Devin Haney sends a powerful message to the boxing world

DevinHaney stole a page from the 1940s box book last December. Shortly after successfully defending his WBC lightweight title against Joseph “JoJo” Diaz at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Haney called out unified champion George Kambosos Jr.

A week ago, The virtually unknown Aussie upset Teofimo Lopez to become the unified champion and the de facto man in the division.

Haney was long mocked for how he got his belt. Kambosos, for example, earned his belt by defeating previously undefeated Teofimo Lopez. Lopez himself had become the unified champion by upsetting pound-for-pound great Vasiliy Lomachenko.

Until recently, the script in boxing was for champions to sit on their belts for as long as possible, defending themselves against low-risk challengers in victorious bouts until the big win came.

Haney was paid exceptionally well by Matchroom Sport, especially compared to his ticketing skills, and he could have followed modern boxing’s tried-and-true formula: fight the low-risk bouts, rack up big paydays, rage on social media, and wait , until a really big fight showed up.

He chose to strive for greatness and for that he deserves tremendous credit. Haney accepted the fight with Kambosos and they will meet for the undisputed lightweight title on Saturday in front of more than 50,000 fans at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 30: Devin Haney of the United States addresses the media during a press conference with George Kambosos Jr at Culture Kings on May 30, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

A feisty Devin Haney had no qualms fighting the biggest fight of his life half a world away. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

This is how boxing used to work. Sugar Ray Robinson is widely regarded as the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time. In 2000, the Associated Press commissioned a poll to identify the best fighters of the 20th century. Panelists included legendary coaches Angelo Dundee, Lou Duva, Eddie Futch and Gil Clancy, and promoter Don Chargin.

Robinson was voted Best Overall Fighter, as well as Best Middleweight and Best Welterweight. He went 174-19-6 with 109 KOs in a career that spanned 1940-65. In 1945 he fought the legendary Jake La Motta twice in four months, but that was nothing compared to what he did in 1943. He fought La Motta twice in three weeks and Henry Armstrong six months later. Armstrong was voted the third best pound-for-pound fighter of the 20th century.

It was a remarkable performance.

Haney hasn’t done anything close to that, but by choosing not only to seek a fight with Kambosos but willingly agreeing to face him in Australia, where Kambosos is from, he sends a strong message to his peers about how to behave at championships.

Haney also struggles with a kind of handicap. His father Bill acts as his coach but has been denied entry to Australia. The well-respected Ben Davison had been working his corner in the last few fights, but Davison’s relationship with the now-defunct ad firm MTK Global and its ties to mobster suspect Daniel Kinahan meant Davison couldn’t come to the country either.

Aside from a stunning last-minute substitution, Yoel will work Judah Haney’s corner.

That could have deterred other fighters; Haney just shrugged and said he thought he was the better fighter. And though he’s the favorite – Haney is at -175 on BetMGM and Kambosos is +145 – he knows exactly what risk he is taking. While 50 Haney fans could be in the building, there will be more than 50,000 Kambosos supporters.

If there is a close round or Kambosos has a commotion, it can greatly affect the judges.

However, Haney believes in herself and is unwilling to apologize.

“We knew he wanted to fight in Australia so we were ready,” Haney said. “So it wasn’t a mystery or something that just came out of the blue. We’ve known about it for a while and it’s something I wanted to do. I have no problem beating him in his own country because I really think I’m the better fighter. I have better skills and I’m the best lightweight in the world. So I’m willing to do anything to show it and I’ll finally get my right. I look forward to it.”

That’s a pro. He’s not worried about who is promoting Kambosos or which network will televise it. Instead, he essentially said, “Tell me when and where and I’ll be there.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 30: George Kambosos Jr. of Australia and Devin Haney of the United States compete after a press conference at Culture Kings on May 30, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

George Kambosos Jr. and Devin Haney face off on May 30, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia ahead of Saturday’s undisputed title fight. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

It will also benefit him in other ways as if he loses then he will surely get another chance due to his willingness to take the risk in the first place.

And he knows that he is doing something good that shows others the way in sport. It comes at a great time when boxers suddenly get their promoters and their managers to put them in meaningful fights and not settle for gimmes.

“I wanted to make a difference,” Haney said. “I want to show the world and boxers that this is not something to worry about and that the side of the road is wrong. If you really want to create something big, it’s up to us fighters to make it happen. And I’m making that leap, and hopefully the rest of the boxing world will see it, and they’ll see me triumph, they’ll see me overcome it, and they’ll be inspired to do the same.”

Nearly 80 years ago, the great Sugar Ray Robinson proved that point. And Devin Haney, much to his credit, chose the same path.

Win or lose on Saturday, that makes him a champion.

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