It’s clear that the narrative of Devin Haney (22-0) (14 KO’s) being one of boxing’s best young prospect sis something that the young lightweight sensation was never really trying to achieve. As a matter of fact, it’s a moniker that Haney seems to evade, like most of the punches that are thrown his way. Yes, when a fighter turns professional at the age of seventeen and runs through the early part of his career in the fashion that Haney has, seemingly easily, beating all opposition during his rise through the lightweight division, it’s not hard to understand why so many boxing insiders started to gush over his skills, both inside and outside of the ring. He is a well-spoken young man, with the looks that suggest he could easily transcend the sport to become a popular main stream star.
Boxing history is littered with the once upon a time prospects that had the same traits that Haney currently possesses. What seems to be a bit different regarding Haney is that he has always delivered where it matters the most. Inside of the ring. At times many of these prospects in the past have not been able to handle everything that comes with a quick rise through the professional ranks. Some fall to situations outside of the ring in their personal lives, while others fail to live up to expectations as the level of competition increases.
In contrast, the talent that Haney possesses made many fight fans and boxing insiders pick him as their heir apparent to the throne of boxing’s biggest box office draw. His speed both of foot and hand are something that can be best described as generational. Add to that, Haney’s mental prowess and his ability to adapt during fights to capitalize on the mistakes his opponent’s make, along with the knowledge at such a young age to dictate the pace of a fight. What you wind up having in total is a complete fighter. The only thing that seems to be missing is how Haney would fair against a tough, gritty opponent that could push him physically and mentally. Again, those types of boxing intangibles may not be tested until Haney begins to fight the elite level of his division and the sport.
With twenty-two fights under his belt in his career at just the age of twenty, Haney enters his fight on Friday night against Zaur Abdullaev (11-0) (7 KO’s), of Russia, aiming to capture something that would put the boxing world on notice. A victory would make him the WBC Interim champion and their number one ranked lightweight in the world. Currently the lightweight division is one of the most talented in the sport, with the fighter many feel is the best fighter in the world, pound-for-pound in Vasly Lomachenko holding the WBA/WBC/WBO titles. A Haney win would mean that he would put himself in a prime position to fight Lomachenko, possibly for all those titles. With Lomachenko fighting under the Top Rank Promotions banner, he has made it clear that his goal is to be undisputed lightweight champion. As a result, he will patiently await the winner of the proposed December 14th fight between IBF champion Richard Commey and his number one challenger Teofimo Lopez.
This leaves Haney somewhat on the outside in terms of the world title picture. Although this may be the case, Haney has made it clear that he is glad to continue his path and does not need to rush into a fight with Lomachenko. “The WBC Interim World Championship means a lot to me. Being able to fight for an Interim World title means everything. This not only makes me the WBC mandatory for Lomachenko, but I’m able to do Interim title defenses until Lomachenko is ready to fight,” stated Haney during a recent media day.
“Some people kept labeling me a prospect when I knew I was so much more. I know Abdullaev is focused, he’s been at the top of the rankings for a while now. I believe the winner is in a really good position with the WBC,” asserts Haney.
Friday night is the type of opportunity that Haney has been preparing for since he first started boxing when he was seven years old. Not only is it a huge chance to start building his legacy, It is also the first time that Haney will be the main event at the building known as the “Mecca of Boxing,” Madison Square Garden. Although the fight will take place inside of the smaller theater and not the main room, the theater is at times known as the proving grounds where future top attractions of the sport first test just how big their box office appeal truly is. A dominant performance for Haney along with a sizable crowd of paying customers to witness his first major career milestone would be the first step towards him proving to the boxing world that all the praise he has received at such an early age is warranted.
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