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Paulie’s Picks: William Zepeda’s Impressive Statement Makes Him A Factor In A Hot Lightweight Division

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In victory over Maxi Hughes, a fighter who moves well and is capable of testing contenders, William Zepeda was impressive. By this point he’s showed enough to suggest he can be competitive with Shakur Stevenson and Gervonta “Tank” Davis at the top of the lightweight division.

He’s effective with his pressure, which makes him exciting and the type of fighter people want to watch. He’s an effective body puncher; he throws effective combinations, and he closes the ring off well, and forces opponents to fight by dictating the pace. Fighters like that are always fun to watch, and potentially intriguing against high-level boxers like Stevenson. We’ve yet to see opponents make Stevenson uncomfortable; he’s always been able to negate dangerous fighters. 

A fight between Davis and Zepeda would also be entertaining. Davis is a better boxer than Zepeda, but Zepeda’s explosive pressure would force Davis to use his explosive power, as well as make him uncomfortable. He can pose a threat to both, and show us if both are as good as we’ve always liked to believe.

Zepeda made another statement shortly before attention will start to turn to the fight on May 12 between Vasiliy Lomachenko and George Kambosos Jnr in Perth, Australia. I’m curious to see whether Lomachenko can turn back the clock at all, because he’s the more versatile fighter. If he can’t, given he’s been inactive since he lost to Devin Haney, there’s little guarantee he’ll win. Kambosos Jnr hasn’t really impressed since he unexpectedly defeated Teofimo Lopez in 2021 so he also needs to make a statement. But both have produced good performances when they’ve stepped up.

Lomachenko, to my mind, is the firm favourite regardless of their fight taking place in Australia, Kambosos’ home country. We saw against Haney that if Kambosos isn’t competitive enough, he won’t be done any favours by the judges, and I struggle to build an argument for him being competitive. 

We’re being led to believe that Davis could fight Frank Martin shortly after that, in what would be an appealing fight. If Davis represents Martin’s toughest opponent, Martin represents Davis’, too. Martin has a height and range advantage on Davis; he’s also a southpaw, and has a good boxing ability and admirable IQ. Given Davis’ timing and power, both would be forced to think. 

Though I wouldn’t have believed so before the performance Ryan Garcia produced in defeat by Davis last year, Martin is a tougher opponent than Garcia. Most with Garcia’s punching power know how to put themselves into position to detonate that power; Garcia showed that night that he doesn’t have a clue how to use his. He doesn’t set traps; he’s not deceptive; there’s very little intelligence to his boxing nowadays.

Stevenson is also expected to fight in the summer. The negative reaction to his victory over Edwin De Los Santos has made it easier for the world’s other leading lightweights not to fight him. I don’t actually think anyone else will beat De Los Santos as convincingly as that. I also believe Stevenson would willingly fight anyone.

The other potentially leading lightweight is Andy Cruz. The noises around him are that he is going to be fast-tracked into a world-title fight, and in such a strong division that could prove a risk, but he looks a very good fighter. I’d like to see him show more changes of pace; so far he’s thrown a lot with power, which, though exciting, can potentially limit him. He already looks ready to fight an opponent in the top 10 but I also don’t see the need to rush him.

So far he’s often been seek-and-destroy, via throwing powerful combinations; he just requires more deception. Yuriorkis Gamboa, another Cuban fighter, sometimes performed similarly.

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