LAS VEGAS — Men and women put their lives on the line every time they step through the ropes to get ready to fight. One blow in the perfect spot can end their lives. So when pundits and fans say one fighter is "ducking" another, that isn't the case.
It's called reluctance. A fighter may not want to face someone for a litany of reasons. The explanations include financial, what does a fighter gain from facing another foe, timing, and just the matter of having such a disdain for the other that you don't want to give them the shine and a chance to succeed.
That has been why WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade has been unable to land a significant fight, why until his last fight with Shawn Porter that WBO welterweight titleholder Terence Crawford couldn't snatch a meaningful bout. The next guy on that list is Devin Haney (26-0, 15 KOs), as he faces his sternest test to date on Saturday when he puts his WBC lightweight title on the line against former 130-pound champion Jo Jo Diaz.
Like Andrade and Crawford, Haney is the boogeyman of the 135-pound weight class. He challenged Vasiliy Lomachenko when it wasn't the cool thing to do. Instead of facing Haney, Lomachenko petitioned to be designated the WBC "Franchise" champion and was awarded the status. He wanted to face Ryan Garcia and even went to Dallas to see "KingRy" fight Luke Campbell in January. That fight didn't get made. In Fresno at the Mikey Garcia-Sandor Martin contest, Haney confronted then-unified lightweight champion, Teofimo Lopez. Lopez didn't seem to show too much interest and then proceeded to lose his belts to George Kambosos Jr. last Saturday. Gervonta Davis hasn't shown much interest. "Tank" appears to be keener on competing against B-level competition and making as much money as possible instead of fights that would determine his legacy.
The good news for Haney is that Diaz (32-1-1, 15 KOs), a 2012 Olympian, was willing to test himself with "The Dream".
"These guys, they're not quick to get into the room with me, and it’s shown," Haney told DAZN News.
"These guys, they don't want to fight me. But I'm happy that Jo Jo Diaz stepped up to the plate. No lightweight has fought tougher opposition on paper than me this year. Teofimo went in there and beat Loma (Vasiliy Lomachenko). Yes, he did. But what has he done since? I’ve fought the toughest opposition on paper."
For many fighters, not landing the fights to secure your legacy can be frustrating. But, more than anything, when it's all said and done, and he's in retirement, Haney wants to be remembered as an all-time great. Haney admits there has been a bit of frustration up to this point. However, that changed once the Diaz contract was signed, sealed, and delivered.
"I'm happy that I'm one step closer to being where I want to be in the lightweight division," Haney said.
"But it all starts with December 4. I will prove why these guys aren't eager to get in a ring with me, why I have so many skills, why they fear me."
Two weeks ago, Andrade stopped Jason Quigley in the second round. One day later, Crawford stopped Shawn Porter in the tenth. Now, it's Haney's turn. The prevailing thought heading into Saturday is Haney needs a stoppage to prove his point and land a fight with Garcia, Lomachenko, Davis, and newly-crowned unified champion George Kambosos Jr. While he didn't outright say it if you read in between the lines, Haney has a premonition of what he's going to do to Diaz.
"Jo Jo Diaz is not someone you can take lightly on paper," Haney admits.
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"He has never been stopped. He has one loss against Gary Russell, and it was early in his career. So on paper, he's not a scrub. Whatever I do on Dec. 4, it should be enough. But I'm expecting to do a lot more than what people think that I'm going to do."