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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: THE FOUR KINGS ARE ROYAL FLUSHED

By Paul Magno | January 10, 2022
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: THE FOUR KINGS ARE ROYAL FLUSHED

When boxing media nerds started calling the new generation of young lightweight talent “The New Four Kings,” it was laughably shortsighted and lamebrained. Never let it be said, though, that something being shortsighted and lamebrained ever deterred the swamp-assed, sour-shoed set from creating website CONTENT with it. 

With the moniker, these “New Four Kings”-- Teofimo Lopez, Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney, and Ryan Garcia-- were propped up alongside the REAL “Four Kings”-- Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, and Marvin Hagler. And the comparison was about as apt as comparing piss-warm Kool-Aid to chilled Dom Perignon.

I’ll spare you the boxing history review because, honestly, if you need to know why Leonard, Hearns, Duran, and Hagler belong multiple realities above Lopez, Davis, Haney, and Garcia, then you just don’t know enough to understand the difference (or you’re deeply mentally impaired). So, let’s focus on the present tense and how these “New Four Kings” are shitting the beds of their individual legacies.

Teofimo Lopez is the only one of the four with an elite-level, legacy-defining victory. His win over multiple belt Vasiliy Lomachenko tops anything on the resumes of the other three, by far. But, really, the Lomachenko fight, despite the wildly over-the-top media attention given to the Brooklyn native’s performance, was more of “I just barely made it” than an “I stake my claim of definitive greatness.” 

In their October, 2020 clash, Lopez started off fast and built an early lead that the defending champ was unable to overcome as he got back into the fight. Yes, Lopez fought smart and performed exceedingly well for most of the contest, but when Lomachenko started to let his hands go and began pushing matters, Lopez had no answers and was soundly being outworked. 

After that breakthrough victory, Lopez got bogged down in hubris and the ultimately ill-fated decision to push his mandatory defense against George Kambosos Jr. into purse bid and, consequently, into the hands of upstart video sharing service, Triller, which completely botched the organizational details of the promotion. In the ten-plus months of chaos, Lopez got COVID-19, the venue and date were changed multiple times and, only after the event was pried from Triller’s hands, did Lopez’s fight actually happen. Then, Lopez promptly lost. 

There were reports of Lopez suffering with some pretty heavy long-haul COVID after effects on fight night. But there were also plenty of easily confirmed reports of the 24-year-old acting loopy and generally too big for his britches before, during, and immediately after the Kambosos fight. And, as things look now, he’s headed to junior welterweight now, anyway. 

Now, we switch to Gervonta “Tank” Davis, who may be the most all-around talented and explosive of the “new kings,” but whose career path looks less like rolling thunder and more like spinning wheels. His main stage opposition has been good, and I mean GOOD as in NOT GREAT. At 27, he’s now more than a bit behind the career curve of where young superstars should be and who they should be facing as they fight through their physical prime. The struggle in Davis’ career thus far has not been in the ring, but in matchmaking, in finding salable fights that don’t feature any of the big names fans actually want to see him fight.

It’s a Floyd Mayweather strategy employed by his promoter Floyd Mayweather. But Davis is no Floyd Mayweather, not in style, personal narrative, nor gimmicked charisma. Tank is not whipping up mass interest, he’s merely antagonizing and alienating fans. His career path thus far is akin to a restaurant with an award-winning chef and a high-priced menu that intentionally botches every customer’s order. 

Speaking of botches and spinning wheels, we now come to Ryan Garcia, who has all the raw talent in the world and very little to show for it. Other than a TKO win over Luke Campbell, which showed what a fully actualized “KingRy” might look like, there’s been nothing but false reports, backwards steps, and inactivity over the last two years or so. 

Matched against Javier Fortuna, he pulled out due to mental health issues. Matched against Jo Jo Diaz, he pulled out due to a hand injury. Garcia has falsely linked himself to bouts with Manny Pacquiao and Gervonta Davis and, currently, a fight with Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz that seems, now, to have never even really been discussed. 

Patience has already run thin with this kid and, in many corners of boxing fandom, he’s more laughingstock than serious prospect now. He IS only 23 and still has all the raw material for superstardom-- including a huge social media following-- but he has to get back to boxing and stop dropping hot turds of false rumors into the gaping maws of boxing media. 

Devin Haney, meanwhile, is still swirling around the toilet bowl rim of obscurity two-and-a-half years after signing a lucrative multi-fight deal with streaming service DAZN and then being handed a WBC lightweight belt not too long after. Reportedly making around a million dollars a fight, Haney only has a couple of weighty names on his resume-- Jorge Linares and Jo Jo Diaz-- and looked pretty vulnerable against those guys. 

His promoter, Eddie Hearn, is reportedly pushing hard for a bout with Teofimo Lopez vanquisher George Kambosos to get a crack at becoming an undisputed 4-belt lightweight champ. He could win. He IS a very talented fighter. But Haney’s main stage presence has, thus far, been just as disappointing as his ability to put everything together and be better than the some of his parts as a fighter.

All in all, these “New Four Kings” get a big, fat FAIL, especially under the weight of what that label means in the sport of boxing. Hell, it could be argued that, at the moment, none of them are even the best in the division. A rebounded Vasiliy Lomachenko looks sharper than ever. George Kambosos has emerged as a major player, even if there’s a short shelf life on his ride at the top. Mexican battler Isaac Cruz could also wedge himself into the top 4 or 5 after his solid performance against Gervonta Davis and a respectable follow-up. 

Until these four young fighters step up and, like, actually dare to face one another (as the real 4 Kings did), they’re just occupying space and providing content fodder for websites and writers struggling to find something, anything to write about. 

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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