LAS VEGAS — For four years, Devin Haney called for a fight with Vasiliy Lomachenko but the Ukrainian — the then pound-for-pound king of boxing — wouldn’t answer. He barely acknowledged that the phone was ringing.
Haney was only 20 years old at the time but he became the youngest WBC lightweight champion in the history of the sport, after he was elevated from interim to full champion. He warned Lomachenko that he had better fight him now because he was only going to get better as time passes by.
Lomachenko scoffed at Haney’s proposal and the two went their separate ways. Haney would only get better, winning six fights in a row and becoming the undisputed champion when he beat George Kambosos Jr. As for Lomachenko, he would lose his next fight when he dropped his WBA (Super) and WBO titles in a decision against Teofimo Lopez.
The tables have now turned as Haney will finally get his wish this weekend. But he won’t be challenging Lomachenko. Instead, Lomachenko will be challenging Haney for the undisputed lightweight championship. And now that the day is upon us, Haney has a message for the man who ignored him.
“This is definitely the wrong time for you [to fight me],” Haney tells The Sporting News. “This is the perfect time for me. This is the most mature I have been, my mind is clear and I am in great spirits. This is a bad time for this fight for you and I will show it in the ring. Everything will show on May 20.”
The 24-year-old is brimming with confidence heading into the biggest fight of his career. It’s the fight that will silence the naysayers and thrust him into the pound-for-pound conversation.
He’s always wanted the fight while Lomachenko had to be forced into it. Strangely enough, the champion has been chasing opponents while the challenger doesn’t necessarily want Haney — he wants the titles to add to his legacy. It’s a unique dynamic for the champion but he’s been fighting for respect ever since he made his professional debut in 2015.
“It’s very personal to me,” Haney says of the fight. “This person has been ducking me for four years. I was calling him out and he wouldn’t say my name for a long time. But now he’s thirsty and now he wants the fight? It’s okay because I know I’m the better fighter and I will show it.”
Haney is a part of one of the most loaded divisions in boxing, where the likes of Gervonta Davis, Isaac Cruz, Frank Martin and Shakur Stevenson reside. Although he sits on top of the mountain as the champion, some still question whether Haney is really that good or if he’s been the beneficiary of the perfect storm that allowed him to get those titles.
While his self-belief is unwavering, Haney is aware that the doubters won’t give him his due until he defeats Lomachenko. “They have no choice [but to put me on their pound-for-pound lists],” Haney says while identifying his absence from Ring Magazine’s prolific lists despite being their champion at 135 pounds. “I have the belt but I’m just not on their list. It is what it is.”
Should he emerge victorious, will the time end for the champion to have to call out his next challenger, or will fighters keep Devin Haney’s name out of their mouth? “When I beat Lomachenko we’ll see [what’s next],” Haney says. “There might be a line around the corner or there might not. I really want to beat him bad and put my stamp on it.”
Four years of chasing one of the best fighters in the world has finally paid off. He will still have to perform on Saturday but that’s not what he’s concerned about. He’s sure of himself.
With the hired help of a nutritionist, Haney says the cut down to 135 has been significantly easier. As he hits the stage for Grand Arrivals at the MGM Grand, he looks healthy and happy.
He’s made no secret about the challenges of getting down to lightweight but feels that his new help will allow him to be the best version of Devin Haney we have seen. Instead of fighting the weight, he’ll be able to focus on his performance.
Yes, he’s only 24 years of age but he warned Lomachenko about waiting too long to take this fight. And now that time has come and 'The Dream' plans to make beating Lomachenko a long overdue reality.
“I would have won then but I’m going to win even better now,” Haney says. “Lomachenko will bring the best out of me and the world will give me my just due after I win.”