Prospect. Contender. Champion. Star.
That’s the arc. Sure, an Olympic pedigree or a famous last name can expedite the process but for anyone who has ever strapped on a pair of gloves and asked to be paid for it, this is the assigned career path.
And let’s be honest, most fighters will never make it past that first step. Shit, most never even make it past the starting line. Pick any vaguely Spanish sounding name, type it into boxrec and you’ll see just how many farmhands and bouncers try to parlay their garage karate skills into a professional boxing career and get nothing but a 0-7 record and a toilet full of black urine for their troubles.
Bay area native Devin Haney (21-0, 13 KO) began his ascent towards boxing’s summit the old fashioned way by starting early and perfecting his craft in the amateurs, racking up a reported 130-8 record in the process. Haney had his first professional fight at the age of 16 and, much like my illustrious history with prostitutes, his first four times were in Mexico because he was too young to do it in the United States.
Along the way he compiled an undefeated record and caught the eye of The Money Team, of which he is now a card carrying member. He also reportedly dated someone or something called Blac Chyna but if you think I’m googling whatever that is, well, enjoying prancing through that field of blind optimism. The point is Devin Haney has already proven to have star quality outside the ring. Now could he prove it inside where it matters most? Friday night in Shreveport he would get his chance.
Making his third appearance on Showtime’s long running Showbox series, Haney faced off against tough South African, Xolisani Ndongeni. A sturdy, if not particularly showy fighter, Ndongeni (25-1, 13 KO) had put together an undefeated record in an eight and a half year pro career, mostly against guys whose names look like a Plutonian Eye Chart and whose own dogs couldn’t pick them out of a line-up. There’s a win over Mzonke Fana in there but it’s not 2004 anymore so that doesn’t quite carry as much weight as it once might have. Regardless, he was expected to go rounds and test Haney which he sort of did.
Haney started quickly behind an active jab and proceeded to walk down Ndongeni for much of the round. There were some good exchanges along the ropes with Haney’s right hand more often than not getting the better of them.
Partway through the second round Haney managed to floor Ndongeni with a short right hand. Ndongeni looked to be a bit off balance and he popped right up but it was an indication of how the rest of his night was to go. To his credit, Haney didn’t panic and rush in for a stoppage. He took his time setting up his shots and showed a calmness not generally seen in most 20 year old fighters.
The mid rounds showed more of the same as Haney backed Ndongeni up with his jab and found a home for his straight right and looping left hooks. The South African fighter showed his durability and landed his shots when he had the opportunity. This wasn’t scintillating stuff but it was exactly what a fighter in Haney’s stage of his career needs.
In the sixth round Haney upped his body attack. He dug short left hooks into Ndongeni’s liver and hips, which sounds like a Hannibal Lector spoken word album. He’ll have some sore knuckles from banging away at the elbows that the crafty Ndongeni kept mostly low enough to protect his organs that make and expel urine but his attempt to slow down his opponent by targeting his lower torso showed another level of poise from Haney not generally seen in fighters his age.
As the bell rang for the final round the only intrigue was whether or not Haney would get the knockout he craved to put an exclamation point on a mostly dominant performance. He continued to chop Ndongeni down with body shots while using his left hand to measure distance for his straight right. He came close and Ndongeni looked out a couple times but ultimately they both finished on their feet, though just barely as Haney attempted to slingshot Ndongeni through the ropes at the final bell.
When the scorecards were read it was a mere formality. Haney took home a near shutout victory with judge Pat Dayton awarding him a 99-90 victory and judges Mickey Lofton and Laurence Cole each scoring it 100-89 in his favor.
Laurence Cole, you ask? Hall of fame level fuck up and referee of your nightmares? That Laurence Cole? Yep, fraid’ so.
Look, congratulations to him I guess for actually getting it right and not just pissing all over himself and declaring a mistrial or something but if Laurence fucking Cole is judging high level fights now, Lucifer help us all. Hell, if Laurence fucking Cole is judging anything other than an Anthony Scaramucci lookalike contest, I want there to be federal oversight.
In the end, Devin Haney did more or less what he came to do. Show his skills against a solid opponent, flash a winning smile and take a step up the ladder toward being a legitimate contender in the lightweight division.
Naturally, there’s things to work on. He probably throws his punches a bit wide and there’s balance issues that could be problematic down the line but nothing that can’t be addressed and corrected by his team in the gym. Haney has all the cards in his deck he needs to be a star. Now he just has to play them.
And with…*squints*….Blacc Chyna at his side, the sky is the limit.