Devin Haney is relishing boxing in New York for the first time as one of the world’s leading fighters.

The WBC super-lightweight champion on Saturday makes the first defence of his title against his long-term rival Ryan Garcia at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

He became the undisputed lightweight champion with successive victories over George Kambosos Jr. in Australia in 2022, defended his titles against Vasiliy Lomachenko in Las Vegas in May 2023, moved to 140lbs to dethrone Regis Prograis in San Francisco seven months later, and on Saturday fights in New York for the first time since September 2019.

Haney was then also far from considered one of the world’s leading lightweights, but five years on there is little denying his considerable progress and abilities – and in an era in which New York has hosted so few high-profile fights he is being driven to conquer a new stage.

“Oh, it’s a dream come true,” said the champion, like Garcia aged 25. “Inshallah. I thank Allah for it. I dreamed of being on these stages, and now I’m here. What better way than New York City – the megaphone of the world? Where all eyeballs – everybody – can watch here, and see this greatness that I have?

“I love fight week. That’s the fun part. It’s almost time for me to shine and show the world everything that I’m capable of. But it’s also part of – like I said, I dreamed of these moments, and trained for these moments, so I’m thankful to finally be here. I’ve seen a lot of fighters coming up as a young kid, in fight week and doing interviews, and I wanted to be here one day. And now my time has come, and I want to embrace it all. I love the process; the build-up. 

“I don’t really believe in pressure. I put my faith and my trust in Allah, and I let him take control.”

In the build-up to December’s impressively one-sided victory over Prograis, Haney spoke of his plans to move to welterweight. He then proceeded to look so convincing at 140lbs, perhaps the world’s most competitive weight division, that there is little reason for him to move up, but he said: “I wanna be an all-time great in the sport. I see myself going up in weight classes; proving myself; doing what the greats did. [Earning parity with] the greats – beating these guys, one by one. 

“It all starts with beating Ryan Garcia. That’s my main focus. April 20, it will be fireworks – the world will see. 

“I think he’ll come out reckless, and I think he’ll run into something. I’ll use his aggression against him – I will hurt him. It will hurt him.

“One hundred per cent [it’s going to be painful for him]. But I’m not coming in there to run around the ring. I’m not gonna be hard to find.”