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Is Ryan Garcia avoiding a fight with Devin Haney?

Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia are two of the top young names in boxing, and they should be fighting next. They’re not.

Ed Mulholland/Matchroom and Tim Warner/Getty Images

When Ryan Garcia beat Luke Campbell to win the interim WBC lightweight title on Jan. 2, Devin Haney — who holds the WBC lightweight belt — figured he’d face Garcia next.

Haney was in attendance in Dallas and the two were even shown speaking afterward. The WBC ordered the fight.

But it’s not happening. After Garcia verbally agreed to a fight with Gervonta Davis and also said he had a fight with Manny Pacquiao in the works, he’s instead going to defend his interim WBC belt against Javier Fortuna on July 9. Haney, meanwhile, will defend his WBC belt against Jorge Linares on May 29.

Haney (25-0, 15 KO) called out Garcia’s move on Twitter:

What should really be called out is the WBC continuing to make a laughingstock of their title situation at lightweight. Teofimo Lopez has their absurd, favors-for-favorites “franchise” belt, which shouldn’t exist either. With Haney having the world title and the Lopez deal, there was really no reason for an interim title to even exist. Both Haney and Lopez are plenty active. And when Garcia passed on fighting Haney next, the reasonable move would have been for the WBC to strip him of the interim title.

But of course boxing is not reasonable, sanctioning bodies least of all. They want their piece of the pie from three fighters who earn good purses, and Lopez, Haney, and Garcia are all happy to play along in exchange for a green belt.

That part just is what it is, boxing operates how it does, however stupid it gets.

But frankly — and this comes from someone who believes Garcia is the real deal in the ring — it’s hard to argue with Haney on this one. Garcia had the chance to fight him, had the order for the fight, and chose not to do so.

This isn’t the first time Haney has run into something like this. The entire ridiculous WBC lightweight title mess started when Vasiliy Lomachenko wanted to avoid an order to fight Haney after winning the vacant WBC belt in 2019 — which by normal rules shouldn’t even have been allowed, as Lomachenko was not a ranked WBC contender by virtue of holding the WBA and WBO belts at the time.

It’s easy to criticize Haney as “world champion,” easy to nitpick his opposition as “world champion” to date, and “E-Mail Champ” is admittedly funny trash talk. But Haney wanted the Lomachenko fight. Lomachenko didn’t want Haney. Promoting Haney from interim to “world” champion in that situation would have been normal business, but the WBC instead gave out the “franchise” tag to Lomachenko.

Garcia (21-0, 18 KO) and Haney are both taking good fights next. Fortuna and Linares are not schmuck opponents, they’re not bums. They’re good veteran fighters, and for the pair of 22-year-old young guns, they are strong opponents all things considered.

There is also time for Haney-Garcia to come together later this year, if both have won these fights. Maybe it gets done then, when it has “marinated” a bit more.

But right now, Devin Haney is perhaps unfortunately shaping up to be the kind of guy a lot of people won’t want to fight. He’s not a particularly exciting fighter usually, he doesn’t have a big personality, he’s not a great trash talker or whatever, hasn’t developed a really big fan base — if he’s going to become a true star, it will be years down the line, if he keeps winning and becomes simply recognized as one of the best in the world. People do love greatness.

Those are all ingredients for a stereotypical “avoided” fighter, though: Not a big draw, and really, genuinely good in the ring.

Is Garcia ducking Haney? I won’t quite go that far right now, because again, it could happen as soon as this year. Wouldn’t surprise me. But did he avoid fighting him right now? Obviously, yes. Even if it’s forgotten about in six months or a year, that’s a fact in the moment.

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