Having vowed to become a world champion before quitting boxing during a private conversation with me at the Bukom Boxing Arena in 2017, the time could be now for Ghana’s Richard Commey to achieve that feat after champion, Mikey Garcia, announced his decision to vacate the title and move up in weight.
Commey, despite losing a controversial split decision to Robert Easter Jr in an International Boxing Federation (IBF) lightweight title championship in 2016, worked his way back to the top when he stopped Alejandro Luna in six rounds in an eliminator to set up a rematch with the American but was forced to wait after the latter opted to unify against four-division champion, Mikey Garcia.
Easter Jr went on to lose unanimously to Garcia on Saturday, July 28, in their unification bout at the Staples Center, Los Angeles, paving way for a possible Garcia-Commey slugfest by the end of the year. However, the undefeated champion revealed his decision to move up two weight classes to challenge Errol Spence Jr at welterweight instead.
In what could be a blessing in disguise for the Ghanaian, Commey (26-2, 23 KOs) could fight a different opponent should Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) vacate the IBF belt in order to fight Spence Jr at 147 pounds.
The Garcia threat
The current turn of events, if it happens, could be to Commey’s advantage as Garcia could be a stumbling block to the Ghanaian’s quest to add his name to the nation’s list of world champions by the end of the year, considering his pedigree and record in the sport.
Garcia has won world titles at four divisions – featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight, and light welterweight – and could be a hard nut to crack for Commey, especially with his vast experience which has seen him go 39 fights without a loss or a draw.
He deserves commendation for his achievement in the sport and I believe it will be in the interest of Ghana boxing should he opt to go after Spence Jr to allow Commey to fight a different opponent for a vacant title and possibly win the nation’s second world title this year after Isaac Dogboe snatched the WBO super bantamweight crown earlier in the year.
The uncertainty surrounding Commey’s next world title glory ended on Saturday, July 28, after Garcia dominated Easter Jr to win the IBF lightweight belt, putting a world title fight for the Ghanaian on the cards by December.
But before his second shot at the world title, Commey announced his credentials when he destroyed Mexico’s Yardley Armenta Cruz in two rounds during a lightweight contest on August 4 at the Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, in New York on the Andre Berto-Devon Alexander bill.
Garcia opts to fight Errol Spence Jr
Per the rules, Garcia is mandated to defend his IBF strap against Commey, with the Ghanaian being the mandatory challenger, but the undefeated American revealed after his win over Easter Jr that he would prefer to move up in weight to challenge Spence Jr in the welterweight division, a move the IBF has kicked against and ordered negotiations between both boxers immediately.
In an interview with the Graphic Sports Online, the Chief Executive Officer of Streetwise Management, managers of Commey, Michael Amoo-Bediako, confirmed that negotiations began between both camps on August 13 and are expected to last for 30 days upon which the IBF would call for a purse bid.
“I can confirm to you that negotiations between both camps started on August 13 and it’s expected of us to reach an agreement within 30 days or the IBF would call for a purse bid,” he said.
The IBF, through a representative, ordered Garcia to defend his title against Commey since the Garcia-Easter Jr unification was granted on the condition that the winner must fight the available leading contender in a mandatory bout for its lightweight title.
“Robert Easter’s mandatory defence was due on or before March 30, 2018. The unification was granted with the condition that the winner must fight the IBF leading available contender in a mandatory defence of the IBF lightweight title. The leading available contender is Richard Commey,” an IBF representative stated to Boxing News.
“Negotiations should commence immediately and be concluded by August 30, 2018. In the event that you are unable to come to an amicable agreement with Commey, the IBF will call for a purse bid,” he added.
However, the coming month could prove crucial in Commey’s career as he awaits Garcia’s decision on whether to fight him or follow his heart to challenge Spence Jr, another undefeated fighter in 24 fights with an impressive knockout record of 21. He was at ringside to watch Garcia outpoint Easter Jr and welcomed the challenge from his fellow countryman for a possible November-December slugfest.
Should the fight occur, it means Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) would take the toughest decision yet in his career by moving two weights up to chellenge a knockout expert, a decision many boxing enthusiasts have described as dangerous. But a win will cement a befitting status of a five-division world champion.
“There’s only a select few who have accomplished that feat,” Garcia said at his post-fight news conference. “I’m here in search of that. I’m not just trying to pick up a belt against a nobody. I’m going after the best fighter, the most dangerous man at welterweight. I’m trying to get that because that’s what will cement my name. No one else is doing that right now. There’s no other fighter on the planet that’s doing what I’m doing.
“I can try to use speed, angles, footwork,” he said. “There’s a lot of things I can use to overcome that height, that reach, the southpaw [stance], the strength, all that. I’m prepared to do what it takes to win that fight. He’s a terrific fighter.
He’s an experienced fighter. He’s very strong. He’s a dangerous man. I don’t know if I can surprise him. He knows the kind of fighter I am. I think what will surprise him is how well I can do other things. I ain’t asking for no catch weight either,” he said.
In his response, Spence Jr said a possible Garcia fight interests him and he is hoping to lock horns with his opponent before the close of the year.
“Definitely I want that fight. I feel like that’s the best fight available for me right now with Shawn and Danny fighting in September,” Spence said.
“Keith Thurman is still recovering and needs a tuneup. Garcia is daring to be great. He wants to be great. He wants to move up and dethrone me, and it’s not going to happen”.
“He will be pound-for-pound No. 1 if he beats me, but it’s not going to happen. He has great skills, but I see myself winning. I don’t really see anything that concerns me. He is technically good, but I don’t see him hurting me at 147 pounds,” he added.
Commey’s chances at a vacant title
Having been at this point in his career before, Commey will be inspired to achieve his ambition of becoming a world champion should he fight for a possible vacant title against a different opponent, with the likes of Russia’s Isa Chaniev, Edis Tatli of Finland or Japan’s Masayoshi Nakatani on the cards.
Commey’s chances of winning the championship will be brighter against any of the top-rated in the division than fighting a much experienced Garcia, who will have the odds behind him.
As the saying goes “To be the best, you need to beat the best”. Commey must try harder to defy all odds and end Garcia’s invincibility in the ring should their fight go on as planned just as the legendary Azumah Nelson did against Wilfredo Gomez in 1984 and Ike Quartey, when he beat Crisanto España in 1994.
But, in my opinion, fighting a different opponent than Garcia provides the Ghanaian pugilist a more realistic opportunity of realising his dreams in the sport.