Devin Haney hits the road for the biggest fight of his young career without his primary team in tow.
Travel plans for the WBC lightweight titlist will not include the company of his father and head trainer, Bill Haney who was not permitted to go through customs for their trip to Australia. The elder Haney was denied entry due to a prior conviction holding up his visa application, forcing Devin Haney to literally fly solo en route to Melbourne ahead of his June 5 undisputed lightweight championship clash with lineal/WBA/IBF/WBO champ George Kambosos Jr.
“I’m still at home in Vegas. I wasn’t able to board the flight to go over [to Australia],” Bill Haney confirmed during an appearance on Trill Boxing Talk, a YouTube-based show on which he is a regular guest. “They said my visa hasn’t been approved. It hasn’t been denied. At this point in time, I wasn’t able to go through customs.
“I do want the world to know, as a dad I’ve prepared Devin for this moment and doing what he does best—showing up and showing out. I’ve been preparing him for the day when he will no longer have me. I don’t have my dad, I lost him at the same age Devin is now. It was devastating to lose him, he raised a solid one. I can only hope that all the talks me and Devin has had, that he’s able to remember and to be the man I know that he is.”
It was revealed during the same show that—short of the elder Haney being approved for a travel visa in the coming days—Haney (27-0, 15KOs) will be trained by Yoel Judah—the father and head trainer of retired former two-division and undisputed welterweight champion Zab Judah—for the upcoming four-belt, undisputed championship. The bout will air live on ESPN (June 4 evening in U.S., June 5 locally) from Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, regardless of who has to train Haney on fight night.
The customs issue stems from a nearly 30-year-old conviction, when Bill Haney served time on a drug conviction in the early 1990s. Australian visa rules state that felons who have served 12 months or more in prison are ineligible to qualify for an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) or eVisitor visa required for short-term visits. Bill Haney stated in advance his past criminal record in hopes of avoiding this scenario, though the issue remains unresolved as of Wednesday afternoon.
“That was the thing that puzzles me the most,” notes the elder Haney, who has trained and managed Devin throughout his boxing lifetime. “I was always up front in terms of where I come from, being from Oakland where I made some mistakes I don’t want Devin to make. I made some mistakes at 22, 23, where Devin is now and hopefully he don’t ever have to make those mistakes I’ve made. Those aren’t the paths he wants to go down. I have a felony on my record that goes back to 1992. A federal drug conviction that I served time on.
“I was open and honest to our partners at Top Rank. Lou DiBella with DiBella Entertainment (Kambosos’s promoter) knew about this as well. We were hoping to get the support from the Australian government pertaining to it. Hopefully that will happen in the next day or two, a couple of weeks before the fight that I will be able to go.”
The 23-year-old Haney attempts the fifth defense of the WBC title he has held since 2019. A win over Kambosos (20-0, 10KOs) will make him the youngest male fighter to claim undisputed championship status in the four-belt era.
He will be doing so in his opponent’s home country and without anyone who has regularly worked his corner during his current title reign. Ben Davison, a UK-based coach who has worked with Haney for his past several fights, is also currently sorting out visa issues due to completely unrelated matters that currently restrict his ability to travel.
Kambosos attempts the first defense of his lineal championship and unified title reign following a split decision win over then-unbeaten champ Teofimo Lopez Jr. (16-1, 12KOs) last November 27 in New York City. The unbeaten Australian—who turns 29 on June 14—aimed for a homecoming fight for his first title defense, having fought on the road for his past seven fights upon transitioning from prospect to contender and eventually to champion.
Original plans called for Kambosos to face former three-division titlist Vasiliy Lomachenko (16-2, 11KOs). The fight was never formally announced, with Lomachenko having to bow out once Martial Law in his native Ukraine required him to join his nation’s military force to serve in defense of his homeland against Russia in the ongoing war.
Haney was eager all along to face Kambosos for all the marbles. The Bay Area-bred fighter—who now lives and trains in Las Vegas—called for the fight immediately after his most recent title defense when he outpointed Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz last December 4 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in his adopted hometown.
The fight made its way back around, though offered in a take-or-leave-it scenario which also called for Haney to commit to a multi-fight co-promotional deal with DiBella Entertainment and Top Rank. Part of the deal also leaves Haney hamstrung to a one-way rematch clause in the event he beats Kambosos, who would have the right to call for a second fight to also take place in Australia.
For now, the only concern is for the younger Haney to have as close to a level playing field as the situation will allow.
“They weren’t willing to give up anything,” noted Bill Haney. “It’s a one-way rematch clause and they want it in Australia. Devin doesn’t have a rematch in the contract. With this, me not being able to go over, it changes the dynamic of what we agreed to. But we are men of our word. We have this fight right now. The most important thing is to get through this fight right now, that we have in front of us. Get through that with him and then speak to the government.
“Hopefully in the next couple of days or even during the rematch I will be allowed to be let over. They have a character committee or something like that, the Australian government that they overlook people on the fence, that maybe they can accept in. They have a character committee meeting on it. I’m as optimistic about the fight happening when they said it wasn’t happening. I’m just as optimistic about being allowed over there. In all actuality, we have to prepare for me not being there.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox