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Haney vs Diaz adds to a strong boxing schedule to close 2021

Boxing fans are getting fights made that they actually want to see here at the end of the year.

Devin Haney’s fight with Joseph Diaz Jr adds to a strong boxing schedule to close 2021
Devin Haney’s fight with Joseph Diaz Jr adds to a strong boxing schedule to close 2021
Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

It’s official: Boxing is back.

Right, stop, you’ve heard it before, as this sport “dies” and “gets resuscitated” seemingly every few weeks or so.

And we on the media side tend to at times get hung up on the negatives. No surprise, the sport manufactures black-eye jackpots on a daily business. But life is like that, always has been.

It used to be that a wild predator might wreck your world by snatching your toddler and scarfing him for lunch. Now, simply paying attention to the news can leave us feeling like we have black clouds glued over our head.

But also on a daily basis, there is beauty to marvel at, like the majestic pairing of a dazzling sun and baby blue skies dotted by puffy pillows of clouds. It’s up to us how we direct our thinking; do we walk around carrying an umbrella to be ready for the always-impending storm, or do we grin even when tempted to kvetch? Yeah, me too, I do both.

But seeing that WBC 135 lb titleholder Devin Haney — who’s been coddled too much for a guy who fancies his skill set as being superstar level — is seemingly finally going to get a proper test in the form of Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr, spurs an attitude of gratitude within me.

Haney, 22, has frequently looked “meh” in bettering foes like Jorge Linares (36 years old and 3-2 in his previous five fights) and Yuriorkis Gamboa (39 years old and about 10 years past his prime) and the guy he beat to secure his crown, a B-level Dominican named Alfredo Santiago who wasn’t an appropriate test for the title.

He holds a 26-0 mark, has very average power, and has a cringe-y boast-to-accomplishment track record. He’s just 22, though, so there is room for his resume to catch up to his mouth.

A press release hyping the Dec. 4 faceoff called Haney a “superstar,” and he can think that about himself, but it’s not a proper designation. He may turn out to be that, but he’s not faced proper competition to have earned the tag, nor have his outings been entertaining enough to allow for a premature anointment.

Yes, Haney will be favored to defeat the California resident Diaz, a 28-year-old with a 32-1-1 record who has fought three or four boxers better on paper than anyone Haney has battled.

But Diaz is the livest of dogs, and back to the bright side, that’s what boxing fans want: Stiff tests for the athletes who are allegedly the best and brightest fighters going today. Actually anticipated and legit intriguing fights are being made more often, so let’s take a half-second to acknowledge that aloud, to encourage the industry bigs to keep it up.