Sign up Devin Haney for a fight against undisputed Teofimo Lopez in 2021.
As far as Haney is concerned, he is not one to shy away from a fight against any of the top lightweights in the division, including Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis.
Haney will defend his WBC lightweight title against Yuriorkis Gamboa tonight at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The 12-round bout will headline a stream on DAZN (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).
The 21-year-old Haney (24-0, 15 knockouts), who lives and trains in Las Vegas, Nevada, last fought on November 9 of last year, dropping Alfredo Santiago of the Dominican Republic once en route to a one-sided decision victory. The fight marked Haney’s first as a full-fledged WBC titleholder.
Haney will face an experienced fighter in Gamboa (30-3, 18 KOs), who was stopped in the final round at the hands of Davis on December 28. Despite getting knocked down in rounds 2, 8, and 12, Gamboa fought with a torn Achilles heel.
Haney expects a recovered Gamboa to be at his best and expects a strong challenge from the Cuba-born fighter, who now resides in Miami, Florida, but wonders if critics will give him full credit should he defeat Gamboa tonight.
“I’m looking for him to be ready to take my title away,” Haney told BoxingScene in a recent interview over the phone. “He’s fought the top guys. He gave Terence (Crawford) his toughest fight, he gave ‘Tank’ (Davis) his hardest fight. If I go in there and dominate (Gamboa), people will try and write it off. They’ll say I beat up a guy who had a torn Achilles. I’m going to go in there and do my best.
“(Gamboa) has speed and power. I have to watch out for both. He’s a crafty opponent. He has more experience than me. I can’t just focus on one thing he has. He can surprise me.”
Haney saw Lopez’s impressive victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko last month. The fight was billed as an undisputed world title fight, even though Haney currently owns the WBC belt, which Lomachenko won with his win over Luke Campbell in August of last year but was elevated to WBC ‘Franchise’ titleholder after refusing to fight Haney. After defeating Russia’s Zaur Abdullaev less than a month later, the WBC elevated Haney to full titleholder.
Even as fight fans and media criticized the move by the WBC, Haney believes he is the outright WBC titleholder. A fight against Lopez makes sense as it would settle once and for all who is the actual WBC titleholder but Haney believes he is worthy of fighting for the other world title belts.
“It’s a huge fight,” said Haney, who made his pro debut at the age of 17 in December 2015. “I would love to fight for all the belts. I know they were selling the fight as undisputed, but it wasn’t. I felt a certain way because I thought it didn’t take me into consideration that I was the WBC champion. I spoke to (WBC president) Mauricio (Sulaiman) about it. He said it was Top Rank selling it to ESPN and that it was out of the WBC’s hands. I just think that it adds more to the confusion of who really is the WBC champion.”
Besides Lopez, Haney has made it a point of fighting the top fighters at 135 pounds. That remains to be seen as the politics of the sport and alliances with networks and streams seems to be sticking points even before preliminary negotiations.
Haney holds out hope that he can face Lopez in a ‘unification’ fight, or other top lightweights, but he wonders if those fighters would want to fight him.
“There isn’t a top guy at 135 pounds. Everyone wants to go their own route. If Teofimo or any other fighter wants to prove they’re the best, then fight another top fighter. Or me.”
“Ryan Garcia talks a lot, but what sense is there to make that fight. He has a fight against Luke Campbell that will be tough. Win a belt or beat a top guy, then we can push that fight.”
Haney continues to work with promoter Eddie Hearn even as he himself is a promoter. He promoted a ‘ShoBox’ card he fought on in September 2018, defeating former world title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos by unanimous decision.
As he faces Gamboa tonight with an eye on future fights at 135 pounds in 2021, Haney does his best to market himself as a fighter and a promoter.
“That’s always been the goal. Inspire and show what I’m all about, including Devin Haney Promotions. I’ve done my best to sell and make this fight happen. I’ve done interviews with the media, promoting this fight and my promotional company. I haven’t seen Gamboa do a lot to sell this fight with the media.”
“As a fighter, I’m nowhere near where I want to be. I feel like I’m just getting my feet wet. I have so many more goal to accomplish. I still have a long road ahead of me.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for BoxingScene since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing