Devin Haney seeks respect, recognition heading into ambitious Lomachenko title defense
Respect is on Devin Haney’s mind as he heads into the second defense of his undisputed lightweight championship against Vasiliy Lomachenko this Saturday. Despite having held The Ring magazine championship, plus all four major title belts, for the past year, the 24-year-old from Las Vegas doesn’t feel he has gotten his due as a champion.
Haney (29-0, 15 knockouts) won the belts last June, traveling to Melbourne, Australia to outclass George Kambosos Jr. to lift the belts, and then repeated the feat four months later in a contractually obligated rematch four months later.
Now he’ll get a chance to defend the belts against one of the most respected fighters in the sport at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in an ESPN pay-per-view event that could earn him the acclaim he feels he hasn’t been afforded.
“I don’t feel like I got the respect and recognition that I deserved. I think after this fight I will get my respect and they will see how great I really am. Once I beat Loma the way that I will, the world will start to realize what type of skillset I bring to the table and what type of fighter I am,” said Haney.
Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KOs), a former champion at featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight, first won a portion of the lightweight championship in 2018, and by the following year had collected three of the belts, falling just shy of becoming undisputed by the time he lost an upset decision to Teofimo Lopez in October of 2020.
Haney, who turned pro at age 17 in 2015, has been calling for a fight with Lomachenko since 2019, and feels that the wait has only made the odds longer for the now 35-year-old southpaw Lomachenko.
“I told Loma to fight me back then because it’ll only get worse. Right now it’s a bad time for Loma to fight me because I’ve only gotten better, only gotten stronger since then and my confidence is through the roof. It’s the perfect time for me to beat him,” said Haney, who cites his skills, speed, athleticism and youth as the main advantages against the California-based Ukrainian.
“I’m not ducking or dodging nobody. I am a true champion. I said I wanted Loma a few years back. I said I really meant it and now I’m really showing it. I’m a throwback fighter. I’m gonna eat em up one by one.”
Despite their 11-year age gap, Haney isn’t concerned about detractors trying to discredit a potential win, saying that, while Lomachenko didn’t look as dominant in his last outing, a unanimous decision win over Jamaine Ortiz in October, he was far more dominant in his two previous wins, a unanimous decision over Richard Commey and a ninth round stoppage of Masayoshi Nakatani.
“I just beat whoever they put in front of me. They can try to come up with any excuses that they want but at the end of the I will be victorious and this will be my best performance to date. I will showcase all my tools on that night and have a flawless victory,” said Haney.
Haney, who came in at 134.9 pounds at the official, non-public weigh-in on Friday, weighed slightly less than Lomachenko, who came in at the 135-pound limit. The early weigh-in time means Haney will have nearly 36 hours to recover and rehydrate.
Haney says he will assess how he feels at the weight after the Lomachenko fight, and may continue to stay at lightweight, but that no decision had been made.
“The weight’s not easy for me to make, I’ve been saying this for a long time. It’s only gotten harder. My main focus is to go in there as healthy as possible on May 20 and then we’ll see if I’ll stay at the weight. There’s a possibility I will stay at the weight but we have to see how I feel on that one night,” said Haney.
If he does remain at 135 pounds, another unbeaten American could be on the horizon. Former featherweight and junior lightweight titleholder Shakur Stevenson (20-0, 10 KOs) stamped himself as the WBC mandatory with his easy sixth round stoppage win over Shuichiro Yoshino last month. The U.S. Olympic silver medalist said he felt Haney would easily defeat Lomachenko, but believes he would “smoke” Haney if they ever fought.
Haney understands why Stevenson is mentioning his name, but says he has business to handle first.
“I’m happy that he mentioned me, that’s what he’s supposed to do. I am the champion in the weight class, the guy with all the belts, so I’m happy that he mentioned me. That is something I will entertain, but first I have to get past Loma,” said Haney.
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].