By Chris Williams: Zab Judah has faith that the Devin Haney vs. Gary Russell Jr fight will eventually get made for this year. The former two-division world champion Judah (44-10, 30 KOs) fully backs WBC lightweight champion Haney (24-0, 15 KOs), who he believes is destined for big things in his career.
The negotiations between Haney and WBC featherweight champion Russell Jr (31-1, 18 KOs) have been anything but smooth, unfortunately, as Devin’s side wanted to put stipulations in the contract that Gary wanted no part of.
Last Friday, Haney’s promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing USA, threw a wrench into the Haney-Russell Jr negotiations by saying that Yuriorkis Gamboa is also one of the fighters that they’re considering for Devin’s next contest.
Hearn is seemingly protecting Haney like a mother hen guarding one of her new hatchlings. For Hearn to allow Haney to fight Russell Jr right now, it would be the equivalent of letting the fox in the hen house.
Russell Jr is bad news potentially for Haney, who lacks the punch and the hand speed to excel at the upper levels of the 135-lb division.
Does Hearn want Haney to fight Russell?
That move by Hearn seemed to indicate that he isn’t entirely on board with the idea of letting the young 21-year-old Haney take on the highly skilled and experienced Russell Jr.
“November 7 is the targeted date for his return and the two main targets are Gary Russell Jr and Yuriorkis Gamboa,” said Eddie Hearn.
“Devin is ready to defend his WBC titles against all comers.”
You can understand it from Hearn’s perspective, as Haney has the potential to become a colossal star in boxing. But he might not be ready for a talent like Russell Jr, who has been dominating the featherweight division with an iron fist for the last five years.
As the longest-reigning champion at 126, Russell Jr is moving up to 135 because he’s tired of being avoided at featherweight by the other top fighters.
Hearn likely is well aware of the fact that Haney has never fought a fighter with the type of talent that Russell Jr possesses.
While Devin does have loads of ability and he can potentially win, it’s a massive move up in the level of competition that he’s been facing.
Hearn’s decision to mention the 38-year-old Gamboa as someone that he would like to see Haney fight next shows that’s apprehensive about allowing him to fight Russell.
You have to know that he wasn’t the one that came up with the idea for Haney and Gary to begin talks. That was initiated by Russell Jr, who reacted t some of the things that Haney was saying recently on social media.
From there, things have escalated with a back and forth war. But this is not a fight that Hearn was seeking out for Haney, and it’s understandable why.
Haney vs. Russell = an exciting fight
“It’s going to be a very exciting fight,” said Judah to Fighthype on the Russell vs. Haney fight. “Gary Russell brings speed, power and he’s exciting. We know what Devin brings across to the ring. It’s going to be exciting.
“Everybody knows who I’m with. I’m with Haney all day. We’re going to put together a situation, and Devin is going to go on there and do his thing.
“I’ve been in a lot of championship fights, and that goes back and forth,” Zab said of the Haney-Russell negotiations. “Eventually, they’ll iron it out. They’ll come to a common number and a common situation,” said Judah.
Hopefully, if the Haney vs. Russell fight gets made, Devin doesn’t stink out the joint by staying on the outside, throwing mostly jabs and single punches all night.
Say what you want about Judah often failing in his biggest fights, he at least made it exciting by mixing it up with his opponents. If Haney intends to become a star, he can’t play it safe by doing the minimal to win his fights.
The 5’8″ Haney will have the arm length and height advantage over the 5’4″ Russell, and he’ll be able to box him from the outside all night.
Shorter fighters like Mike Tyson showed that height doesn’t win fights. Tyson beat taller fighters his entire career by getting inside on them to land his shots.
For his part, Gary will be looking to take a page out of Tyson’s playbook by getting within punching range and landing his payload of power shots all night against Devin.
Russell Jr is talented enough to get within Haney’s reach to light him up with combinations on the inside, but it could be a boring fight if Devin plays it safe.
Zab not sure if Russell wants the fight
“I don’t know what the drama is about. They’ll come to a [an agreement],” said Judah. The bottom line is these are the two best young fighters of our era today. You know how it is on the throne. There’s got to be one king.
“I don’t know,” said Judah when asked if he thinks Russell wants the fight. “Excuse my literacy in the situation. I’m not tapped in all the way in what’s going on.
“I just know that Devin is saying he’s fighting Gary Russell, and he’s preparing for Gary Russell. That’s it. As far as the negotiations, I don’t know. I know it’s a hot fight, and the world wants to see it. Make it happen. He’s super-fast, very fast,” Judah said of Russell.
Well, the fact that Russell Jr has been the one that has been willing to give in the negotiations with Haney all this time, that indicates that he wants the fight. Russell agreed to these two BIG things in the talks with Devin:
- To fight DAZN rather than Showtime.
- Agreeing to $1.5 million
If Russell didn’t want the fight, he would have dug in his heels and balked at fighting on DAZN and accepting less than the $2 million that he asked for initially.
Of the two fighters, the one that is showing more signs of not wanting the fight is Haney, who is letting his promoter Hearn bring Gamboa’s name into the equation.
By Hearn mentioning Gamboa’s name, he’s taking a considerable risk that Russell will walk away from the negotiations and take another fight at 135.
Hearn doesn’t know Russell well enough to start playing games by bringing up other names to make it sound like Haney has other options.
It’s Haney’s time
“Devin is special. He’s a special individual,” Zab continued. “You know I’ve been telling people for years, even when he was an amateur. They were saying, ‘Who is that?’ and I would say, ‘Devin Haney,’ but I showed y’all that he is what he says he is.
“You know it doesn’t matter if he’s southpaw or right-handed, Devin is going to go to work. He’s in great condition. I mean, look. The bottom line is this is the time, and that’s it. This is his time.
“When it’s your time, it’s your time. Right now, it’s Haney’s time, and that’s it. Everybody gets their time, and their time to shine.
“What you do with your time to shine is what you do with it. Right now, it’s Haney’s time,” Zab said.
It’s not Haney’s time because he’s not shown the kind of talent that would enable him to beat Gervonta’ Tank Davis, Teofimo Lopez, Ryan Garcia, or Vasiliy Lomachenko.
We’re going to see in the next five years if it’s Haney’s time or not, but right now, it’s not. Putting Haney in with any of the fighters mentioned above right now would be a bad idea, and it’s doubtful that Hearn would allow that to happen.
He might start tossing Gamboa’s name around when it comes time to Haney negotiations with those guys, and it would be a deal-breaker.
If you’re one of those guys and Hearn starts playing games by mentioning other fighters for Devin, they’re moving on. They know which way the wind blows, and they’re not going to waste their time trying to fight Haney if his promoter is playing games.
Judah says top fighters ducking Devin
“Keep doing what you are doing. Evidently, they’re running and ducking and hiding from you for a reason,” Zab said when asked how Haney can get the other reluctant top lightweights to fight him.
“Keep doing what you’re doing. I’m there from day one to day-in. Trust me; I’m going to be there. I’m going to give him everything I know about southpaws that I could give him,” said Judah about Haney.
When it comes time for Haney to negotiate against a big name, we’ll see what Hearn does to foul things up. Hearn betrays his mother-hen instincts by messing up the negotiations and keeping Haney protected.
Haney’s last fight against Alfredo Santiago on November 9th showed that this is NOT his time. Santiago was putting hands on Haney, making him look bad and giving him loads of problems.
The thing is, Santiago is a fringe level fighter at 135 and not one of the best.
Unlike Gamboa, Russell Jr isn’t old and over-the-hill. He’s still a world champion and in his prime.