Devin Haney has got rules on his side.
After all, the 20-year-old lightweight – born in California and residing these days in Las Vegas – became the mandatory challenger to WBC champ Vasyl Lomachenko with a dominating defeat of Zaur Abdullaev last month in midtown Manhattan.
But even if the fight doesn’t materialize right away thanks to boxing’s ever-fluid rubrics and guidelines, he remains confident that greatness-enhancing matchups are still on his imminent agenda.
Because he won’t rest until he gets them.
“I’m young and I’m in this sport because I want my name to be in the history books,” Haney told Boxing Scene. “I want my name to be mentioned with the greats. That’s one of the fights that the fans might say, years down the road, ‘I wish I could’ve seen him and Loma – that would have been a great fight.’
“I’m not scared to take a loss. I’m willing to put my 0 up because I do feel like I will win and I do feel like I’m one of the best fighters out there. I’m willing to put my record on the line to prove it.”
He’s only been a pro for four years and 23 fights, but nothing he’s shown so far suggests otherwise.
Haney began punching for pay in Tijuana, Mexico – blasting out no-hopers Gonzalo Lopez and Jose Iniguez in a combined 129 seconds across just a week’s time in December 2015. Only four of his first 14 foes stayed around to hear a final bell, and he graduated to schedule 12-rounders this past spring, though neither Antonio Moran (KO 7) nor Abdullaev were able to provide a significant push.
Lomachenko, a champion in three weight classes across just 15 fights, won’t likely be so easy.
“I think he’s a great fighter and that’s why I want to fight him,” Haney said. “I feel like he’s one of the best in the world and I feel like I’m one of the best in the world, too, so I want to get in there and show my talents, show my skills and show that I can beat him.
“I do feel like I’m getting ready to break through the door and become a huge star. Everything is falling into place and it’s going the way that me and my team planned it.”
Now ranked No. 1 at 135 pounds by the WBC and No. 2 by the IBO, Haney is penciled in to meet Russian veteran Petr Petrov – a two-time failed title challenger at 135 and 140 – on Nov. 9 in Los Angeles.
He took some time between recent sparring sessions to chat with Boxing Scene about his potential as a breakout star, the mindset that makes him seek out the biggest challenges and his down-the-road career goals.
Boxing Scene: Lots of fighters get to this point and never get to the next level. Why will you break out when others could not?
Devin Haney: I think it’s my skills and my work ethic. Not only am I dominating in my fights but I’m also getting better and better each fight. I’m improving. As I step up in competition my performances have been getting better and better.
Boxing Scene: By the same token, lots of fighters build up impressive records, but then decide they don’t want to compromise it? How frustrating is it as an athlete and a competitor to see that?
Haney: Yeah. I feel like that’s how people messed certain peoples careers up. They didn’t take the fights when the fights were there or when fighters were in their primes or things like that. That’s one thing about me. I want to fight these guys now. I don’t want to wait until Lomachenko gets older. Not only Lomachenko. Any of the best fights. I want to make them happen. I don’t want to make this about Lomachenko like I’m just picking on him. I want all the top guys.
Boxing Scene: Not every fighter would say that. When did you develop the mindset that chasing greatness is what mattered?
Haney: A long time ago. When I decided that this was something I wanted to do, I tried to dedicate myself and sacrifice. That’s what I knew what the ultimate goal was. To be mentioned with the greats. To go down in the history books. I knew what that was going to take. I knew that I couldn’t take the easy road. I couldn’t duck or dodge anybody. That might mess it up.
Boxing Scene: What fighters did you look at when you were a kid? Who were your role models?
Haney: Some of my role models coming up were guys like Roy Jones. Roy Jones fought the best of the best coming up. He was fighting title fights after title fights. I like a lot of old fighters, too, like Sugar Ray Leonard. He fought Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns. He fought the best of the best. He fought top guys in their prime, not when they were old. Sugar Ray Robinson, he fought everybody. Chavez. And the list goes on and on.
