Paulie Malignaggi’s Picks: Prograis, Haney, Davis, Cruz, Stevenson and De Los Santos are all nearing defining fights — unlike Lomachenko and Kambosos Jr

Devin Haney, the undisputed champion at 135lbs, seems on course to move up to 140lbs to challenge Regis Prograis, the WBC super lightweight champion, in what’s a good fight. Both, despite achieving so much, will be viewed as having something to prove after their previous fights. Prograis didn’t look good in what was expected to be an easier fight than it was, against Danielito Zorrilla, and Haney was awarded a controversial decision over Vasyl Lomachenko on a night in May most thought he’d lost.

If he does so we’ve probably seen the last of him at lightweight; before he fought Lomachenko he made little secret of his struggles to make 135lbs, and if he allows his body to grow into another weight division it’ll be even tougher for him to return. There’s also a lot of other good fights for him at 140lbs.

Against Zorrilla, Prograis fought, and beat, an awkward opponent who could punch. Awkward opponents are difficult to look good against – and awkward opponents who can punch mean a fighter can’t risk taking too many chances. It’s difficult to pick a winner between Prograis and Haney; both have a degree of momentum; Haney’s the one in the ascension so potentially a favourite on those grounds, but he’s also relatively unproven at the highest level. His only win there came against Lomachenko, who very few believed he actually beat. At 34, as the older fighter, Prograis might even be the one feeling he has a point to prove.

A proposed fight between Shakur Stevenson and Frank Martin is in doubt, which is frustrating. If it doesn’t happen Martin, of Premier Boxing Champions, will have other options through being with a good team. Stevenson’s the best fighter in the division, but even if Martin loses to him, Martin’s also a fighter in the ascendency – if he gives Stevenson his toughest fight, which he has the potential to do, he’d become a big name. 

Even though Stevenson would have been the favourite, there’s no reason he’d have won as comfortably as he did against, for example, Oscar Valdez in 2022. If Edwin De Los Santos is his opponent instead – when you’re as good as Stevenson is, there’ll be times you’re frustrated by not getting the opponents you hope for, as often applied to Terence Crawford before he finally fought Errol Spence – then De Los Santos deserves credit for taking a fight higher-profile rivals haven’t. 

Paulie Malignaggi's Picks: Prograis, Haney, Davis, Cruz, Stevenson and De Los Santos are all nearing defining fights — unlike Lomachenko and Kambosos Jr
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

We could also soon see a rematch between Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Isaac Cruz. The first fight, in 2021, was good – Davis hurt his hand and therefore impressed in using his boxing skills, but the 12 rounds they shared should mean Cruz, who like Davis has also improved, will believe in himself more second time around. He was unfairly criticised for his performance against Giovanni Cabrera – an awkward, mobile fighter, which given Cruz has slow feet didn’t help Cruz. Davis may have quick feet when he uses them, but he’s a more stationary fighter, which means the potential exists for Davis-Cruz II to be explosive. Cruz always apply a level of pressure that makes him a test for anyone – he’s a tougher fight than Ryan Garcia, who Davis stopped in April.

Lomachenko will be a heavy favourite if he ends up fighting George Kambosos Jr. In comparison to when they were on course to fight for the undisputed title it feels anticlimactic – Kambosos Jr has since been washed twice in a row by Haney, and given a decision over Maxi Hughes most didn’t think he deserved. Even if, as I expect, Lomachenko wins easily, I’m not sure where that leaves Lomachenko. When they were going to fight before Kambosos Jr had a very good night instead against Teofimo Lopez – who I’ve never seen look so bad. He also had a good win against Mickey Bey in 2019, but I don’t know if today’s version of Kambosos Jr would beat that version of Bey, even if he remains tough, strong and determined. 

In July, Andy Cruz made his professional debut when he outpointed Juan Carlos Burgos over 10, and it came as no surprise that he impressed. If he’s marketed correctly – which can be difficult with Cuban fighters – he has a terrific future, not least because Cubans amateurs are nowadays fighting with a more professional style. I expect him to make quick progress – I’d even go as far as to say he’d beat Kambosos Jr today.