Devin Haney Is Undisputed But Work Remains
After years of hard work and a lifetime of dreaming, Devin Haney accomplished the goal he made for himself when he first began boxing as a child — that he would someday be an undisputed champion.
He climbed that mountain in impressive fashion in June when he traveled to George Kambosos Jr.’s turf in Melbourne, Australia and handily outpointed him before 41,129 at Marvel Stadium in one of the biggest fights in Australian history.
Haney retained the WBC 135-pound title for the fifth time and took the IBF, WBA and WBO belts — not to mention The Ring title — from Kambosos to become the first undisputed lightweight champion of the four-belt era and the first since the late legendary Hall of Famer Pernell Whitaker accomplished the feat by unifying the three major titles in 1990.
Being declared undisputed champion and hoisting all of the belts was everything Haney hoped it would be.
“It was a blessing. It was a dream come true,” Haney told Fight Freaks Unite. “I knew I would become undisputed one day. It was always a dream of mine. Definitely, I didn’t think that it would happen that fast but I’m happy it happened this early in my career.
“It doesn’t stop now. At the end of the day, I want my name to be mentioned with the greats and the greats didn’t only get the belts they defended, so this is a big moment for me and I look to defend it successfully.”
That is Haney’s plan as he has returned to Australia, where he will face Kambosos once again in the immediate rematch Kambosos had the contractual right to. They will meet once again on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN+) at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, where it will be Sunday afternoon.
After his big win in June, Haney said he barely celebrated, although that should not be taken as a sign he was not thrilled with his accomplishment.
“The next day we left, so there really wasn’t that big of a celebration to be honest,” Haney said. “I went on vacation and traveled a few places but it wasn’t that big of a celebration. We pretty much took it in and went our different ways. There wasn’t a big family thing or anything like that.”
And then, as Haney expected, Kambosos exercised his right to the rematch. When Haney signed for the first fight he knew there was a good chance he’d have to back and he is OK with that.
“I signed up for it, to go back if I was victorious, which I was. So, I have no problem going back,” said Haney, who will make s career-high $4 million to Kambosos’ $2 million for the sequel. “The first time I wasn’t very excited. I didn’t know what to expect so, obviously, I was expecting the worst. This time around I know what to expect and I’m excited to experience it again and defend my belts successfully.”
Despite the relatively easy win in June, Haney said there are things he believes he can improve on and things that Kambosos did that he could have better capitalized on.
One thing Haney (28-0, 15 KOs), 23, of Las Vegas, doesn’t have to deal with this time is the drama of whether his father, Bill Haney, who is also his trainer and manager, will be able to make the trip to Australia. He is already there with his son.
Last time, it looked like Bill Haney would not be able to make the trip because of Australia’s strict immigration rules when it comes to people with a criminal record. Bill Haney had served time for a drug conviction some 30 years ago.
At the last minute, and after much work behind the scenes, he was granted a visa and arrived on the eve of the fight for an emotional reunion with his son, who was prepared to go into the fight with longtime family friend Yoel Judah, the father and trainer of former two-division champion Zab Judah, as his head trainer.
“It was a lot of motivation not having him there, just to make him proud and do the right thing and bring the victory back home, but when I found out he was able to come it was that extra push that I needed,” Devin Haney said. “It made me ready for fight night even more.”
Haney said that he is just as motivated for the rematch as he was for the first fight with Kambosos (20-1, 10 KOs), 29, because of the historical nature of the bout and what it can lead to.
“It’s motivation because it’s history at the end of the day, not only fighting for undisputed again but I’m defending my belts,” Haney said. “Only the greats have done it, so this is putting me closer and closer to having my name mentioned with the greats someday.
“We know his game plan will be a little different this time. I can’t say exactly what his game plan will be. I can’t try to guess. We’ll just go out and capitalize off the mistakes he makes. I know it will be a different fight. I know I’ve gotten better since the last fight. It was a quick turnaround, so I got back in the gym quick and picked up where I left off as far as sharpness, so I’m ready to go.
“I want to be more dominant. Of course, the goal is to land bigger punches and do better than I did the last time. We just got to see how it plays out. I want to be victorious by any means necessary.”
And if Haney, the big favorite, repeats his victory, there is a strong likelihood that his first fight of 2023 will be against former pound-for-pound king and three-division champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, whose spot Haney took against Kambosos in the first fight when Lomachenko bowed out in order remain in his native Ukraine to help defend the country against the Russian invasion.
Lomachenko (16-2, 11 KOs), 34, returns to face Jamaine Ortiz (16-0-1, 8 KOs) on Oct. 29 (ESPN+) in New York, and he and Haney both need to win for the fight to be possible.
It’s a fight Haney has wanted since long before he won his first lightweight belt.
“I think it’s very much possible,” Haney said of facing Lomachenko. “Once we get through this fight we’ll see, but that’s definitely a fight I’m willing to take. Lomachenko is someone I would love to fight. I’ve been saying this for years and years and years. This is nothing new.
“There’s nothing but respect. I respect what he’s done in the sport and I look to test myself and test my skills when we get in the ring.”