As WBC lightweight champion, Devin Haney, was watching George Kambosos take the fight to Teofimo Lopez this past weekend, a particular thought raced through his mind.
"It was just basically to stay focused, don't ever underestimate somebody, never look past anybody because this is boxing. Anything can happen," said Haney, who faces Joseph Diaz this Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Kambosos, who was a heavy underdog, stunned the world by defeating Lopez via split decision in one of the biggest upsets of the year.
Haney told SNAC.com, "I really wasn't that surprised because if you look at interviews from before, I was saying that Teo didn't look focused. He seemed like he was overlooking Kambosos. So it pretty much played out how I thought it would. Obviously, I didn't expect him to upset him, but I didn't think it was impossible."
There had been plenty of conjecture about a showdown between Haney and Lopez (and more on that later) but now the focus has shifted.
"The main thing was I want the belts, and I want to fight whoever has the belts -- no matter who it is," said Haney. With last weeks results, it's Kambosos who now has the IBF, WBA and WBO straps around his waist. "It wasn't about Teo specifically. I want to become undisputed."
For now, the focus is on what's squarely in front of him. In Diaz, he's facing a solid, well-rounded boxer, who won a major world title at 130, and just recently defeated Javier Fortuna for the WBC interim lightweight title back in July. It's a solid pairing, of two boxers in their physical prime.
But as Haney got this date from DAZN and Matchroom Sports, it wasn't clear who his dance partner would be. Originally, Diaz was matched with his Golden Boy Promotions stablemate, Ryan Garcia, who ended up pulling out of their November date as he underwent hand surgery.
Diaz had a choice: wait for the perennially unreliable Garcia in the early months of 2022, or step up and take the fight with Haney. To his credit, Diaz chose the latter.
"I was definitely nervous about it, I didn't know what would happen," admitted Haney. "Eddie (Hearn) was telling me it was still possible for me to fight 'Jojo' Diaz even though they were saying that the fight with Ryan Garcia and 'Jojo' Diaz was close to being made. It worked out perfectly for me."
Back in late May, Haney out-pointed the respected Jorge Linares over 12 rounds. It was a sharp outing, save for the end of the 10th round when a right hand shook Haney, who was able to survive the rest of the bout.
"I actually watched the fight for the first time, recently, and it was my strongest performance up until the time when I got caught," said Haney, who has a perfect mark of 26-0(15 KOs). "That was me just falling asleep in there. I was winning the fight very comfortably."
Haney, now 23 years old, has been a lightweight since he began his career in December of 2015. He is now at the stage where he is bursting out at the seams physically. Making 135 pounds has become an arduous task for the athletically muscular boxer.
This could be his last foray at this weight class.
"I was only planning at staying at 135 for the big fights, the weight is not easy for me to make," he admitted. "But it's a sacrifice to make for the big fights. Right now, this is a big fight for me. I will be 100-percent for it."
Diaz isn't much of a puncher, but he's a skilled southpaw boxer, who isn't afraid to mix it up inside. Outside of having true power, he's a complete fighter.
Haney says, "I don't know what to expect for 'Jojo' Diaz, I'm prepared for anything possible, anything he brings to the table, I'll be ready for it. But I don't want to see here and think for 'Jojo', or try to come up with an imaginary game plan. I'm just preparing for whatever he brings to the table."
The night after Haney fights, Gervonta 'Tank' Davis faces Isaac Cruz at the Staples Center in Los Angles. Will he be as interested in that bout as he was last weekends.
"I'm not sure I'm going to watch it," answered Haney. "I don't know too much about Cruz so it's not really a fight that I'm excited for. But I do want to see 'Tank' and see what he's going to do."
TOP RANK TEO
So what is the future of Lopez with Top Rank, with whom he signed an amended promotional contract with after the Triller purse bid saga earlier this year?
The new deal came with increased financial terms, but only if he beat Kambosos and retained his titles.
Well...now things get re-amended.
"It's in there, it's worked in," said Bob Arum, of the decreased figures that now exist. "But we're not going to abandon him. Maybe it will shut him up and he'll do what a fighter should do, train properly, do a training camp. Instead of the nonsense he did for this fight, and we'll see it. But he had a real comeuppance."
Arum had not watched the fight as of Monday.
"The major lesson is think about your opponent, and the fight that's coming up, and don't think about the fights down the road and get distracted," said Arum.
It turns out that Lopez and his team, were trying to hatch a plan to have the WBC make Haney their mandatory, to get this -- force another purse bid.
"They never learned the lesson," lamented Arum.
Speaking of Linares, he has recently signed a promotional pact with RCC Promotions.
His adviser, Jose De La Cruz explained, "The plan is very simple, we look at a tough fight coming back in late February."
Then at that point they will see what is out there in the lightweight landscape. Linares last outing was his defeat at the hands of Haney. At age 36, he heads into the twilight of what has been a very colorful and eventful career.
"The company is looking to bring in Jorge to fight anyone in the world, with any company," said De La Cruz, who was introduced to this company by Egis Klimas, with whom he has formed a partnership with. "They're just not bringing him because of the name. They truly believe he can get a couple of wins under his belt, and potentially even a rematch with Vasiliy Lomachenko."
How much of a chance does Cruz really have versus Davis? Would it be an even bigger upset than Kambosos-Lopez?....Austin 'Ammo' Williams makes his return to the ring on the Haney-Diaz undercard on DAZN....It was announced that Israil Madrimov will face veteran Michel Soro on December 17 in Uzbekistand. This bout is a final WBA eliminator at 154, who's title is held by Jermell Charlo....Is Roman Roy the biggest mover and shaker in this current season of 'Succession'?....I can be reached at email@example.com....