Devin's Decision: Haney Ordered To Fight Shakur Stevenson Or Regis Prograis Next

Whichever fight 'The Dream' chooses, the fans are the winners
10:00, 19 Jul 2023

Undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney is spoilt for choice. Being the unassailable king of your weight division should routinely open some appetising avenues. But even by the usual standards of four-belt rule, ‘The Dream’ has a special choice to make. Does he remain at 135 pounds and face his newly-appointed WBC mandatory, Shakur Stevenson? Or does he move up to 140 pounds to face WBC light welterweight king Regis Prograis? According to WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman, he has until Friday to make this important choice.

It is rote to say that either way, the fans are the real winners. But in this case it really is true. In an era where fans are accustomed to a fighter choosing the safer route to greatness, both of these fights present enticing possibilities and genuine competitiveness.

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If one had to pick an easier opponent from the pair, it would be Prograis. The fact that the “weaker” fighter here is a two-time and reigning light welterweight champion ranked top in his weight category by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and The Ring magazine says it all about Haney’s choice.

Prograis is perhaps best known to fans as the WBA champion Josh Taylor beat on his way to becoming the first British four-belt undisputed champion in history. That majority decision loss in 2019 doesn’t tell the full story of Prograis. Since bursting onto the scene with a decision victory over Manchester’s former world champion Terry Flanagan in the World Boxing Super Series, ‘Rougarou’ has more than proved he belongs in this rarefied air.

Prograis stopped WBA boss Kiryl Relikh to win that accolade before his defeat to Taylor. Since his loss to ‘The Tartan Tornado’, Prograis has gone 5-0 with four knockouts, winning and defending the WBC championship. While ​​Danielito Zorrilla gave him a tougher time than expected last time out, with Prograis only securing a split decision despite dropping his man, he is still more than worthy of a big night against Haney.

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However, if Prograis is worthy then what does that make Shakur Stevenson? While a Haney-Prograis match-up would be one of the highlights of 2023, a Haney-Stevenson meeting would arguably be one of the biggest fights of the decade. The Olympic silver medalist would be the finest fighter ‘The Dream’ has met in his entire career. Equally, Shakur would be facing his own toughest challenge were he to engage Haney.

Stevenson is already a two-weight world champion at the age of 26. He and Haney are two of the most commonly-cited names when debating who boxing will turn to when the likes of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Tyson Fury hang up their gloves. They are two thrilling, gifted fighters with nary a single loss between them. With Haney a year younger at 25, they could conceivably rule the roost for the next decade.

That is what makes a potential superfight at this stage so thrilling. Rather than carefully nursing their respective undefeated records, there is the possibility of them risking their ‘0’ against each other. A true all-or-nothing proposition. The winner would hit the A-list and likely snag the pound-for-pound slot. The loser would be tasked with a rebuild that, while not outside the realms of their abundant abilities, would test them to their limits. It is this sort of competitive thrill that draws people to the sport of boxing. It is an intoxication we get to feel all too little these days, given how stage-managed the average ring career is. While we endure champions fighting ex-UFC stars and OnlyFans models fighting their sisters, Haney-Stevenson would be a timely throwback to, and perhaps even a restoration of, what made boxing special in the first place.

Either way, Haney is going to be in an important fight this year. The WBC have given him until Friday to make up his mind. Whether he seeks the history of landing a world title at a higher weight or the epoch-defining clash with his fellow unbeaten man, there is merit to both. In an ideal world we would see Haney face both Prograis and Stevenson over the next year or so. Boxing is rarely a perfect world. But at least for once it has provided a fighter of Devin Haney’s standing with a choice that, from a fan’s perspective, he can’t really get wrong.

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