Haney is already a star; now he needs the super fights

Boxing

SAN FRANCISCO — Devin Haney has heard it all despite his accomplishments in boxing at just the age of 25, including becoming undisputed lightweight champion along with a thrilling victory over an all-time great in Vasiliy Lomachenko.

He receives recognition though it’s often accompanied by a “but,” though. There were many fans who believed Lomachenko deserved the decision. There were fighters, including Regis Prograis, who said Haney lacks punching power and would be exposed at 140 pounds. That Haney also didn’t have the chin to hold up at his new weight.

What will they say now? After all, Haney didn’t just defeat Prograis on Saturday at the Chase Center, home of the Golden State Warriors. He dropped him, dismantled him and made Prograis look downright silly at times in a master-class performance to become a two-division champion in his junior welterweight debut.

“I’m a complete fighter, but they going to always say something,” Haney told ESPN after the fight. “First they said I couldn’t sell. I just sold it out, 16,000. They said I didn’t have no power. I went in there and dropped him early, hurt him multiple times. What are they going to say now?”

Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) is undoubtedly one of the best fighters in the sport. He entered the bout rated No. 7 by ESPN pound for pound and is sure to rise on that list after this performance.

And his star power? On the ascent, too. Promoter Eddie Hearn recalled telling Haney that he expected to sell roughly 7,000 tickets. They more than doubled that amount with a pro-Haney crowd on hand to see the San Francisco native deliver the best performance of his career.

He’s already an attraction and now needs dance partners that are fellow stars to continue building his profile. Lomachenko is a recognizable name in boxing. Prograis is, too, to a lesser extent.

The genuine stars? There are many at 140 pounds. Teofimo Lopez Jr. Ryan Garcia. And then there’s Gervonta “Tank” Davis, who competed at 140 pounds in June 2021 but currently campaigns at 135.

“Tank don’t want to fight because if he really wanted to fight, then he would be trying to build up the fight instead of trying to knock it down,” Haney said. ” … If he really wanted to fight me, he would be making it that. It’s a big fight and it’s the best fight for boxing. But he only talked down on the fight. Like I said many times, they say everything but ‘let’s fight.'”

With an extra five pounds to work with in his new division, Haney said he felt better than ever rather than depleted and weight-drained. He sees 147 pounds in his future, too. Maybe even next year.

But the biggest fights are currently at 140, where he now holds a title. And what about Lopez, who is coming his own impressive performance, a sound defeat of Josh Taylor in June?

“I want to make the biggest, best fights happen,” said Haney. “If we can make the fight happen, it makes sense. Then we can make the fight happen. Like I said, I wanted the biggest fights for the most money.”

And then there’s Garcia, who returned to 140 last week with a KO win over Oscar Duarte. Garcia looked vulnerable during the bout but showcased his speed and power once again.

“For years and years we chased a Ryan Garcia fight,” said Hearn. “No one wanted to fight Devin Haney and everyone used the excuse: ‘It’s not not a big enough fight. No one knows who he is.’ … When you’re too good, the only way you can entice people is to get paid to get beat. He sold out in a city that hasn’t had boxing in two decades.”

The last time major boxing was in San Francisco? In 2001 when Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao competed in separate bouts on an HBO doubleheader. That was before both fighters went on to become transcendent stars.

Haney has that same chance now. With his blend of charisma, elite boxing skills and willingness to be great, Haney simply needs to continue what he’s doing and do it against the biggest attractions in the sport, too.

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