Three years ago, Ghana’s Richard Commey suffered two heartbreaking losses, the first being a split decision in a IBF lightweight title fight to Robert Easter Jr in a fight that could have gone either way. He then dropped another close decision, this time in Russia against the tough Denis Shafikov. Many people, including me, wrote him off after that, but like any good championship fighter, Commey sought to show the best had yet to come.
Nowadays, Commey is sitting pretty as the IBF lightweight champion and will be making his first defense this Friday on ESPN against tough veteran Reymundo Beltran, who will be looking to make what feels like a last stand at thirty-eight years old. If Commey can win this fight, his promoters as Top Rank will be looking to match him either with the man considered the best boxer in the world, WBA/WBO lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko or Teofimo Lopez, the white hot trash talker from New York considered by many to be the best prospect in the entire sport.
Talk about a high stakes fight!
It’s the culmination of an excellent rebuilding job by Commey, who comes from the fighting city of Accra, Ghana, a west African city that has fielded excellent world champion such as 126 and 130 titlist Azumah Nelson, former WBA welterweight champion Ike “Bazooka” Quartey, and former IBF welterweight champion Joshua Clottey. After his losses to Easter and Shafikov, Commey, he rebounded with four straight wins, including a devastating knockout of previously undefeated Alejandro Luna in March 2018.
Commey then made the shrewd move of signing with Top Rank late last year, which paid off when in his first fight with them, he knocked out an overmatched Russian named Isa Chaniev to win the IBF lightweight title on the undercard of Sergey Kovalev’s rematch win over Elider Alvarez. As soon as Chaniev was counted out, there was talk of Commey facing Lomachenko, who desperately wants to unify all the titles in the division, but a hand injury kept the Ghanian out of that matchup. Lomachenko faced England’s Anthony Crolla instead and the talk then shifted to Commey facing Lopez, despite the kid from Brooklyn only having thirteen pro fights! Most people believe Top Rank has that fight penciled in for later this year, but first things first for Commey.
Beltran first gained prominence a decade ago as the main sparring partner of Manny Pacquaio during the Filpino legend’s most destructive years. But Beltran’s career was extremely hard luck, with a lot of close decision losses and many tough wars. Yet the Mexican warrior finally won his first world title last February in a tough fight against Nambia’s Paulus Moses, but he lost the belt six months later in a bitter battle with Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza. Beltran rebounded with an amazing knockout of Japan’s Hiroki Okada in February, but it is hard to see him beating Commey at thirty eight years old.
Several years ago, Beltran’s high pressure, body punching style would have made him a huge threat to Commey, a long armed power puncher who likes to attack behind a solid jab. Even now, Beltran’s conditioning and style should make him dangerous in the early rounds at least, especially if Commey is looking ahead to Loma or Lopez- or if his hand isn’t healed totally. Yet along with Beltran’s age, the big issue for him in this fight is that he has been killing himself to make 135 in the past few years. That was evident in the late rounds against Pedraza and his big win against Okada came at 140 pounds.
Commey will work behind his jab, of course, but I expect him to throw repeated right hands to the body to take advantage of Beltran’s weight issues. Commey has shown himself to be a smart, versatile fighter and then twenty five knockouts in twenty eight wins tell you one thing-he can punch, and Beltran is certainly no Lomachenko with his legs…
Whatever he chooses to do, the fact that is that no fight has even been as must win as this win for Richard Commey. Whether he is destined to fight Lomachenko or Lopez, either man represents the biggest fight-and payday of his career. And while Commey follows in the championship footsteps of Nelson, Quartey, and Clottey-a win over either would represent the biggest win ever for a boxer from Ghana.
But first, Commey has to cash in here.