Devin Haney remains on the hunt for his next title defense while the last two opponents he has expected to fight are instead ordered to face each other.
Four mandatory title fights and eliminators were revealed by the World Boxing Council (WBC) as either in progress or due to be ordered. Among the lot is a potential lightweight clash between Ryan Garcia (21-0, 18KOs) and former IBF junior lightweight titlist Joseph Diaz (32-1-1, 15KOs), with the bout in discussion for weeks and now coming with the WBC’s blessing.
Should the two finalize terms, Diaz-Garcia will come with the WBC interim lightweight title at stake while carrying classification as a final title eliminator. The winner will become the mandatory challenger to Haney’s full title.
However, both fighters have already been in this position as recently as their last respective fights.
Garcia was due to next face Haney following his off-the-canvas, seventh-round knockout of 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and former two-time title challenger Luke Campbell (20-4, 16KOs). The bout took place January 2 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, with Garcia claiming the WBC interim title.
Haney (25-0, 15KOs) was in attendance for the event and did not waste any time in calling out the unbeaten contender from Victorville, California. The fight was never formally ordered, however, with Garcia permitted to pursue other opportunities while sitting on his lofty contender spot. Plans were in place for a July 11 clash with Javier Fortuna, only for Garcia to bow out of the fight as he opted to contend with getting his mental health in order.
The fight withdrawal also saw the WBC interim lightweight title become available. Diaz agreed to step in on short notice to face Fortuna, with the belt at stake and the WBC declaring that the winner would become the mandatory challenger.
Diaz—who moved up in weight for the fight after losing his IBF 130-pound belt at the scale ahead of a draw with Shavkat Rakhimov in February—won a twelve-round, unanimous decision and the interim belt along with it. A cut suffered early in the fight prevented a quick turnaround, though suggesting through his ongoing war of words with Haney through social media that he would be ready for a November showdown.
“November we [got a] deal,” Diaz tweeted one day after his win over Fortuna.
“BET,” Haney replied.
“Don’t back pedal,” Diaz demanded on July 15. “I’mma talk to the team this weekend. “Lock that in for this year.”
That promise came and went without any action taken, despite Haney’s continued urging over the past few months and even in recent days.
“You know you’re my mandatory right?” Haney openly questioned Diaz via Twitter on Sunday. “Once you guys write a[n] email to the WBC I have no choice but to fight you, right?”
Diaz’s reply was a clear indication that he had other plans in mind—either that, or no grasp whatsoever on the process behind ordering a mandatory title fight.
“Why doesn’t the champion write that he wants to fight his mandatory,” Diaz openly questioned in a response that did not sit well with Boxing Twitter.
Instead of a Haney-Diaz title fight, rumors surfaced of Diaz and Garcia locked in talks for a fourth quarter showdown which since carries the WBC’s approval. The fight is not yet set, with Diaz himself publicly questioning whether Garcia will accept the challenge.
“It’s no secret I’m in talks to fight JOJO Diaz,” Garcia tweeted Sunday evening. “I don’t know why there is so much discussion?”
“’Cause we don’t know if you’re going to pull out or not,” Diaz replied, though further puzzling as to why he wouldn’t instead take an equally—if not more so—lucrative title fight.
Meanwhile, Haney—who turns 23 in November—remains in search of a next opponent for a fight targeted for
The bout will mark the fourth defense of the title he has held for nearly two years. Haney won the interim title following a fourth-round stoppage of unbeaten Zaur Abdullaev in September 2019 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater. With the win, Haney expected to next face WBC/WBA/WBO lightweight titlist Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Those plans went up in smoke later that October during the WBC’s annual convention. Lomachenko—through promoter Top Rank—agreed to turn in his WBC belt in exchange for recognition as WBC’s “Franchise” champion. The move resulted in Haney being upgraded to full WBC champ, though the unbeaten lightweight would have much rather preferred to fight—especially versus someone of Lomachenko’s ilk—than to have been handed the belt.
Three successful defenses have since followed for Haney, including a twelve-round win over former three-division titlist Jorge Linares this past May in his adopted Las Vegas hometown.
Other title eliminators and mandatories confirmed by the WBC include: a mandatory title fight between four-division and recently crowned WBC bantamweight champ Nonito Donaire (41-6, 27KOs) and unbeaten interim titlist Reymart Gaballo (24-0, 20KOs); a final featherweight eliminator between Eduardo Ramirez and Lerato Diamini; and a mandatory WBC featherweight title fight between long-reigning champion Gary Russell Jr. and Mark Magsayo, who replaces previously named mandatory and former junior featherweight titlist Rey Vargas.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox