For some time now, Devin Haney has been discussed as a sort of spiritual successor to Floyd Mayweather Jr., a boxing mastermind if there ever was one on either side of the ropes. And on at least one occasion during Saturday’s DAZN broadcast, Haney – all 23 years old – was named in the same breath as Sugar Ray Leonard, the flamboyant Hall of Famer and nobleman of the famous Four Kings, a one-man marketing juggernaut in his own right. .
It would all be great praise if it were not for such transparent silly nonsense.
Haney, of course, is not to blame. The market for silly nonsense in boxing is flourishing as always. Haney, who defended a lightweight trinket title against Joseph Diaz at the Las Vegas MGM Grand Arena last Saturday, happened to be the product that was the sport shilling that night. Even if he does not match the breathless hyperbole – and let’s be honest, how could he? – Haney was able to stick to the script for the most part, by working out and pointing out Diaz in a 117-111 (twice), 116-112 unanimous decision. For those expecting the return of Money May or Sugar Ray, I have a property by the sea in Paradise – right next to McCarran Airport – I would love to sell you.
Still, the win over Diaz (32-2-1), a spicy 29-year-old who briefly held a junior lightweight title last year, was at least a step in the right direction for Haney (27-0). After an uneven performance against shop-eater Jorge Linares in May, and with other young lightweights threatening to suck up his share of the spotlight, Haney and his team went on Saturday in hopes of refuting his “pillow fist” reputation, the crowd blind and stay on course for bigger prices at 135 or 140 pounds.
Count it one out of three for Haney. With a significant reach advantage against the south leg Diaz, Haney came out from behind his stab, struck shots from a distance and landed the cleaner shots. He took control of the early rounds, if only because Diaz was not interested, or possibly unsure of claiming his own. It was only on the 4th that Diaz woke up, worked a little over Haney against the ropes and fixed a large counter left hand on the top floor.
Unconverted, Haney would simply improve Diaz’s efforts more frequently, round by round. In the 5th, a left top-right cross combination through and around Diaz’s tight guard showed a truly impressive bump variation and accuracy. Yet, when it seemed like Haney had a chance to drop the hammer – or at least aggressively swarm with a feather duster – he cracked the door, either staying too long in the queues or not consistently countering when Diaz did did not open.
After the 9th, Diaz’s father and coach, Joseph Sr., accurately told his son, “You have the control” whenever Haney is on the ropes. But seeing and doing are two different things. Diaz would push, but not hit. He zoomed in on Haney and then casually let him slip away. JoJo should not have needed the old man’s blueprint – the way forward was of course forward – but his indifference to it only underlined his lack of direction.
Diaz had one last chance, in the 12th, and it came true because he finally succumbed to a night of mostly unproductive authority: He let go. Diaz is not a massive puncher, but he would never box out Haney – and the left-handers he landed were proof enough that he should have been more aggressive from the start. Haney looked short for a while (shades of the Linares battle), but he recovered before Diaz could inflict any further damage.
The show has offered enough to justify a bit of sustained uproar over Haney’s future, if not the immediate commissioning of his profile to be chiseled into the Mount Rushmore of all time lightweights. There’s nothing wrong with the way Haney came up with: a sparkling run by the amateurs, a bit of flavor in TJ, a gradually rising rate in the direction of competition. Credit to Bill Haney, those rarest things in the sport: a father-coach with a fully operational limbic system and ambitions that go no further than the success and well-being of his son.
But it’s easy to forget: Devin Haney is younger than peach fuzz. Although originally planned to oppose fellow paper phenomenon Ryan Garcia, Haney has yet to tackle any of the top contenders at £ 135. And for those who have yet to stop with those comparisons to Mayweather and Leonard, the media game has so far not been Haney’s pocket. By flipping through his Instagram account and mumbling about his “drip” into a pre-fight segment, Haney flashed all the charisma of an insurance adjuster who described his morning oatmeal. Maybe it was Bring Your Preteen Daughter to Work Day in the DAZN production booth.
However, there may still be hope for Haney. When asked after sending Diaz if he would be willing to travel to Australia for an appointment with the new United lightweight champion George Kambosos, who was in the building to watch Saturday’s fight, Haney said: “I will go to Jupiter if I have to … Let’s do it next. “
Good answer, child. Who knows what will happen to that matchup when the bean counters and network mockers start fucking around with the idea of it, after which we can set our watches. But Haney did his part on Saturday, winning quite convincingly and then confidently stepping over the line drawn in the sand by the next man. I do not know if Haney is Boxing’s next superstar – and anyone who tells you they do is, of course, selling you something. But he has tools to work with and a very of runway over into his career. Let’s give him a minute to get up, shall we?
(Photo by Ed Mulholland for Matchroom Boxing)