It’s not the way he wanted to earn the distinction, but Devin Haney is officially boxing’s youngest title claimant.
The unbeaten 20-year old lightweight was upgraded from interim to full World Boxing Council 135-pound champion, without having to step foot in the ring. The ruling came Wednesday afternoon during the ratings review portion of the WBC annual convention in Cancun, Mexico. Haney’s upgrade came as a result of unified and now former WBC titlist Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-1, 10KOs) being named as the sanctioning body’s “Franchise” champion.
The move came at the request of Top Rank, Inc., whom promotes Lomachenko and is grooming the three-division titlist and pound for pound entrant for what was previously pitched as an undisputed lightweight championship showdown with the winner of the Dec. 14 clash between IBF titlist Richard Commey and unbeaten mandatory challenger Teofimo Lopez.
Wednesday’s ruling now complicates that status, although it doesn’t at all change the direction.
“That’s the plan,” Carl Moretti, vice president of operations for Top Rank confirmed to BoxingScene.com in a text exchange.
The plan for Haney (23-0, 15KOs) was to enforce his mandatory status for a fight with Lomachenko, whether before or after a fight with the Commey-Lopez winner.
Instead, he’s now a titlist by default.
“The youngest world champion in boxing,” Haney tweeted on Wednesday, though not necessarily in celebratory fashion.
The process is similar to how Jermall Charlo earned the distinction of becoming the WBC middleweight titlist. The Houston, Texas native previously served as the interim titlist to the full belt held by World middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, who was named the sanctioning body’s first-ever franchise champion. Its intent is to allow superstar fighters such as Alvarez the opportunity to enter blockbuster fights without fear of being stripped of a title from failure to satisfy mandatory title defense obligations.
It is suspected that unbeaten heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder will be elevated as well, assuming he scores a repeat win over Luis Ortiz in their title fight rematch next month in Las Vegas, Nevada.
For now, members of his team are still trying to process the ruling, offering mixed reaction.
“Congratulations @RealDevinHaney made WBC World champion,” Eddie Hearn, Haney’s co-promoter declared through social media.
The rest of his immediate team isn’t quite as thrilled but prepared to play the hand they’ve been dealt.
Haney earned the interim title following a 4th round stoppage of previously Zaur Abdullaev this past September in New York City. The bout streamed live on Over-The-Top (OTT) media service DAZN, as did his previous outing this past May when he scored a highlight reel knockout of Antonio Moran on his platform debut after signing with Hearn earlier this spring.
Plans have long been in place for Las Vegas’ Haney to appear on the undercard of the Nov. 9 DAZN card topped by a rematch between YouTube celebrities KSI and Logan Paul. An opponent has yet to be named, but whomever lands the assignment will now serve as the first official challenger of his full title reign.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox