By Matt Christie

THOUGH boxing has for a long time been referred to as the sweet science, there are very few sweet scientists out there. When it comes to being a success, though the definition of such differs from one observer to the next, it’s often the amalgamation of random factors that take them to the top. What one fighter lacks in skill, for example, they might make up for in courage, or failings in stamina and durability might be compensated for in punching power. In short, there is no cut-out-and-keep guide – no exact science, sweet or otherwise – to becoming a champion.

There are boxers who come along, however, who seem to personify that sweet science. Those who do everything right, whose movements flow effortlessly from their brain to their limbs and those attempting to break that flow, or even just compete with it, find it an almost impossible task. Devin Haney looks like one such fighter. A joy to watch, at least if you really know what you’re watching, and one who makes it look so easy it might be surprising to the uneducated that there’s not more who can fight like that.

Haney, only 25, still has a long way to go, of course. But the foundation he’s crafted is one to admire. From the early years of learning his trade as a boy to the time he spent fighting professionally as a teenager in Mexico, largely in the thick of hostile crowds, right through to climbing the ladder towards world class with each rung designed to take him to a slightly higher level. Today, though it would be tempting to suggest the work is done, the climb continues.

Before we get too carried away with Haney, and plenty are refusing to, it’s also worth remembering the biggest victories on his record came against fighters on the way down: Yuriorkis Gamboa, Jorge Linares, Vasily Lomachenko, Regis Prograis. Even George Kambosos Jnr, who may have peaked in that victory over Teofimo Lopez in 2021, might already have been in decline by time Haney twice toyed with him.

Yet victories like this are all pitstops on the road to greatness. It’s almost inevitable, after all, that young fighters on the way up will encounter plenty of rivals going in the opposite direction. And each of Gamboa, Linares, Lomachenko and Prograis had more than enough left to be regarded as premier opponents at the time.

The good news is that there are plenty of potential rivals with similar designs on greatness showing similar signs that they might achieve it. Boxers such as Shakur Stevenson, Gervonta Davis, Teofimo Lopez and Ryan Garcia are all obvious and lucrative opponents. We must be realistic, not every fight will be a can’t-miss affair, but the key for these boxers, to heighten both their ability and popularity, is activity and in Subriel Matias, Richardson Hitchins, Arnold Barboza, Jack Catterall, William Zepeda, Frank Martin and Gary Antuanne Russell, there’s an abundance of options to fill any gaps in the schedule. And that’s before we consider the welterweight pack.

As previous eras have shown us, there’s plenty of room for more than one to emerge as a legend of their time but, crucially, greatness is only achieved by those who dare to reach for it. Sugar Ray Leonard, arguably the sweetest of all scientists, would have been nothing without Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler. For Haney and co, the time to aim high is now.

CONGRATULATIONS to Ricky Hatton, Jane Couch, Michael Moorer, Ivan Calderon and Ana Maria Torres for being named in the International Boxing Hall of Fame Class of 2024. Other new inductees include Diego Corrales (posthumously), trainer Kenny Adams, manager Jackie Kallen, publicist Fred Sternburg, journalist Wallace Matthews and broadcaster Nick Charles.

Hatton, who remains a national treasure here in Britain, carved a career from being a humble hero to the everyman, one who seemed to carry the thoughts and dreams of his fans in every punch he threw. His greatest victories, over the likes of Kostya Tszyu and Jose Luis Castillo, were unforgettable occasions and even his defeats to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are remembered as much for the army of fans who followed him to Las Vegas as they are for what happened in the ring.

Couch arguably made an even bigger impact in her code. We should never forget what she went through to fight for the rights of women in boxing. A lot of female fighters, particularly in the UK and Ireland, still owe her an awful lot.

Well done to all of the inductees for receiving the highest of honours. Your job here is done.