Bob Arum believes that the magnitude of the fight between Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia was “distorted” by their followings on social media.
The fight billed as the battle to determine the new “face of boxing” crossed over to the extent that not only did it sell 1.2m pay-per-views, but with $22.8m that it recorded Nevada boxing’s fifth highest ever gate.
Arum is promoting, on Saturday in Las Vegas, the undisputed lightweight title fight between Devin Haney and Vasyl Lomachenko – Davis and Garcia fought at a catchweight of 136lbs – and yet for all of its significance and the combination of Lomachenko’s past and Haney’s expected future it is yet to demonstrate the same appeal.
That Lomachenko, 35, is a Ukrainian with a limited grasp of English has likely contributed to that as much as the fact that the social-media savvy Haney is yet to prove as marketable as Garcia or generate Davis’ notoriety.
Not unlike with Davis and Garcia there is a long-term tension between the 24-year-old Haney and Lomachenko on account of the years Haney has spent pursuing him, but Arum told ProBox TV: “Today, so much is social media, and Davis had a pretty good social media following, and Garcia an enormous one.
“There’s no question about it [this is the more significant fight].
“It probably was [too early for Haney to fight Lomachenko when he first wanted to]. He got a lot of confidence going to Australia twice and fighting [George] Kambosos [Jr in 2022]. He didn’t have that under his belt when he was calling for the fight with Lomachenko before.
“Loma doesn’t look at the opponent. He feels he can beat everybody. He looks at the belts, and the reason he’s so willing to fight Haney is because Haney has all four belts that Loma wants. Eastern Europeans have a different view of this sport from fighters in the UK or the US.”
The last time Lomachenko truly excelled was perhaps against Luke Campbell, in 2019. In his next fight he narrowly lost to Teofimo Lopez – whose size advantage, not unlike Haney’s, has since taken him to super lightweight – and since then in victories over Masayoshi Nakatani, Richard Commey and Jamaine Ortiz he has performed beneath the level that meant he was once so widely considered the world’s finest fighter.
“I’ve never seen Loma look as fit and ready as he does for this fight,” Arum said. “People look at Loma and said, ‘Well, he didn’t look as good in his last fight’. True. But he was coming from the battlefield – from a real battlefield – in [war-torn] Ukraine and he fought a pretty good guy, and he handled it, but he struggled a little bit.