No one is taking the title of best lightweight boxer away from Vasyl Lomachenko. He showed that in his unanimous victory against Luke Campbell to take the WBC title, adding to his WBA, WBO and Ring titles.
But there are two lightweight fighters making names for themselves, and they could be in that conversation with the 31-year-old Ukrainian before too long: Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia.
Haney, a 20-year-old American, has begun his professional boxing career as clean as they come with a 22-0 record, 14 victories coming by knockout. The 21-year-old Garcia has opened his professional career with a spotless 18-0 record — 15 wins by knockout. Both fighters look to keep their perfect record intact this weekend, as Haney fights Zaur Abdullaev on Friday and Garcia fights Avery Sparrow on Saturday, both live on DAZN.
With Lomachenko not fighting again until 2020, possibly taking on the winner of the Richard Commey-Teofimo Lopez bout for a chance at unification, the WBC has said Haney’s fight against Abdullaev would have an interim lightweight title on the line.
“His upside is incredible. It’s exponential. By the time he’s 21, he could be a champion,” Doulgass Fischer, editor in chief of The Ring magazine, told DAZN.
Before Haney was legally able to fight in the United States, he turned his attention to fighting in Mexico to prepare himself to fight professionally in his home country. He has progressed rapidly through the sport and had the chance to become sparring partners with Floyd Mayweather Jr. when Mayweather was preparing to fight Conor McGregor in 2017.
Gareth Davies, a boxing reporter who has written for Telelgraph and The Ring, said the power and speed remind him of a “very young Floyd Mayweather.” ESPN’s Dan Rafael said when Haney fights, people bring up Sugar Ray Leonard as a comparison “because of the speed and the power combination combined with the charisma in the way he looks, the way he talks.
“If he could even get to like half of what Sugar Ray Leonard became as one of the greats of all time, he’s going to have one hell of a career.”
In a May 2018 fight, Haney won the vacant USBA lightweight title, and only started adding titles to his name from there. He next picked up the vacant IBF North American lightweight title, the WBC International and WBO Inter-Continental titles and then picked up the vacant WBA international lightweight title. That last belt he won with a bruising knockout of Antonio Moran in the seventh round of his last fight on May 25.
Claudia Trejos of DAZN and ESPN Deportes said it is only a matter of time until Haney is recognized as one of the best boxers in the U.S., and that he “is a completely different animal.”
“In order for you to have that type of recognition that transcends the sport that will be able to bring those pay-per-views and those butts in those seats, you have to make it in America,” Trejos said.
Meanwhile, Garcia has made a name for himself in a different fashion. With more than 3 million followers on Instagram, Garcia has already become a social media sensation. But he’s starting to prove there’s more to his game than just his large follower base.
In his past two fights, Garcia has been in the ring for just seven rounds, winning with a technical knockout in two rounds against Jose Lopez on May 30 and a knockout of Braulio Rodriguez in five rounds on Dec. 15.
Garcia has been trained by Eddy Reynoso, Canelo Alvarez’s trainer, and has gained experience fighting with Team Canelo.
“Reynoso is going to work him out hard,” Fischer said. “I know Reynoso is demanding. I know Reynoso is a teacher, and he expects a disciplined student, so that speaks well for Ryan Garcia.”
Garcia began fighting professionally in Mexico and did not have a fight make it to the second round until his fourth fight on July 27, 2016, when he won by unanimous decision. Though he has not been tested as much as Haney, having won only the NABF Junior super featherweight title, NABF and WBO-NABO super featherweight titles, Garcia has the skills to show he belongs in the conversation for best young fighters in the game.
He impressed Rafael enough that the reporter had him as ESPN’s Prospect of the Year at the end of 2017.
“Fantastic amateur background,” Rafael said. “Good power. Great speed. Raw. A lot to learn still, does a lot of things that are technically annoying, but there’s a lot to work with.”
Davies sees a rising Oscar de la Hoya type fighter in Garcia, and thinks that it will not be long before he gets a shot at a big name.
“He’s a year or two away from the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko or the Luke Campbells of this world,” Davies said.