Well, a lot of people keep saying they’d like to see Devin Haney finally face a real contender, as he’s got the WBC lightweight title and all, and if it were nine years ago and two weight classes lower, what I’m about to say would scratch that itch.
Haney said on Twitter that he’s negotiating for a fight with Yuriorkis Gamboa, the 38-year-old Cuban fighter last seen losing to Gervonta Davis in Dec. 2019, where he suffered a torn Achilles and underwent surgery in January. Gamboa has reportedly been recovering well and was planning a September return as of March, but injury combined with age combined with Gamboa not having a really good win in several years combined with him not being a lightweight — I suppose my point is made.
Haney (24-0, 15 KO) won the interim WBC belt — which didn’t need to exist, as the WBC had just crowned a new lightweight champion two weeks prior — last September against Zaur Abdullaev, and was bumped to full titlist status shortly after, when Vasiliy Lomachenko decided to be the “franchise champion” instead, which is a position that can’t be won or lost and requires nothing other than being considered too important to ever have to deal with a mandatory challenger or something.
A November defense against Alfredo Santiago was no step up for Haney, who injured his shoulder in the process and underwent his own surgery. There was a whole to-do with the WBC belt, but I’m tired of going over it, and at any rate Haney is still the recognized WBC lightweight titleholder.
Gamboa (30-3, 18 KO) was once one of boxing’s most promising emerging stars, but a series of poor business decisions tanked that and before you knew it, he was in his mid-30s, couldn’t make featherweight anymore, and his stock had just been falling and falling for years. He put in a very game effort against Terence Crawford in a lightweight title bout in 2014, but he was also dropped four times and stopped in the ninth round.
Gamboa was then dominated so badly by Robinson Castellanos in May 2017 that it really seemed like his career might be over, but he did come back to win four straight fights — the best of which, over Jason Sosa in Nov. 2017, was a pretty debatable decision, and the most “impressive” of which came against Rocky Martinez, who himself was long-faded and hadn’t won a notable fight in over four years.
He again showed great heart by battling on one leg, basically, against Davis last December, but he also wasn’t close to winning or anything. He’s simply not a legitimate lightweight contender. He’s got the natural ability to still show some flashes, but Haney is a legitimate lightweight, notably bigger than Gamboa and younger, fresher, and sharper. It’s a tall order for Gamboa, to put it nicely.
To put it less nicely, I think it’s a pretty lousy fight, for all the same reasons I said Davis-Gamboa last year was a bad fight, but the options out there are legitimately rather limited in These Trying Times, and the other top names and better contenders are pretty much all tied up either with fights signed (Linares-Fortuna, Davis-Santa Cruz) or being worked on (Garcia-Campbell, Lomachenko-Lopez). There really aren’t many available fighters who would seem any better, and Gamboa does at least have some name recognition remaining.
In short, at the end of the day, it is what it is.