HOLLYWOOD, Fla.—With the fights that are there to be made at his weight, Devin Haney doesn’t want to hear any more excuses for the other lightweights refusing to look his way.

After all, it’s how he has arrived at his current dilemma.

The unbeaten titlist from Las Vegas returns to the ring for the first time in 52 weeks, fully recovered from shoulder surgery and ready to take over the 135-pound division. The first step comes in a scheduled 12-round title defense versus Miami’s Yuriorkis Gamboa (30-3, 18KOs), which takes place Saturday evening live on DAZN from Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

“I just have to go in there, make a statement and let the rest play out from there,” Haney told BoxingScene.com. “I can’t stress over what the other guys in the division are doing. What I can do is deliver the type of performance that makes the fans demand these great fights with the other guys in the division.”

Haney (24-0, 15KOs) defends a WBC belt which he hoped to take from Ukraine’s Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-2, 10KOs), having done so in a sense but just not the way he desired. Instead of a head-on collision, the now 22-year old talent had to settle for being handed the strap after Lomachenko—through Top Rank—put in for a request for the WBC to recognize him as a “Franchise” champion.

The lone title defense by Haney came in a 12-round win over unbeaten Alfredo Santiago last November in Los Angeles. With the win came an injured shoulder which required surgery and which put him on the shelf for six months. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic led to the balance of his current inactive stretch heading into this weekend’s title defense.

It doesn’t come against Lomachenko or Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12KOs), both of whom instead faced each other last month with Brooklyn’s Lopez taking a 12-round win in their World lightweight championship. Haney should have been in the mix with Lomachenko, who instead exploited a loophole and ultimately landed in an even bigger fight.

The manner in which it panned out provided Haney with an anti-climactic run to the title, deliberately going the WBC route for no other purpose than drawing a straight line directly to one of the sport’s pound-for-pound best.

The hope is that history once again doesn’t repeat itself for tentative plans in the New Year. With a win on Saturday, Haney can look to the December 5 interim lightweight title fight between Victorville, California’s Ryan Garcia (20-0, 17KOs) and England’s 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and former two-time title challenger Luke Campbell (20-3, 16KOs). The winner will be the designated mandatory challenger to Haney’s title, hopefully with the WBC not wasting any time in ordering the fight and imposing an early deadline.

Absent that, all that can be hoped for is platform influence—both fight exclusively on DAZN-USA—and public demand being enough to push that fight and many others within the division into reality.

“There’s no way to know what Garcia or anyone else is going to do next,” Haney admits. “I don’t know what the remedy is, what the key to that is. I just got to go in there and win on Saturday night and we can just go from there.

“I want to get back in the ring within the next three months but in a meaningful fight. I don’t want any stay busy fights. I just want big fights.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox