Devin Haney recites his lightweight hierarchy without hesitation. Himself, Teofimo Lopez, Gervonta Davis then Ryan Garcia. The rankings of these top four young fighters will be debated by the boxing community often throughout 2021 — until they can settle the score.
There have even been comparisons to the Four Kings (Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran) which will surely cause many eye rolls, but it’s inspiration for Haney.
“That’s dope. I’m grateful to be one of the guys to be compared to such great fighters like Hagler, Leonard, Hearns and Duran,” Haney told ESPN. “But in reality, those guys fought each other. So we got to make these fights happen to really live up to that.”
Garcia is a Gen Z star with over 8.2 million Instagram followers and almost 800,000 YouTube subscribers. At 22, he has the appeal and exciting style to bring a much-needed new audience into boxing. Davis, 26, has the biggest knockout power, shown by his impressive KO victory over Leo Santa Cruz, and a gigantic fan base in Baltimore and other big cities that gives him superstar potential. Plus, he’s the only one of the four to headline a pay-per-view fight so far. Lopez is the most accomplished right now as either the unified or undisputed lightweight champion — depending on who you ask — after defeating Vasiliy Lomachenko in October.
That leaves Haney, 22, who despite holding the WBC lightweight belt, has the smallest amount of hype of the four. It’s a factor in why Haney believes Garcia will skip out on fighting him, despite being his mandatory challenger, to seek out a more lucrative fight with Davis.
So what will be Haney’s “it” that makes him better than the rest of the division?
“I’m the most-rounded fighter,” Haney said. “I have the defense, I have the speed, I have the power. I have everything, so that’s what separates me from all of them. You named good things with all of them, but you can’t just pick one with Devin Haney — I can do it all.
“The key for me is getting the belts. That’s why I want to fight for all the belts. I want all the belts to make me a shot-caller.”
Haney has his eyes locked in on Lopez, who is the supreme belt holder of the division. Although there haven’t been negotiations yet, Haney believes he can get a fight with Lopez in 2021, maybe even as his next bout in April.
Devin Haney tells Cameron Wolfe that he doesn’t think Ryan Garcia will fight him and is focusing on Teofimo Lopez instead.
There’s no love lost between Haney and Lopez, who have traded jabs over who is the real WBC titleholder. Lopez, who is the WBO, WBA, IBF, The Ring Magazine and WBC “franchise” champion after beating Lomachenko, has often called Haney “the email champion,.” (Haney won the WBC interim title with a victory over Zaur Abdullaev in September 2019, and was elevated to full titleholder — without fighting for that title — after Vasiliy Lomachenko got the WBC ‘franchise” champion designation). “That’s what he’s supposed to do, come up with any excuse to water down what I’m doing or take credit away from me. If I’m so much of an email champ or I’m not worthy enough, why not just make the fight happen and we can figure out who is the real WBC champion, who is the real undisputed king. If I’m so easy and not credible, why not get me out the way?
Haney breaks down how he believes he matches up against the other top lightweights, and believes he has an advantage in each matchup.
Lopez: “It’s a good fight. I think Teo is actually a better boxer than he is a brawler. Lately, he’s been going in there and walking guys down and knocking them out. But I’ve been known Teo for a while now, I know him originally as ‘Gordo’ from the amateurs, I know he’s actually a boxer. I think it would be somewhat of a chess match.
Garcia: “That fight would be fireworks. We have a lot of history. Each one of our fights in the amateurs has been fireworks (They fought six times and each won three fights). That may make out to be the most exciting fight among the four.
“Seeing Ryan get dropped in his last fight against Luke Campbell, who is not really a big puncher, kind of showed the level he’s on. Ryan has a very similar style as when we were in amateurs. I do think he’s got better since he’s been working with [trainer] Eddie Reynoso and the Canelo [Alvarez] team, but style-wise he’s very similar.”
Davis: “Tank has proven himself a little more than Ryan. That fight is very interesting. We have a lot of history together. I just feel like Tank is a lot shorter, a lot smaller than the other guys at 135. I think that’s a big advantage for me.”
WBC lightweight titleholder Devin Haney talks with Cameron Wolfe about how he would match up against Teofimo Lopez and Ryan Garcia.
Haney knows his following doesn’t match up to Garcia, Davis or Lopez at this stage. But he believes that his defense will make him the last man standing of the group.
“I don’t feel like none of them have crazy defense besides me. I couldn’t even tell you the next guy in line in defense because they all get hit a lot,” Haney said. “That’s the difference in boxing, period. The guy that has the best defense goes on to have the best career because the less you get hit, the more you win.”
Before his October loss to Lopez, Lomachenko was the man to beat in the lightweight division. But Haney no longer sees much value in facing the former pound-for-pound No. 1 anymore.
“At a certain point, I was calling for Loma, and he would just ignore me. He wouldn’t even act like I existed. At this point, I have nothing to gain fighting him,” Haney said. “If I beat him at this point in his career, they’re going to say Teo just beat him. Same thing that did when I beat Gamboa — they said Tank just beat him. Fight Teofimo. Fight Ryan Garcia. Fight Gervonta Davis. They’re going to say fight those three guys, so let’s make it happen. I’m ready to fight them.”