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Bill Haney, Devin’s Dad, Readies His Armada to Conquer Australia

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  • Bill Haney, Devin’s Dad, Readies His Armada to Conquer Australia

    Click image for larger version  Name:	Bill.PNG Views:	0 Size:	520.3 KB ID:	21232

    By Arne K. Lang

    Professional boxers, with few exceptions, begin their careers in humble surroundings. George Kambosos Jr had his first three pro fights and five of his first eight at the Croatian Club in the oddly-named Sydney suburb of Punchbowl. Used primarily to host wedding receptions, the Croatian Club is a classy joint compared to the place where Devin Haney got his start. Haney had his first four pro fights at the seedy Billar El Perro Salado (translation: Salty Dog billiard hall) in seedy Tijuana.

    On Sunday, June 5 (Saturday in the U.S.), Kambosos (20-0, 10 KOs) and Haney (27-0, 15 KOs) will do battle at 50,000-seat Marvel Stadium in Melbourne in a lightweight title unification fight that some have likened to the boxing equivalent of a Super Bowl. Kambosos and Haney have come a long way.

    George Kambosos hails from Sydney, more than 500 miles from Melbourne, but will have a distinct home field advantage. His ancestry is Greek and Melbourne has the largest Greek population of any city in Australia, an estimated 175,000. Nonetheless, Haney, the U.S. invader from Las Vegas, will go to post a 9/5 favorite if the early betting line holds up.

    Kambosos, who de-throned Teofimo Lopez on Nov. 27, 2021 at Madison Square Garden in one of the biggest upsets of recent memory, has been lauded for the sacrifices he made to achieve his current status as the most decorated fighter in the lightweight division. Prior to meeting Teofimo, he was known primarily as Manny Pacquiao’s longtime sparring partner.

    Kombosos vs. Teofimo Lopez, originally set for June 5, 2021 in Miami, went through six date changes, three different cities, and two promoters before it came to fruition. During the bumpy run-up, Kombosos held tight to his training regimen in Florida and missed important events in his life. He wasn’t there to attend the funeral of his paternal grandfather, for whom he was named, or be there to witness the birth of his third child.

    As Bill Haney, Devin Haney’s 42-year-old father and trainer/manager, would be the first to tell you, Devin’s journey has been no less arduous. “It’s taken us 15 years to reach this point,” he says, noting that Devin, 23, first laced on a pair of gloves at the age of eight.

    As an amateur, Haney was so precocious that he was dubbed the best prospect since Floyd Mayweather Jr by no less an authority than Floyd Sr. When Devin’s father felt that he had nothing more to learn in the amateur ranks, he turned him pro. Because of minimum-age requirements in the U.S., Devin’s first pro fights were in Mexico. It was a path trod by several other precocious amateurs before him, notably Arizona light heavyweight David Benavidez.

    About those early fights in Tijuana; there were 10 overall. The crowds were small, a few hundred tops, and the spectators were animated. “It was mostly a bunch of drunks,” says Bill, looking back fondly, and “they came to see the gringo kid get beat.” Of course, he never did get beat and Devin would eventually earn such grudging respect from the locals that he graduated into larger spaces such as the ballroom of Tijuana’s 320-room Grand Hotel.

    There’s a school of thought that there’s little to be gained by having a fighter launch his pro career on low-budget cards in Mexico. The competition is inferior. But Bill Haney, among others, would argue that there are benefits to fighting in that environment. It prepares one to compete in hostile settings and for Team Haney, the environment will certainly be hostile inside Marvel Stadium.

    A reporter who prowls the boxing gyms of Las Vegas can always tell when Team Haney is in the building. There are more than the usual number of cars parked outside and the cars are of the pricey kind. They might not be as flashy as the rogue car that one is likely to see parked outside the Mayweather Boxing Club, but the vehicles, most notably Devin’s elegant, if understated, Maybach, convey money.

    They say that too many cooks spoil the broth, but Bill Haney obviously doesn’t concur. Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali were famed for their entourages, but it’s doubtful that any boxer had more people in his inner circle at the tender age of twenty-three than does Devin Haney.

    How many will accompany Bill and Devin to Melbourne? When asked this question during a closed-door session for Team Haney at the Top Rank Gym, Bill makes a sweeping gesture with his hand that says everybody you see here. There are, perhaps, a dozen.

    Among the role-players, none stands out as conspicuously as the fellow given the title of chief handler. They call him Church, spelled Chuuuch says the man himself, an energetic man with a spring in his step who appears to be in his early fifties.

    When Devin Haney spars, Chuuuch keeps up a constant patter. “You are the master, the overseer,” he is wont to bay by way of encouragement. At public gatherings such as weigh-ins, he morphs into the hypeman, referring to the fighter as Lord Devin Haney. When exalting Devin or disparaging his opponent he often speaks in rhymes.

    Chuuuch is the reincarnation of the legendary Bundini Brown, Muhammad Ali’s assistant cornerman and colorful sidekick. He should make quite a splash with the Australian media.

    Team Haney, says Bill, plans to arrive in Australia a month before the fight to get acclimated to the climate and time difference. To mitigate the effect of jet lag, they will spend a few days in Hawaii en route.

    The last big prizefight in Australia pit Pacquiao against Jeff Horn in Brisbane. Fighting on his home turf, Horn won a controversial decision. Does Bill Haney worry that his son may get a raw deal from the officials? “We can’t go over there with that mindset,” he says while averring that the brouhaha over the Horn-Pacquiao decision might work to their advantage. “If they do that again,” he says, “fighters will be reluctant to go there for a big fight.” (Note: Neither the referee nor the judges in the Horn-Pacquiao fight were Australian.)

    With respect to dictating the terms of engagement, WBA/WBO/IBF belt-holder George Kambosos, by virtue of owning the most hardware, was in the driver’s seat. In addition to the lion’s share of the purse, his management demanded concessions that went beyond what is customary. The rematch clause stipulates that the rematch, if needed, will also be held in Australia.

    “We consented,” says Bill Haney, “because to Devin this fight is less about money than about his legacy. We respect George Kambosos, he’s a good fighter, but on June 5 Devin will show that he is something special.”

    Kambosos vs. Haney has the earmarks of a very good scrap and, if not, it will still be quite a spectacle.

    Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” will shortly roll off the press. The book, published by McFarland, can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher ( or via Amazon.
    Last edited by AcidArne; 04-19-2022, 05:13 PM.