The next challenge for Devin Haney is the specific challenge he and his team have sought for months.
The length of time it took for Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz to come around and agree to terms never slowed down the preparation process for their upcoming WBC lightweight title fight December 4 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“Ironically, Devin is the champion but in this particular case he’s the one that’s hunting,” Bill Haney, Devin’s father and head trainer stated during a recent press conference. “He was hunting for JoJo Diaz. We were under the assumption that when he fought against Javier Fortuna that he was gonna become the mandatory. So, we’ve been preparing for him. We’re not underprepared by any means. We’re ready for JoJo Diaz and we hope he’s ready as well.”
Haney (26-0, 15KOs) will attempt his fourth title defense, this one arguably his toughest test to date. The same was said of his most recent start, also in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas when he outpointed former three-division titlist Jorge Linares this past May at Michelob ULTRA Arena.
The next several months was spent in search of his next challenge. Haney has been the most persistent in pursuing his divisional rivals, though largely to no avail. It was believed that the July 9 WBC interim title fight between Diaz (32-1-1, 15KOs) and Fortuna (36-3-1, 25KOs) would be named as Haney’s mandatory challenger, though arriving at this point was anything but a speedy process.
Diaz—who turns 29 later this month—claimed a twelve-round, unanimous decision and immediately acknowledged a fight with Haney was in his future. However, the 2012 U.S. Olympian and former IBF junior lightweight titlist instead pursued a showdown with unbeaten Ryan Garcia (21-0, 18KO) at the time a more lucrative fight and one which came in-house with Golden Boy. The two were due to collide November 27 in the greater Los Angeles area, only for Garcia to withdraw due to an injury suffered in training camp which required surgery to his right hand and wrist.
The development led Eddie Hearn—Haney’s promoter for his last five fights and who takes the lead for the December 4 event—to secure Diaz as the title challenger for a December date he had long ago secured. The financial package was increased and ultimately enticing enough to where Diaz agreed to terms, all while Haney—who turns just 23 later this month—has remained hard at work preparing for the veteran southpaw from South El Monte, California.
Of course, they don’t mistake Diaz’s late signing for a lack of preparation ahead of his bid to become a two-division titlist. The belief on the side of Team Haney, though, is that it simply won’t be enough.
“We saw round one he was ready for Jorge Linares,” notes Bill Haney. “We expect JoJo to come round one, because Devin’s gonna be there from round one to round twelve. I don’t think it’s gonna go that far. I think he’s gonna stop JoJo in a hell of a performance.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox