Boxing's lightweights have spent the second half of 2020 showing why they are the most exciting weight class in the sport. On Saturday, it's WBC champion Devin Haney's turn to strut his stuff.
Haney returns to the ring after a year away thanks to injury and the COVID-19 pandemic to defend his title against veteran Yuriorkis Gamboa.
In addition to preparing for that fight, Haney has been watching some of his top divisional rivals compete over the last few weeks.
Teofimo Lopez Jr. established himself as the division's current top dog when he merged his IBF title with the WBA (Super), WBO and The Ring belts of Vasiliy Lomachenko on Oct. 17, while this past Saturday Oct. 31, Gervonta 'Tank' Davis landed an explosive knockout on Leo Santa Cruz to retain the WBA's "Regular" championship.
Speaking to DAZN's Chris Mannix, Haney took some time from his final fight week preparations for the Gamboa bout to offer his judgement of those two contests.
"This is the best division in boxing," said Haney. "I think they both issued a big statement.
"I think Teofimo’s statement was bigger because Lomachenko was put on this big pedestal. But I thought the Gervonta fight was a good fight.
"Tank showed that he can be hit fairly easy, but he’s dangerous from Round 1 until it’s over.
"The casual boxing fans see a knockout, and that’s all they remember. But us hardcore fans remember what happened before the KO. And Tank was getting hit before that knockout.
"You can go in there and win in a sloppy way, take punishment and then knock them out. You can score a shutout and bore people. But you can have the best of both. And that’s what I’m about.
"It motivated me to put on a good performance. The lightweight division is on fire. Everyone is trying to outdo each other. I look forward to Saturday night. We saw what Teofimo can do. We saw what Tank can do. Now it’s my turn."
“They’re going to find anyway to maneuver out of a fight with me, which is fine because they can’t run forever.”— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) November 5, 2020
A message from @realdevinhaney about the lightweight division. 👀🗣 pic.twitter.com/X1SHvp7Y1W
On his Nov. 7 fight, Haney does not believe his time away from the ring will be a factor.
"I feel so ready," he continued. "I don’t feel any ring rust or anything like that. As soon as that bell rings, I’ll be ready to go.
"I think Gamboa is the type of fighter that’s never in a boring fight. He gives it his all. He’s more dangerous when he’s hurt, and Devin Haney shows up every time.
"We’ll see how I do when someone’s coming at me with both speed and power. I guarantee the best performance on Saturday."
Some have said they wanted Haney's first fight back to be a bigger one. Gamboa is 38, and though he reigned at featherweight for a long time, he lost in his previous two lightweight title challenges against Davis and Terence Crawford.
Haney said part of the reason this bout was made is because very few others in the division will go anywhere near him.
He said: "Gamboa was the seventh choice name. We looked at everyone from Javier Fortuna, Gary Russell Jr., Luke Campbell … but Gamboa was the best available opponent.
"That’s no disrespect to him. I know he gave Tank the toughest fight of his career and Crawford the toughest fight of his career. I know he has come to fight.
"It’s do or die for him. He knows if he loses, there may not be an opportunity after this. He’s gonna try and knock me out. He will give it his all. If you try to rush the knockout on him, that’s when he will hurt you. You can’t be too aggressive, but you can’t be too relaxed."
A win over Gamboa will surely lead to Haney being involved in an even more exciting year for the division come 2021, when the champions and other top prospects such as George Kambosos Jr. and Ryan Garcia are likely to collide.
Haney wishes he could guarantee next year will provide fights such as Haney vs. Davis or Haney vs. Lopez, but he says it's entirely down to them.
"I can’t guarantee anything," said Haney. "I’ve been trying to get these guys in the ring for a while now. But I’m in no rush. I’m 21 years old. When it happens, it happens.
"And they’ll find any way they can to maneuver out of fighting me. They can’t run forever. If they try, they’ll be run out of boxing.
"The main fight I want is against Teofimo. It’d be for all the belts. It’d be for the lightweight crown. If he runs out of the weight class, that just frees the belts up and we will make other fights."It shows I’m the boogeyman. Those guys overlooking me backs that up. I say they fear me, that I’m the most feared man in boxing, and they back that up."