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Devin Haney wants big fights now, feels he should be reinstated as WBC champion

The WBC’s “champion-in-recess” wants his belt back, one way or another, and says he’s seriously ready for big fights now.

Devin Haney Media Workout Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

21-year-old lightweight standout Devin Haney was the final fighter to take part in today’s Eddie Hearn Instagram Live interview bonanza, and the rising star continues to make clear that he’s ready for big fights now in a division where there are plenty of interesting potential matchups.

“I think that there’s so many big fights out there that can be made,” he told his promoter. “Lomachenko, Teofimo, Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia, Luke Campbell, Javier Fortuna. We need to start making these fights now, because eventually guys like me, Ryan Garcia, Teofimo, we’re going to move up. The time is now.”

One would assume those three would be moving up to the same weight class and the fights would also be available at 140, but that is neither here nor there. The point is the same: he wants to do the big fights, because he wants to leave a real legacy in the sport.

“I’m ready to make it happen,” he reiterated. “I feel like i’m one of the best fighters in the world and I’m ready to take on whoever the fans want me to fight. I’m not doing it for clout, I believe in my skills. I believe I’m the real deal. I want my name to live on longer than i ever will. i want my name to be mentioned with the greats.”

Haney (24-0, 15 KO) won the interim WBC title last September, beating Zaur Abdullaev while Vasiliy Lomachenko was still considered WBC champion for a minute, having just won that vacant belt a couple weeks prior against Luke Campbell.

But then the WBC threw a bunch of curveballs, “promoting” Lomachenko to their recently made-up “franchise champion” status, which allows them connection to star fighters without having to enforce mandatories or anything, and thus also promoting Haney to normal world champion status by the time he fought Alfredo Santiago in November.

Haney then went on the shelf with shoulder surgery, and the WBC ordered Luke Campbell and Javier Fortuna to fight for the again vacant lightweight title, with Haney moved to “champion-in-recess” status.

As for Campbell-Fortuna, which was meant to happen Apr. 17 but has been postponed with everything else, Haney thinks it’s an even matchup.

“I think it’s a 50-50 fight,” he said. “Either one of those guys can beat each other. Luke Campbell, he’s a good fighter, Olympic gold medalist, I take nothing away from him. He put up a good fight against Loma, he showed that he was a force in the division. But every fighter he’s stepped up against, he pretty much lost. I can’t really say that he’s really one of the top guys.”

Haney also said he would fight the winner if the WBC don’t just reinstate him as champion, which seems unlikely but what he would prefer.

“I feel like they should reinstate me, because I got stripped because I wasn’t active to fight my mandatory. But the two mandatories never fought, so what sense does that make?”

To be clear, Haney hasn’t been stripped. The “champion-in-recess” designation means he can get an immediate fight with the WBC champion in that division as soon as he wants one. We’ve seen the same situation over the years; for example, when Vitali Klitschko retired after his 2004 win over Danny Williams to retain the WBC heavyweight title, the WBC made him “champion-in-recess.” When Klitschko returned to boxing in 2008, his first fight saw him exercise that option, and he beat Samuel Peter to take the belt back.

Furthermore, it means the WBC had the chance to offer a vacant belt to Campbell and Fortuna for a fight, where the WBC collects sanctioning fees instead of not collecting sanctioning fees on a cold belt held by an injured fighter. The fact that Haney might be good to go by the time we actually see Campbell-Fortuna was not something the sanctioning body could have guessed would happen, and does potentially complicate an already over-complicated matter. But the route to getting the belt “back” leads to facing the Campbell-Fortuna winner late this year or early in 2021, most likely, as Haney is hoping to return in July, and might want a tune-up coming off injury.

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