Chris Algieri's School of Thought: Garcia can be to Haney what Gatti was to Mayweather

On the strength of Devin Haney’s performance in victory in December over Regis Prograis, and the poverty of Teofimo Lopez’s in victory over Jamaine Ortiz last week, Haney has surpassed Lopez as the world’s leading super lightweight. 

I was surprised Ortiz came out in the southpaw stance and chose to box as much as he did. He had a brilliant game plan – he looked really good for the first six rounds – but, as in the past, he became tired and ran out of answers. I scored a close fight in Lopez’s favour – Ortiz just didn’t throw enough punches in the second half of the fight. 

I was just as surprised by Lopez’s struggles to cut off the ring. He was the better, more powerful puncher whenever he connected – which also wasn’t often – but he struggled to land combinations and to use that power regularly enough, even though he deserves credit for landing the body punches that may have slowed Ortiz down.

It’s difficult to conclude that both fighters’ reputations weren’t harmed. Ortiz, who also lost according to the judges, struggled to complete a 12-round performance, and Lopez betrayed technical flaws that will make his rivals relish the prospect of fighting him. Ortiz had been known for being in good fights against quality opposition; he’ll instead start to be recognised as someone who can make fights dull, if he chooses, which will make it difficult for him to get another big opportunity.

There wasn’t enough reason to doubt that Lopez remains the fighter who so impressively defeated Josh Taylor to win the WBO title last June – even then he was viewed as someone as capable of excelling as underperforming, which reflects the extent of his unpredictability outside of the ring. But in the same way that against Taylor he showed what a natural and intuitive counter-puncher he is, Ortiz showed how much he struggles when he has to fight on the front foot, use his jab, and lead. 

Plenty have again blamed Lopez’s father and trainer, Teofimo Sr, but as positive as I believe it would be for Teofimo Sr to work with other coaches – when his son defeated Richard Commey in 2019, Joey Gamache was also in the corner – he knows his son very well and doesn’t require replacing. Lopez is 26; as impressive as he has already been, including against Taylor and Vasyl Lomachenko, there remains so much potential for him to fulfil. Sometimes in the corner all that’s needed from the trainer is helping the fighter understand in the moment what’s needed. 

Chris Algieri's School of Thought: Garcia can be to Haney what Gatti was to Mayweather
Mikey Williams / Top Rank Inc

Of greater cause for Lopez and those around him might be the fact that the things Ortiz did well, Haney can do even better. But the fight the world is expecting to see him in on April 20, against Ryan Garcia, is bigger in its commercial value than it is competitive.

It makes perfect sense for Haney, and I believe it has been on course for way longer than they would have us all believe. His father, trainer and manager Bill has been masterful at guiding Devin through the boxing business, which this fight again shows – he’ll make a huge amount of money in front of a huge number of eyes, and ultimately get access to Garcia’s huge fanbase, which is what he needs.

Haney already has titles. He’s the WBC champion at 140lbs and was the undisputed champion at 135lbs, where he beat Lomachenko. The Haneys are following in the footsteps of Floyd Mayweather – they’re prioritising getting the wins and can worry about getting people onside later. Garcia is the perfect opponent within that. He is to Haney what Arturo Gatti was to Mayweather in 2005 – the popular opponent who doesn’t stand a chance of victory. If Haney can beat Garcia like Mayweather beat Gatti – which he’s capable of – it will really enhance his reputation. Haney looked really good against Prograis, on a night when it became clear how much stronger and healthier he is at 140lbs, but we can’t even yet be sure if he’s in his prime. He might prove even better at 147lbs.

It was Matchroom Haney signed with after leaving Top Rank in the aftermath of beating Lomachenko, and it was Matchroom who this week announced the signing of Subriel Matias, the IBF champion. Matias is a fun, tough, two-fisted destroyer who walks his opponents down until they’re not there anymore, and one who doesn’t mind getting hit. 

I can see Matchroom matching him with Liam Paro, who defeated Montana Love on the undercard of Prograis-Haney. I can also see, longer-term, if he retains the titles, Matias being matched with Haney, or Prograis.

The noises are also that Jack Catterall, another super lightweight promoted by Matchroom, is close to agreeing terms to fight Taylor in a rematch on April 27, and though that will please many, Taylor-Catterall II strikes me as another over-marinaded fight. It’s had false dawns already, and since the most recent of those, Taylor’s lost to Lopez and, against Jorge Linares, Catterall’s struggled to impress. 

Richardson Hitchins, one of my former sparring partners, can also play a role in how everything unfolds at 140lbs, which in 2024 is the best division in the world. Stylistically he’s capable of giving all of those names hell – he’s already capable of beating “Rolly” Romero, the WBA champion, today.