As boxing’s undisputed lightweight champion, Devin Haney can appreciate the eyeballs and big business the ongoing trend of crossover boxing bouts has brought to his sport.
But that doesn’t mean he also can’t help but chuckle anytime he hears MMA fighters wax poetic about how they could beat boxing’s most talented pugilists at their own game.
“I mean, obviously [I laugh when I hear it], because it’s totally different,” Haney said Monday during an in-studio appearance on The MMA Hour. “Whenever the MMA guys come over to boxing, it’s not good for them, and it’s never going to be good for them. And the same, I don’t disrespect the MMA guys because it’s just a different sport. I know that I can’t compete with those guys in the cage. But when it comes to the boxing ring, they can’t compete with me. So it’s just two totally different styles of fighting.”
The latest of those crossover challenges takes place this Saturday, Oct. 28, when former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou makes his pro boxing debut against lineal heavyweight champ and WBC champ Tyson Fury in a big-money 10-round heavyweight bout in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. While Fury’s WBC heavyweight title is not at stake, the matchup is still expected to go on both fighters’ official records, meaning Ngannou will have the chance to become the first boxer to stamp a loss onto Fury’s undefeated résumé.
To the surprise of no one, the former UFC king is a massive underdog to shock the world and dethrone Fury. And Haney doesn’t give Ngannou much of a shot to pull it off.
”Of course not,” Haney said with a laugh when asked if Ngannou’s stands a chance. “I mean, you’ve always got a puncher’s chance. That’s when you step in into the boxing [ring], anybody can throw a Hail Mary and knock somebody out. But it’s very slim.”
Haney, 24, challenges Regis Prograis for the WBC super lightweight title in a more traditional champion vs. champion bout on Dec. 9 in Haney’s hometown of San Francisco.
But in the lead-up to the bout, Haney had his own run-in with the eternal battle between MMA and boxing. In September, UFC bantamweight champion Sean O’Malley responded “I would” to a tweet proclaiming that nothing could break Haney. The boxing champ quickly fired back a retort of his own, telling O’Malley, “I guess y’all MMA punks haven’t learned yet.”
A month later, Haney stands by his words.
“It’s not the best thing for Sean O’Malley to get into a boxing ring with me,” Haney warned. “It’s just, it’s not. It won’t be competitive. It won’t be competitive. But I respect him in the cage, what he does in the cage. He’s a hell of a fighter in the cage. But when you step into that square circle, the boxing ring, it’s a totally different thing.”
That being said, O’Malley was also the first name on Haney’s lips when asked for MMA fighters who have impressed him with their boxing skills. Haney named off a few of the usual suspects as well — former UFC champs Israel Adesanya and Conor McGregor — however he saved his highest praise for the newest name to the UFC’s championship club: Sean Strickland, who upset Adesanya to capture the middleweight title at UFC 293.
“The one dude who just fought Israel, he was working the shoulder roll. I’ve never seen that in the cage before,” Haney said. “Surprised me, but he looked good doing it.”