Devin Haney vs. Teofimo Lopez: New Age Sugar Ray vs. Duran…But…

By Paul Magno on May 27, 2019
Devin Haney vs. Teofimo Lopez: New Age Sugar Ray vs. Duran…But…
Both young men have everything they need to be transcendent ring stars. (Getty Images)

“It was just like another guy. He didn’t show me anything, like, special…It wasn’t competitive. He didn’t hit me, he couldn’t hit me…”

Saturday was Devin Haney’s time to shine. The 20-year-old lightweight prospect and “can’t miss” future superstar made his DAZN main stage debut and generated headlines with a hellacious one-punch KO of the previously unstopped Antonio Moran.

“I wanted to make a statement,” the Vegas-residing San Francisco-born Haney said after the demolition. “There was a lot of rumors that said I didn’t have punching power, I couldn’t knock guys out, but as you see, I can. I broke my opponent down, then I knocked him out.

“I have speed, I have power, I’ve got ring IQ, and I’ve got head movement. I can do it all. I have many tools in the tool box, it just depends on what I want to bring out that night.”

All night, following the KO win, Haney’s speed and explosive power drew comparisons to a young, hungry Floyd Mayweather. And that’s a pretty accurate comparison to make. Squint a little, get the mind moving a bit, though, and one sees another comparison that can be made—one that casts him as one-half of the modern day version of an all-time classic.

Could Devin Haney vs. fellow top lightweight prospect, 21-year-old Teofimo Lopez, in three or four years’ time, be the new age Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran?

Purists and boxing’s old codgers will balk at the comparison, pointing out that Haney is no Sugar Ray and Lopez is no Duran—and that, most likely, they will never be as good as Sugar Ray and Duran.  True. Okay. But, as the cliché goes, styles make fights, and Haney-Lopez, like Leonard-Duran, bring the speed-power vs. power-speed matchup dynamic. Both fighters burn bright with confidence in their respective styles, but can also reach outside themselves to bring something extra—Lopez, the fearsome all-attack power puncher can box and Haney, as we just saw, can punch.

The Brooklyn-born and raised Lopez is Duran-arrogant. Angrily dismissive to opponents, he fights as though a challenge to his ring dominance is a personal insult. He taunts laid-out foes and sneers self-aggrandizing claims to media.

Haney, on the other hand, is smooth and behaves like the well-groomed amateur prospect that he was. He prefers to showcase his speed and reflexes, but he can also really fight when he chooses to let things go.

The two already have a significant history, one stemming from two sparring sessions that both sides claim as victories.

“I hit him with a hook, I hurt him,” Lopez told BoxingEgo in a video interview, referring to the first of the two sessions. “Then I started throwing hella combinations. He just closes up…he’s just taking a beating…Beam, Beam, Beam, Beam…30 seconds go and I’m still hitting him…Devin doesn’t give me work at all. It was not work because he’s sticking and just running…that’s all he was doing. He was so scared to throw right hooks, left hooks with me because every time he did, I would catch him and I would hit him. I was chasing him the whole time…The kid was depressed [after the session].

Haney, of course, tells a different story.

“When I sparred him,” Haney told FightHype.com. “I didn’t know he was getting this kind of exposure…it was just like another guy. He didn’t show me anything, like, special…It wasn’t competitive. He didn’t hit me, he couldn’t hit me.”
Following Saturday’s KO victory, Haney revisited the Lopez sparring controversy.

“He’s telling complete lies…Pretty soon the world will see that I’m on a whole other level than Teofimo…and if he’s willing to make a fight, me and my team are…then we can make it happen.”

So, there we have it, right? Haney-Lopez is a no-brainer and it’s one, because of their young age and some solid opposition available to both, where one doesn’t mind a bit of “marinade.”

But can it happen? Is it even worth dreaming about such a thing? Haney is with Matchroom/DAZN and Lopez is with Top Rank/ESPN. Both are “exclusive content” to boxing business entities building a presence and establishing a foothold in the streaming sports industry. In three-to-four years, will there be more of a spirit of cooperation between broadcast/streaming rivals? We’d all like to think “yes,” but the answer is probably “no.”

Devin Haney and Teofimo Lopez could be the new Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. Both young men have everything needed to be transcendent ring stars, except, of course, the right boxing business environment.

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  1. David 02:25pm, 05/30/2019

    Ray Leonard, or any fighter past or present, can’t walk on the same side of the street as the great Roberto Duran.