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Las Vegas lightweight champion Devin Haney seeks boxing glory

The walls inside Jorge Captellio’s boxing gym are plastered with posters of the great fighters of yesteryear. But rest assured, if lightweight Devin Haney continues to develop, there will be space made for his poster as well.

“At the end, when I’m done, I want my name to be mentioned with the greats,” the 21-year-old Las Vegan announced after sparring with Cesar Valenzuela in October at Capetellio’s gym. “I want people to tell their kids about Devin Haney. I want my name to live on past me.”

Haney (24-0, 15 knockouts) isn’t a prospect anymore. He’s one of the best lightweights in the world — with the WBC world championship and one title defense to show for it. He’s the champion in recess now, though, after sustaining a torn right labrum in his unanimous decision victory over Alfredo Santiago last month.

He had successful surgery earlier this month and will be inactive for at least six months.

A minor setback for what he plans will be a major comeback.

“I can see millions of dollars,” Haney said of his flourishing professional career. “I’m nowhere near where I want to be. I’m nowhere near where I’m going to be. But I’m thankful to even get to this point.”

Haney grew up in Oakland, California, and parts of his beloved hometown are notoriously violent. But Haney’s dad, Bill, steered his son away from any mayhem and toward his loving family. He taught Haney to defend himself and ensured he was equipped with the basic fighting skills to ward off any would-be attackers.

The younger Haney absorbed his father’s lessons and actually developed an affinity for fighting. Maybe a little too much of an affinity.

For a while there, “we didn’t know if it was a good thing or a bad thing,” Haney said.

The elder Haney relocated in 2007 to Las Vegas in search of more affordable housing, and his son struggled to adjust to his new surroundings. He picked fights with classmates and acted out in school, using his fists instead of words to solve problems.

His father sought to harness that newly found aggression and took him to a local boxing gym..

“The trainer who was in there…he said, ‘This kid is a natural. What have you been doing?’’” said Bill Haney, who doubles as his trainer.

Haney actually sparred that day and knocked another kid out of his Spider-Man velcro shoes. Literally. He quickly developed a passion for boxing — knowing full well at the age of 13 that he wanted to become a professional.

He quit playing football so he could train in the gym. He posted a 138-8 amateur record that included several national championships. He debuted professionally in December 2015 and fought for the first time at the MGM Grand Garden in April of 2016.

“Not many people can say that they’re a professional athlete, especially at the age of 17,” said Haney, who co-promotes his fights through Devin Haney Promotions. “Kids my age, we’re still in high school and I was a professional. … I thought that was an accomplishment in itself.”

Haney in 2017 sparred with Floyd Mayweather before his fight against Conor McGregor. He has also sparred with world champions like Zab Judah and Shawn Porter. He captured his world championship in September by stopping Zaur Abdullaev after four rounds in New York.

He completed his first defense against Santiago and as the champion at recess can challenge for his title when he recovers from his injury. He also hopes to eventually win titles in the 140- and 147-pound weight classes.

“We call it trusting the process,” Haney’s father said. “Sometimes, when you don’t trust the process, you think you need something that you don’t need. … We’re concentrating on perfecting each step at a time.”

More boxing: Follow at reviewjournal.com/boxing.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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