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Devin Haney Enters The Proving Grounds

By: Hector Franco

This weekend at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, NV, WBC lightweight titleholder Devin “The Dream” Haney (25-0, 15 KOs) will attempt to make the third defense of his title against former three-division champion Jorge Linares (47-5, 29 KOs).

Haney, 22, has become one of the most controversial world champions in boxing since becoming the WBC lightweight belt holder in 2019.

Haney won the WBC interim lightweight title in September 2019, scoring a fourth-round stoppage over Zaur Abdullaev. In October 2019, the WBC elevated former unified lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko as their franchise champion in the division.

With Lomachenko being the WBC franchise champion at lightweight, Haney was elevated to full-champion status for the WBC.

The WBC’s franchise status has only added to the championship calamity in boxing.

While Haney has had some solid wins for a fighter of his age, his status as a world champion has come into question. Many believe that he was given a world title rather than having earned one in the ring.

When Teofimo Lopez defeated Vasiliy Lomachenko last October, the bout was for all four major world titles at lightweight; however, for the WBC, only the WBC’s franchise distinction was on the line. This slight discrepancy made Lopez’s status as the undisputed lightweight champion one that could be disputed.

For his part, Lopez has made it known that he does not consider Haney to be a true world champion.

“He ain’t the WBC champion,” Lopez stated to Boxing Scene. “He is the email world champion. He is the true definition of fake it til you make it. The only thing that that’s keeping him relevant right now is that fake-ass belt.”

Against Linares, Haney will have the opportunity to prove himself and his legitimacy as a world titleholder. The Venezuelan fighter has held titles at featherweight, super featherweight, and lightweight, holding victories over fighters like Oscar Larios, Anthony Crolla, and Luke Campbell.

Linares has also been the definition of a world champion, having fought in eight different countries, including Japan, Venezuela, Panama, Argentina, Korea, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He has fought most of his fights in Japan, having made his pro debut in the country and fighting there about 24 times.

The 35-year old Linares has proven to be a highly skilled technician throughout his career; however, all five of his losses have come by stoppage. Three of his five losses came in the first two rounds against fighters that were considered heavy underdogs.

His losses to Juan Carlos Salgado and Sergio Thompson were surprising and unexpected. Linares’ most recent defeat came at the hands of Pablo Cesar Cano in January 2019 with a first-round stoppage.

Linares’ career is a reminder that anything can happen when you step inside the ring. Regardless of his defeats, the Venezuelan has proven to be a high-level fighter more times than not and represents a significant step up in competition for Haney.

“It means everything for my career,” Haney said to Matchroom Boxing in a promotional interview on social media. “This is, on paper, the toughest test for me. This fight means everything. If I don’t get past him, then I don’t go into the bigger and better fights.

“This is a fight for me to showcase everything and show the world that I am elite.”

For Haney, the fight with Linares will be his chance to establish himself further as a world champion. Should he get past the veteran, fights of greater importance for his wallet and legacy will be available.

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