The reason why Devin Haney needed to get hurt
Over the course of nine rounds, Devin Haney showed his formidable technical prowess against veteran Jorge Linares and appeared destined for yet another successful, but not necessarily spectacular, victory. However, his short right hand to close the 10th round injured Hani, and fans present at the Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas turned their support away from the Devin Haney 22-year-old fighter.
For the first time, Hani had to deal with something he hadn’t faced during his 25-fight career: adversity. Not just from his opponent, but from the fans in attendance who mocked him for cleverly catching Linares while he was rocking the cobwebs from the previous round.
MORE: Haney retains his WBC belt, but is forced to work for it
Despite the short period of adversity, Hanyi went on to win by unanimous decision and retain the WBC Lightweight title. While some have criticized his performance and his inability to turn off an opponent who had only lost by knockout until that point, Hani gained valuable experience necessary for a fighter of his caliber to take the next step in his career.
Fans may not have been treated to the adorable knockout from the young fighter calling Las Vegas his home, but what Hanyi gained in this short sequence of getting hurt, taking instructions from his corner during his launch and applying them in the next round is what separates the champions from the competitors.
These are the moments in their careers that undefeated young fighters need to know whether or not they have the potential to succeed in the long term. It’s easy to pass a string of opponents. But it will only happen after a fighter is punched in the mouth once and forced to respond so we know whether or not they will stay here in the long term.
It is a baptism with fire. Some survive, and many don’t.
Ryan Garcia recently had a moment when Luke Campbell dropped him in the second round of their January showdown that we realized he was made of tougher things. The 22-year-old stripped himself off the canvas, rebounded and stopped Campbell with a brutal bullet in the body in the seventh round to pass his toughest test. Hani may not have hit the cloth, but his wobbling walk back to his corner tells a story that either ends with his survival or an embarrassing meltdown. With Coach Ben Davison in his ear, Hani flashed with a smile indicating that he had been injured but did not want to show it while digesting directions from his strength.
He applied it, survived the last six minutes and lived to fight another day.
History tells us that not all fighters are able to survive in these moments and this is something that stalks them for the rest of their careers. Mike Tyson was clueless when he was shot down by Buster Douglas in the tenth round of the infamous 1990 match. Up until that point, he set fires in opposition and rarely encountered anything close to adversity. By the time he tasted the cloth, he had no idea how to get up and shattered an indomitable veil.
Juan Manuel Lopez, Amir Khan, Victor Ortiz, Tommy Morrison, Zap Jouda, Geoff Lacey and even Linares are just a few of the boxers who were thought to be the next big thing, but they fell apart when the going got tough. In order for Hany to achieve the next level of greatness, he needed to know how he would react when injured in a fight.
Hani didn’t collapse. In fact, Hani became a sponge after the fight and went so far as to question Linares about his boxing prowess. Instead of showing his ego, Hani humbly inquired of how to improve and accepted criticism of his work from his opponent.
As Haney moves on to bigger and better fights that could involve Garcia and unifying champion Teofemo Lopez and Gervonta Davis, this valuable lesson will go beyond satisfying fans with a defeat. He needed adversity to find out more about himself. Sure, these teachable moments against seasoned veterans aren’t over, but the fact that he passed him for the first time proves that Hanyi is so much more than just a young star who will fade away when pressed.
And the pressure either breaks the tubes or makes a diamond. So far, Hani appears on his way to becoming a diamond.