Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Comeback of Richard Commey

Originally, the premise of this column was to concern the fallout of the anticipated clash for the vacant WBO Light-Heavyweight world championship between top contenders Joe Smith Jr. and Maxim Vlasov, which was to take place on February 13th at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, NV. As we seem to be reminded on a daily basis however, the sport of Boxing is one that is truly unpredictable. A statement that carries even more significance in the midst of the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic. Unfortunately, it was revealed as covered here on The Boxing Truth®️ last week, that Maxim Vlasov had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus just days before the scheduled twelve round world championship bout and that would subsequently force the fight between he and Smith to be postponed. 


While this subsequently took the main event of the scheduled card out of the equation, the fight that stepped into the main event position also carried an interesting storyline. This observer is of course speaking of the story of former IBF Lightweight world champion Richard Commey. As some may recall, the thirty-three year old Commey won the IBF world championship in the 135lb. Lightweight division in February 2019 with a third round knockout over Isa Chaniev. Commey successfully defended the title once over former world champion Ray Beltran in June of that year via twelve round unanimous decision. This was the set up for his title defense against the unbeaten “Knockout Artist “ Teofimo Lopez in December 2019. Commey saw his title reign come to an end in that fight being dropped with a flush right hook in the second round and subsequently finished with a follow-up barrage.


The third loss for Commey in thirty-one career bouts was the first time he had been stopped in his career. Although a fighter suffering a knockout loss in the sudden way that Commey did against Lopez can create a bit of a misconception amongst particularly casual Boxing fans as to how good a fighter might be, in reality, the sudden ending of that fight was a case of a world champion simply getting caught and it could have easily been a reverse scenario. Sometimes all a fighter needs is one punch and on that night it was Lopez who was able to land it.


Under circumstances where the sport is able to operate normally, it would be logical to question how long it would be before Commey would return to the ring. While there are some fighters who will look to rush back into the ring quicker than others after suffering a knockout loss, an argument should be made that in the case of Richard Commey, one year of inactivity due largely to the COVID-19  crisis provided him the appropriate time to recover fully from that loss. 


The question going into Commey’s bout against Jackson Marinez in my eyes was not whether there would be a difference in Commey physically, but if he would be tentative and not as willing to engage in exchanges of offense. What I mean by this is Commey did get caught by one punch in his fight against Teofimo Lopez and even though the knockout did not come as a result of him suffering prolonged punishment over a period of time, it can still create a scenario where a fighter might be more cautious after suffering a knockout than they were prior. The other term that is often used to describe this under those kind of circumstances is whether the fight will be “Gun Shy” and not as willing to let their hands go as they might have been before.


In Jackson Marinez, Commey faced a fighter who was a veteran of twenty professional bouts coming into the fight with a record of 19-1, with 7 Knockouts. While this statistic gave the former world champion an edge in terms of overall experience as he entered the ring with a record of 29-3, with 27 Knockouts, one aspect of Marinez’ record that stood out to me was that he had a career knockout percentage of just over 30% compared to Commey’s over 80%. Although this indicated that Marinez was not a fighter known for punching power as evidenced in his only having seven knockouts in his nineteen career wins, it gave an indication in my view that the intention beyond looking for a confidence boost for Commey, was also to try and get some rounds in. After all, in addition to his coming off of a knockout loss, Commey was also coming off over a year of inactivity and one could argue that it is just as important or perhaps more important for a fighter to work off what is known as “Ring Rust” from a long stretch of inactivity as it is for a fighter to hopefully return to their winning ways following a loss.


While the question of whether Commey would be tentative early on in this fight was answered almost immediately upon the bout beginning with a definitive no as he looked to apply pressure on Marinez, Marinez was elusive and showed early that he could make the former champion miss. As the fight progressed, Marinez continued to use lateral movement to try and evade Commey as he pressed forward, but gradually Commey’s power began to show itself and he began landing punches including hooks and right hands with more consistency.


Although Marinez had an edge in lateral movement and seemingly in hand speed, he could not land anything to discourage Commey from coming forward. In simple terms, he could not get the respect of the former world champion. This in addition Commey’s punching power set the stage for the conclusion of the fight in round six. 


Commey’s aggression had only continued to increase as this fight progressed and the sixth round world be no different as he increasingly found openings to land his right hand to the head of Marinez. It was a right hand while Marinez was against the ropes that would send Marinez down late in the round. Marinez showed his heart by getting up from the knockdown, but with his opponent badly hurt, Commey pressed forward landing another flush right hand to the head sending Marinez down and out on the canvas.


At the end of the day, this fight was able to accomplish both the task of getting the “Ring Rust” off as well as provide the type of confidence restoring victory for Commey that should put him right back in the mix amongst the top fighters in the 135lb. Lightweight division. One such fighter who was there in attendance at the MGM Grand Conference Center to support Richard Commey was the man who took the IBF world championship from him. A man who is now the Undisputed world champion in the Lightweight division. Teofimo Lopez.


While it is certainly possible that there might be a potential rematch between Lopez and Commey down the line, Lopez himself said shortly after he beat Commey to become a world champion that the roles could have easily been reversed and showed his respect for Commey in the process. In a highly competitive Lightweight division where anyone could realistically vie for the position Lopez currently holds, it is refreshing to see fighters show each other the respect all fighters deserve for the risk they all take each and every time they step into the ring to compete. Boxing may not always be benefited by acts of “Class” like the type shown between Richard Commey and Teofimo Lopez and may unfortunately garner more attention for the negatives of the sport, but the respect shown between these two one time and perhaps future opponents is something all involved in Boxing can learn from.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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