Devin Haney considers Joseph Diaz a legitimate lightweight contender.

Haney wasn’t all that impressed, however, with Diaz’s lone win at the lightweight limit of 135 pounds. Diaz defeated Javier Fortuna by unanimous decision in that 12-round fight for the then-vacant WBC interim lightweight title July 9 in Los Angeles.

The 29-year-old Diaz debuted as a full-fledged lightweight the night he defeated Fortuna. He moved up from junior lightweight for that fight after Ryan Garcia relinquished his interim title and withdrew from his bout with Fortuna in mid-April to focus on his mental health.

Diaz overcame a cut above his left eye that opened during the third round and a point deduction in the fourth round for hitting Fortuna (36-3-1, 25 KOs, 2 NC) behind his head to defeat the Dominican southpaw on all three scorecards (117-110, 116-111, 115-112). Judges Michael Tate, Karen Holderfield and Zachary Young scored nine, eight and seven rounds, respectively, for Diaz, who improved to 32-1-1 (15 KOs) by winning their main event at Banc of California Stadium.

That convincing victory over a former WBA super featherweight champion moved Diaz into position to challenge Haney on Saturday night for the 23-year-old champion’s WBC world 135-pound title.

“I wouldn’t say that I was impressed,” Haney told “He did what he had to do to win. He fought like he’s been fighting fight after fight. He didn’t do anything different than what he’s done before. So, I wouldn’t say I was impressed, no.”

That said, Haney acknowledged that the left-handed Diaz will make him work hard throughout a main event DAZN will stream from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (8 p.m. ET; 5 p.m. PT).

“He’s very active, he has a high punch count and, of course, he comes forward,” Haney said. “So, he comes in and he out-works his opponents. That’s pretty much how he’s been winning, you know, most of his fights, pretty much by out-working his opponents.”

Haney, a Las Vegas resident raised in Oakland, is consistently listed as at least a 6-1 favorite over Diaz, a 2012 Olympian from Downey, California. The skillful Haney will make the fourth and perhaps most difficult defense of a then-vacant WBC belt he won when he stopped Russia’s Zaur Abdullaev (then 11-0) after four rounds of their September 2019 bout at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York.

Diaz has lost only a unanimous decision to Gary Russell Jr., boxing’s longest-reigning champion. Russell (31-1, 18 KOs), a southpaw from Capitol Heights, Maryland, defeated Diaz by unanimous decision in their 12-round fight for Russell’s WBC featherweight championship in May 2018 at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.