With a Predictable Mission Accomplished, Devin Haney Climbs to the Superstar Precipice

Boxing Scene

It’s toughest for the stubborn types.

So set in their ways – or, in this case, so fiercely loyal to those that came before – that it’s impossible to concede anyone new could even approach their levels.

It’s been the case with fighters of all shapes and sizes for generations. 

It’s the case these days with Devin Haney.

Though his resume was surely respectable prior to a challenge of 140-pound claimant Regis Prograis, the depth and breadth of his skill set was almost criminally undervalued.

To a point, in fact, where more than a few gave Prograis – a good, tough fighter to be sure, but never on Haney’s level when it came to genuine in-ring prowess – more than a fleeting chance to win.

Some to a point where they actually picked him to do so. 

No, really.

It seemed plausible last week as Prograis talked tough and gestured menacingly. It seemed possible Saturday night right up until the opening bell.

It seems pretty ridiculous now.

Ridiculous because, in the afterglow of Haney’s San Francisco virtuosity, simply lauding a pound-for-pounder for superiority over a pedestrian doesn’t mean anything. 

It’s a fight he won. It’s a fight he was supposed to win. Big deal.

What ought to be done, instead, is recalibration toward what’s next in a division full of matchups that’ll allow Haney to ascend further into truly rarified air.

The air reserved for the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr. a generation ago.

Mayweather, for those unaware, was 5-0 with two KOs in title fights at 135 and 140. He won other belts at 130, 147 and 154, but the stretch from 2002 to 2005 may have been the peak of his powers.

And Haney, for one night at least, was in the conversation, too.

“He was that good. A virtual replay of Floyd Mayweather vs. Arturo Gatti,” Jim Lampley, who called that 2005 mismatch for HBO, told BoxingScene.com “The audience always harbors high hopes for the heart and will of the pure brawler. That emotional urge, sometimes partially shared by pundits, ignores the reality that at its upper levels the sport is about technique, about intricate craft that is unintelligible to the ‘heart and guts and will’ fighter. Prograis is very easy for the superior technician to disassemble. 

“It winds up in public embarrassment. The competitive gap expands from round to round. Totally predictable but shouldn’t too liberally expand Devin’s ring self-image. He did what he should have been expected to do against a limited capacity opponent. The performance vs. Loma was in a higher league and proved a great deal more. The challenge is to keep working, keep seeking improvement, and not take too much satisfaction away from a win that was written in stone. Craft is king. Keep building it.”

Indeed, the WBC trinket allows Haney entrance into a belt-wearing club at 140 that includes long-time lightweight rival Teofimo Lopez (WBO) and compelling Puerto Rican boogeyman Subriel Matias (IBF) – not to mention the championship-adjacent room where perpetual big-fight instigator Ryan Garcia and perhaps even Gervonta Davis, who earned and discarded a dubious title two years ago, may loiter.

It’s no stretch to suggest Haney could run the table there before or even alongside an inferred jump to welterweight, where the likes of Jaron Ennis are already licking their competitive chops.

But as good as Saturday was, it’ll take some doing on Haney’s part. 

Particularly when it comes to maintaining the focus that allowed it to happen in the first place.

In other words, keep sweating the small stuff. Because it’s all small stuff. And it all matters.

“4-0 not at all implausible if the whole team sticks to its knitting and doesn’t get intoxicated by how easy this was,” Lampley said. “And that’s not as easy as it sounds. One constant is that margins are finer than they appear to be. A little bit here and there looks like a lot on fight night. That’s an inducement to small mistakes whose impact grows as time goes by. Careers are cumulative, not just episodic.”

* * * * * * * * * *        

This week’s title-fight schedule:       

IBF/WBO flyweight titles – Glendale, Arizona 

Sunny Edwards (IBF champion/No. 1 Ring) vs. Jesse Rodriguez (WBO champion/No. 4 Ring) 

Edwards (20-0, 4 KO): Fifth title defense; Fourth fight outside of the United Kingdom (3-0, 0 KO) 

Rodriguez (18-0, 11 KO): First title defense; Held WBC title at 115 pounds (2022, two defenses) 

Fitzbitz says: I like Edwards a lot. But this feels like a big ask. Rodriguez handled himself well with the veteran elites at 115 and seemed solid when he dropped back to 112. Lean. Rodriguez in 9 (65/35) 

WBC flyweight title – Minneapolis, Minnesota 

Julio Cesar Martinez (champion/No. 2 Ring) vs. Angelino Cordova (No. 13 WBC/Unranked Ring) 

Martinez (20-2, 15 KO): Seventh title defense; Unbeaten in 11 fights at 112 pounds (9-0, 7 KO, 2 NC) 

Cordova (18-0-1, 12 KO): First title fight; Decision wins in two fights in the United States (2-0, 0 KO)

Fitzbitz says: The challenger has gone 16-0-1 with 12 KOs in Venezuela and won two narrow decisions in the U.S. He reaches for the highest rung on Saturday and the gap will be vast. Martinez in 7 (95/5)

This week’s trash title-fight schedule: 

WBA “world” super middleweight title – Minneapolis, Minnesota 

David Morrell (champion/No. 5 Ring) vs. Sena Agbeko (No. 10 WBA/Unranked Ring) 

Why it’s trash: Same old reasons. Canelo Alvarez won a bunch of fights to earn a bunch of titles at 168, but it’s not good enough for the Panamanian belt cartel. A shadow champion like Morrell keeps the fees coming in if Canelo takes some time away or, gasp, tells them to shove it when they order a mandatory. 

Last week’s picks: 1-2 (WIN: Billam-Smith; LOSS: Prograis, Ramirez)  

2023 picks record: 42-17 (71.1 percent)         

Overall picks record: 1,293-425 (75.2 percent)        

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body’s full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class. 

Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz. 

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