like a bizarre amalgamation of Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but, for Paulie Malignaggi, and countless other retired boxers, BKFC and similar companies offer a final chance to feel relevant again.