Boxing Scene: Is that the career path you see? Jumping divisions?
Haney: Yes. That’s the goal. After I conquer this title at 135. Whatever (the WBC is) gonna do. Whatever the decision they make, whether they make Lomachenko the franchise champion or they mandate the fight. Whatever happens, I want to get a title at 135 and then I want to move up to 140. I want to keep moving up.
Boxing Scene: Ultimately, who are some other guys you see on the horizon?
Haney: As of right now, the 135-pound division is the only one I’ve been looking at. The only guys I know at 135 are Richard Commey and Lomachenko. The 140-pound division, I’ve heard, is a good division. They’ve got Josh Taylor. Regis. I don’t really know too much about those guys. But like I said, whenever I move up, whoever’s there, I want to make the best fights with them.
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This week’s legit title-fight schedule:
WBO junior flyweight title – Indio, California
Elwin Soto (champion/No. 8 IWBR) vs. Edward Heno (No. 1 WBO/No. 6 IWBR)
Soto (15-1, 11 KO): First title defense; Won title (KO 12) in lone career fight past eight rounds
Heno (14-0-5, 5 KO): First title fight; Sixth straight fight scheduled for 12 rounds (4-0-1, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Soto arrived on the scene out of nowhere and might leave just as quickly when matched with an unbeaten foe with a 12-round pedigree. Call it a one-hit wonder. Heno by decision (65/35)
WBC minimumweight title – Chonburi, Thailand
Wanheng Menayothin (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Simpiwe Konkco (No. 1 WBC/No. 5 IWBR)
Menayothin (53-0, 18 KO): Twelfth title defense; One stoppage win in last 11 fights
Konkco (19-5, 7 KO): Seventh title fight (4-1, 1 NC); First fight outside of South Africa
Fitzbitz says: Fifty-three fight win streaks are hard to come by and won’t go away without a fight. Konkco is no one’s easy out, though, so an upset isn’t out of the question. Menayothin by decision (60/40)
IBF/WBA junior welterweight/super lightweight titles – London, United Kingdom
Josh Taylor (IBF champ/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Regis Prograis (WBA champ/No. 2 IWBR)
Taylor (15-0, 12 KO): First title defense; First fight in London
Prograis (24-0, 20 KO): First title defense; Fifth fight scheduled for 12 rounds (4-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: I love this fight. Love it. Both guys are studs at 140, so a win by neither will surprise me. My Scottish gut says Taylor, but I’m overruling it with my American head. Prograis by decision (60/40)
Vacant WBO featherweight title – Reno, Nevada
Shakur Stevenson (No. 1 WBO/No. 10 IWBR) vs. Joet Gonzalez (No. 2 WBO/No. 13 IWBR)
Stevenson (12-0, 7 KO): First title fight; Third fight in Nevada (2-0, 1 KO)
Gonzalez (23-0, 14 KO): First title fight; First fight scheduled for 12 rounds
Fitzbitz says: Stevenson is a star on the rise with far bigger fish to fry down the road. He may get a career-defining push, but the unbeaten streak won’t die here. Stevenson in 9 (80/20)
WBO mini-flyweight title – Montanez, Puerto Rico
Wilfredo Mendez (champion/No. 6 IWBR) vs. Axel Vega (Unranked WBO/No. 76 IWBR)
Mendez (14-1, 5 KO): First title defense; Five straight wins since March 2018 (5-0, 1 KO)
Vega (13-2-1, 8 KO): First title fight; Lost to Mendez (UD 10) in September 2018
Fitzbitz says: These two are familiar foes from just more than a year ago. Mendez was able to get a decision back then and figures to repeat the feat with a belt on the line. Mendez by decision (75/25)
Last week's picks: 0-1 (LOSS: Gvozdyk)
2019 picks record: 80-15 (84.2 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,091-358 (75.2 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.