There’s a saying in NASCAR: Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday.
Selling, in boxing, happens first and gets done a little differently.
In boxing, fighters typically sell Sunday through Friday, then win on Saturday. Oh, and then sell again before exiting the ring on fight night. Selling in boxing is most often achieved by talking.
Devin Haney Continues to Talk His Talk (And Still Wants to Sell ‘The Dream’ to the World)
However, there’s a fine line that’s difficult to avoid crossing. Or not! There are a ton of iconic NSFW sound bites from various press conferences throughout the year.
So, if we want to talk about fighting for it, he (Davis) didn’t even fight to get to ‘super’ champion.Devin Haney addressing Gervonta Davis on The Ak and Barak Show
An interesting part of 21-year old WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney’s development will be the handling of this part of his promotion. If you’ve heard the kid interview, he sounds like a 19-year old floor general who recently arrived in Durham or Raleigh. Unfortunately for the Bay Area-born Las Vegas resident, March Madness and Final Four runs sell themselves. Dick Vitale can’t make a boxer into a household name.
Moreover, matters only become increasingly adversarial for Haney. After working his way up the rankings, in late October the WBC elevated Haney to its 135-pound World Champion. This put a bulls-eye on the kid’s back for all of the division’s contenders. Most of those contenders vie for their title shot in one of two ways. They can amass a series of impressive wins and become a mandatory, or they can earn some good wins and call out Haney. This should be done progressively in terms of the degree of disrespect.
The issue for Haney becomes: How does he clap back, and at what cost?
Frankly, to see Haney attempt to reverse a disappointing reality for boxing would be admirable. Boxers rarely attract many, if any, lucrative endorsement deals. On ESPN’s 2019 World Fame 100 list, the highest-ranked boxer, Deontay Wilder (No. 44), only received $1.6 million in endorsements. Anthony Joshua (No. 63) earned the most at $7 million. The list has only three other boxers; Canelo Alvarez (No. 68), Gennadiy Golovkin (No. 78), and Manny Pacquiao (No. 83) averaged $2.33 million each.
In comparison, the World Fame’s top ten athletes averaged $32.6 million in endorsement dollars. The UFC’s Conor McGregor landed at No. 5 with $15 million; he and Brazil’s Neymar were the only two below $20 million.
This writer was hopeful that Haney’s bright smile, looks and student-athlete appeal could lure some new brands to the sport. Only time will tell.
Prior to Joshua’s title defense versus Andy Ruiz in June, the former IBF/WBA/WBO champion shared the reason for his success with corporate partnerships on The Breakfast Club. He was an undefeated heavyweight and a 2012 Olympic gold medalist for Great Britain. Joshua told TBC‘s co-hosts companies sought a relationship with him because of his clean image and exemplary behavior.
Haney doesn’t have to get his “out the mud” exactly, but hard work lies ahead of him. Popularity in boxing is fleeting for most – it’s a constant work in progress.
An emerging problem for Haney is, the class of fighters he’s grouped with are in their early 20s. They move differently. Conflict occurs publicly online, and behavior takes a backseat to street cred.
A new entrant to the lightweight division is a two-time junior lightweight champion, Gervonta Davis. The Baltimore southpaw is 25 years old. He’s Floyd Mayweather’s protege, and his record includes 21 KOs in 22 fights. You can see how Davis recently replied to some trash talk from his Dec. 28 opponent here. That’s somewhat measured for the power-punching showman. You can see how he defended the quality of his next opponent, Yuriorkis Gamboa, to ESPN analyst Timothy Bradley.
Haney and Davis share a major connection. The young champion cut his teeth in Las Vegas’ Mayweather Boxing Club. On his way through the ranks, Haney regularly appeared in videos, training under Floyd Mayweather Sr. Prior to his move to DAZN, Haney even fought on Showtime, the same network as Davis.
Now, the two inhabit the same division. Haney owns a title, so a meeting is inevitable. With Haney’s elevation to champion and his recent first title defense, Davis fired some shots on Twitter. A direct tweet to Haney appears to have been removed, but FightHype captured a series of Davis tweets that downplayed Haney as a champion. FightHype’s video also included some comments from Davis regarding his WBC No. 1 ranking at lightweight.
How does Haney respond to threats from a more established potential opponent? In boxing can a fighter maintain his reputation by going high when a contender goes low? Seems like something’s gotta give.
Well, we didn’t have to wait long.
Last Friday, November 15, Haney appeared on The Ak and Barak Show on Sirius XM’s combat sports channel Fight Nation. The kid figured it out on the fly.
After Ak Reyes asked Haney to address Davis raising questions about his champion status, he said the following:
“He was making a lot of comments on the belt situation. If we’re talking boxing and talking about belts, he was actually the WBA ‘regular’ champion, which is not even a real-world title.”
He was the ‘regular’ champion, then overnight, somehow, someway he was bumped up to ‘super’ champion, and (Alberto) Machado was bumped down to ‘regular’ champion. I don’t know how that was possible.
So, if we want to talk about fighting for it, he didn’t even fight to get to ‘super’ champion. Then now, he’s about to fight for another ‘regular’ title that they’re trying to make it like it’s the ‘super’ title. If we’re talking about belts, we can go there as well.
Only time will tell how long Haney’s talk remains thoughtful and fact-based. Currently, his approach mirrors how Mayweather managed his defense of his achievements against both detractors and opponents. Before too long we’ll also see how he fares against fighters as equally skilled and gifted.
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