Devin Haney always knew that his next fight was going to come near the end of the year.
The question for several months—and even as recent as the beginning of November—wasn’t who the opponent would be but rather who would finally step up to accept the challenge. Joseph ‘Jojo’ Diaz ultimately put an end to that mystery, holding out for several weeks before agreeing to all terms for their December 4 showdown live on DAZN from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
It put an end to an exhaustive search, with a generous payday and a shot at Haney’s WBC lightweight title somehow not as enticing to the rest of his divisional peers.
“At the end of the day, I don’t feel like there’s any doubt with these guys. None of them are in a rush to fight me,” Haney noted during a press conference held Friday morning in his Las Vegas hometown. “Jojo Diaz wasn’t in a rush to fight me. I feel like we had to corner him to get him to take this fight.
“All the other guys, the same thing. They know my skillset, how much I bring to the table. If Jojo didn’t face me, the world would have known what it really was. Come December 4, they’re going to see.”
Haney (26-0, 15KOs) will make the fourth defense of the WBC title, although much of his two-year reign has been spent chasing after the division’s best—including the way he acquired the title. The unbeaten boxer claimed the WBC interim belt following a one-sided fourth-round stoppage of undefeated Zaur Abdullaev in September 2019, going that route to become the mandatory challenger to Vasiliy Lomachenko who at the time held the WBC/WBA/WBO titles.
Visions of a dream fight instead transitioned to a title reign by default. Haney was upgraded to full WBC champ after Lomachenko—through promoter Top Rank—cashed in the belt in exchange for the sanctioning body’s “Franchise” title which freed him from obligation to make mandatory title defenses.
More than two years later, Haney has emerged as a top lightweight though without any success in landing fights with fellow young guns such as lineal/WBA/IBF/WBO champ Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12KOs), WBA “World” titlist Gervonta Davis (25-0, 24KOs) or unbeaten contender Ryan Garcia (21-0, 18KOs).
Haney was ringside for Garcia’s knockout win over England’s Luke Campbell to win the interim title and become Haney’s mandatory this past January, only for nothing to come of it. Garcia wound up vacating the belt and pulling out of scheduled fights with Javier Fortuna this summer and Diaz which was to have taken place November 27. Diaz faced and outpointed Fortuna to claim the vacant interim title but instead pursued a lucrative showdown with Garcia rather than a mandatory title shot versus Haney.
It was only when the Garcia fight fell through when Diaz entered serious talks with Haney. The 2012 U.S. Olympian and former IBF junior lightweight titlist from South El Monte, California held out until all of demands were met, at which point he signed on for his latest tough challenge.
“I can’t overlook Jojo Diaz. I know he’s coming to fight,” acknowledged Haney of the one top lightweight willing to face him. “He’s telling us that he’s trying to come in there and dog me out. I don’t want to make it through this press conference without thanking him for stepping up to take this fight.
“Most of these guys wouldn’t step up and he did. So I appreciate that.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox