Time doesn’t stand still.
Father time is undefeated.
All of the old sayings have been heard and repeated ad nauseum, in part because they’re true and in part because they’re easy. Athletic longevity varies but eventually we know everyone, even Tom Brady, will reach the day where they can’t go anymore.
In boxing, it can often be subtle. World class pros can remain dangerous for a long time but the pool they are most dangerous to gets smaller even though they can largely still perform. Sometimes, it’s less about age and more about depth that determines whether chances to perform present themselves.
When a talent pool in a division is light, veterans can sometimes stick around longer despite some losses because there’s not a lot else to draw on. They remain an upset away from being back in the game.
When talent pools deepen, in a sport where 2-3 fights a year is an unfortunate norm today even just past the prospect level, winning becomes more important. The opportunities to recycle talent thin out because there are more faces, fresh faces, that need the airtime.
Age is the easy way to see it, but it matters more when there is more new talent.
Keep that in mind this Saturday as we head toward a clash between former titlists on ESPN (Saturday, 10:30 PM EST). In the main event, former Jr. lightweight and lightweight titlist Jose Pedraza (29-4, 14 KO) will face former lightweight titlist Richard Commey (30-4, 27 KO) in a Jr. welterweight clash.
Neither man is coming in hot.
Pedraza is 3-2 in his last five starts and coming off a loss to former unified Jr. welterweight titlist Jose Ramirez. Commey has lost two of his last three, stopped by Teofimo Lopez in two and beaten soundly by Vasyl Lomachenko last December. Pedraza is now 33. Commey is 35.
Both are probably past their best days, aren’t getting any younger, and under any circumstance this would be a crossroads battle.
But this crossroads battle is a little more poignant because of what’s going on around them. Jr. welterweight is heating up and even with more content hours than ever for the sport across multiple platforms, there is only so much room for everyone.
Josh Taylor, still the lineal king of the class, has reportedly shorn the third of his four belts since a debated win over Jack Catterall saw him defend the undisputed crown for the first time. The WBA belt was filled last weekend by Alberto Puello. The WBC and IBF straps will follow. Across those three belted contests, that’s six Jr. welterweights in action.
This is on the heels of the arrival this year of both Ryan Garcia and Teofimo Lopez to the division. Taylor is heading toward a rematch with Catterall. Ramirez is still a player. Jose Zepeda-Regis Prograis was ordered earlier this month for the WBC belt. Jeremias Ponce vs. Subriel Matias.
Pedraza and Commey? We’ve seen a lot of them and even the winner this weekend could easily get lost in this increasingly exciting shuffle. The loser could find themselves looking at a rapid fall into the testing category for whatever the next wave behind the current title crop at Jr. welterweight will look like.
It doesn’t mean we might not get a tremendous fight this weekend. Fighters who have been near the top and need, more than just want, victory can sometimes do special things. The losses each have taken in recent vintage are to excellent pros, with both losing decisions to Lomachenko. Pedraza-Commey could be, should be, a solid way to spend a Saturday night. Both could still exit very much world class professionals and their age will be less their enemy than the reality of a crowded field.
They’re veteran Jr. welterweights at a time when a new wave is arriving and the top of the division already there is better positioned to get big fights. The man who can’t win this weekend really may be staring into an abyss.
Those are stakes we don’t always have in non-title fights. As a capper to a largely dry past couple summer months, boxing could do worse.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com