Devin Haney touts skills, while Joseph Diaz vows to bring Haney to deep waters
It often feels like perfunctory filler when a fighter thanks his opponent at a press conference for accepting the fight. It isn’t a fight without a second participant, after all. The tone in which Devin Haney showed his appreciation to Joseph Diaz Jr. at Friday’s press conference suggested that his words were anything but hollow sentiments.
The 22-year-old Haney, who is defending his WBC lightweight title for the fourth time, has struggled to entice prime, known fighters to step into the ring with him. The 28-year-old former IBF junior lightweight titleholder Diaz is the sort of challenger who could get fans to tune in and pay attention to the skillful Haney. Eddie Hearn, whose Matchroom Boxing is promoting the fight in conjunction with Diaz’s promoter Golden Boy Promotions, says that the fight, scheduled for December 4 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, has already sold 3,000 tickets at pre-sale.
That isn’t to say that the two were overly conciliatory.
Diaz took exception after Haney suggested that Diaz was one-dimensional and would ultimately be the latest unsuccessful opponent to try and rough up Haney.
“I’m gonna break your ass down,” said Diaz (32-1-1, 15 knockouts) of South El Monte, Calif.
“That sounds good,” replied Haney, who is based in Las Vegas.
For Diaz, a 2012 U.S. Olympian, the fight represents an opportunity to win a world title in a second weight class, but also to rehabilitate his image in the sport, after losing his title on the scales after missing weight two fights ago, coming in over three pounds above the 130-pound limit in a draw against Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov in February. Diaz rebounded with a unanimous decision over Javier Fortuna in July to win the interim title, which put him on track for the title fight.
“I know that Devin Haney is a really, skilled elusive fighter but I’m a dog and I’m the type of person that has already been in there and dealt with the experience and dealt with that adversity where, I know what it is to be killed or get killed,” said Diaz, who counts his experience against fighters like Tevin Farmer and Andrew Cancio as experience that Haney hasn’t yet had.
“I’m gonna go out there and do what I gotta do to be victorious, no matter what it takes. If he wants to box, I’m gonna hunt his ass down. If he wants to come and bang, then I’m gonna bang it out as well. Whatever he wants to bring to the table, I’m gonna bring it.”
Haney, who turned pro in Mexico at age 17, overcame his most difficult high profile opponent in his last time in the ring, surviving rough spots late against Jorge Linares to win a competitive decision in May.
Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Robert Diaz was quick to point out that Linares is nearly a decade older than Diaz, and says that Diaz is also much more active than Linares, who hadn’t fought in 15 months prior to meeting Haney. That, he says, will help Diaz get started with his game plan much sooner than Linares did.
Haney says there isn’t much that Diaz brings to the table that he hasn’t seen yet.
“I do feel like his style will be tailor made for me,” said Haney.
“There’s nothing he can do to win, he can’t outbox me, I will show him that he can’t out-bang me. I have the size advantage, I have all the tools to win. I am not doubting me, I know he’s going to come in there and try to do everything he can to win but I just feel like there’s nothing that he can do.”
The two proceeded to cut out Hearn as moderator and speak directly to each other, with Haney asking Diaz to name an opponent he has faced that was similar to him. Diaz countered that experience wasn’t just about the names on your resume’, but the adversities that you’ve been through.
“I’m talking about everything that I’ve been through, as far as being hurt, as far as being cut. I’m gonna take you to places you’ve never been. I’m gonna make you feel some shit. I’m gonna cut your ass. You better hope that you’ve got a good referee,” said Diaz.
Haney was unperturbed.
“I just can’t wait to show JoJo Diaz that he can be a dog but at the end of the day, skills pay the bills,” said Haney.
“If that’s your plan A and you feel like, I’m just gonna let you dog me and that’s how you’re gonna stop me, it’s gonna be a long night.”
Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected]