Should Devin Haney wish to stake his claim for the title of best lightweight on the planet, the WBC world champion will likely need stiffer tests than the one he has lined up for Saturday night when he puts his title on the line against Yuriorkis Gamboa at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida (8 p.m. ET, DAZN).
Haney's fight comes just weeks after Teofimo Lopez upset pound-for-pound great Vasiliy Lomachenko to retain the IBF title while adding Lomachenko's WBA and WBO titles to his collection. Both Lopez and Haney are young with traits that make them potential superstars. But Haney has faced criticism for lining up a fight with Gamboa, who many people don't see as a legitimate lightweight world title contender at this stage in his career.
Gamboa was most recently seen trying to gut out a fight with Gervonta "Tank" Davis this past December. Gamboa tore his Achilles tendon in the fight and was forced to hobble along until he was stopped in Round 12. He recently told Ring.tv that the loss to Davis showed off his qualities as a rugged fighter who doesn't back down in the face of adversity.
"I think it's a well-earned opportunity," Gamboa said. "Throughout my career I have demonstrated I am a top fighter. My last fight against Davis, I showed I am a true warrior. I come to fight no matter who it is."
The criticism of Haney's choice of opponent doesn't seem to bother the 21-year-old, who recently said that the goal isn't simply to beat his 38-year-old opponent but to make a statement in his dominance.
"I don't just want to win, I want to win in spectacular fashion. I want to beat Gamboa worse than anyone has to date," Haney told the media. "I want to show him that I am the best fighter in the world and better than anyone he's ever faced. I have to make a statement. The eyes of the boxing world are all on me again. They've heard me talk the talk and now it's time to walk the walk."
Ultimately, the goal of this fight for Haney and his team may be inching closer toward a unification bout with Lopez. The possibility of two young stars meeting with all four lightweight world championships on the line is exciting and represents something boxing has seen all too rarely in recent history.
During a virtual press conference with the media, Haney doubled down on that fight being a necessary one for both men before they grow out of the 135-pound division.
"At the end of the day, [Teofimo] kept saying he was willing to fight me because he knows that he gains from fighting me. It's something that he knows he doesn't feel right without fighting me for the real undisputed everything -- all the belts. He knows that he's not undisputed without fighting me."
The co-main event sees some heavyweight prospects in the spotlight as Zhilei Zhang takes on Devin Vargas. Zhang has been very destructive so far in his career with 16 of his 21 victories coming by stoppage. He has not faced the best competition, but Zhang is a heavy favorite for a reason against Vargas, who boasts a 22-6 record in his career. Five of Vargas' six losses have come by knockout.
Let's take a closer look at the fight card before making an expert pick on the main event with odds via William Hill Sportsbook.
Haney vs. Gamboa card, odds
Devin Haney (c) -2500
Yuriorkis Gamboa +1200
WBC lightweight title
Zhilei Zhang -2200
Devin Vargas +1100
Juan Jose Martinez Alvarez
Juan Gabriel Medina
The odds are what they are for a reason. Haney is a future staple of top-level boxing while Gamboa is clinging on to a sport that has passed him by. Gamboa is always game, and he showed his toughness last year against Davis, but it's very hard to see a path to victory against a more dynamic opponent who is simply better. Gamboa could score a minor victory by surviving the full 12 rounds in what may be the final world title fight of his career. Pick: Haney via UD