JOSH TAYLOR is backing Devin Haney to retain the WBC super-lightweight title on Saturday night (April 20) against Ryan Garcia but is refusing to entertain any thought of a possible fight against the American in the future.

There is good reason for that, however. Having become undisputed super-lightweight champion after beating Jose Carlos Ramirez in May 2021 Taylor was tasked with defending all four belts against Jack Catterall nine months later in Glasgow. But having conquered the 10-stone division the Scot was looking ahead to a move up to 147lbs and taking on the elite at welterweight.

Taking his eye off the ball almost cost him everything he worked for. Taylor walked out of the SSE Hydro after his fight against Catterall still undisputed but by a razor thin margin and a contentious result which has led to Taylor and Catterall going at it again on May 25 at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.

The 33-year-old had just enjoyed a good dinner after another day’s training for his upcoming rematch when Boxing News spoke to him on Thursday when he explained why any idea of a fight against Haney or Garcia is of no interest to him right now.

“I was thinking like that the last time [I fought Catterall],” he said.

“Thinking of moving up to 147 and going to challenge the likes of “Bud” Crawford, Errol Spence, Yordenis Ugas and becoming a two-weight world champion. I got carried away. I won’t make that mistake again. Obviously, you do think about these things and what can happen after a fight. When I win, when I beat Jack, I would love to revisit the Teofimo [Lopez] fight and fight guys like Haney and Garcia. It’s a hot division right now. A win for me on May 25 only means big fights. The future’s bright when I win this fight.”

Haney and Garcia don’t have long to wait to settle their own rivalry. When they enter the ring inside the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn on Saturday night (April 20) it will be the culmination of a build-up which, at times, has had to be seen to be believed. Social media insults, bizarre posts from Garcia and a couple of shoves in person have all either added to the interest or made your skin crawl depending on how you view it.

Thankfully there is still a boxing match to be had. Haney, the former undisputed lightweight champ, ripped up the reputation of Regis Prograis during their bout in December. The 13-month reign of “Rougarou” as WBC super-lightweight champion ended when Haney proved there is a difference between good and great after delivering a shut-out win over his opponent in San Francisco.

“I can’t see past Devin Haney,” Taylor said of the champion’s first defence against Garcia.

“I think he’s got the better boxing brain and IQ. He looks absolutely solid since he’s moved up to 140 as well. He looks like he’s beefed up quite a bit. He looks really strong and filled into the weight really quickly. He is just as quick as Garcia, maybe he doesn’t have that flash quick left hook, but his hand speed is quick as well. I think he’s got the all-round better package. I can’t see past Devin Haney winning this fight.”

Haney and Garcia at The Empire State Building on April 16. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Empire State Realty Trust)

Talking to some industry experts the chances of Garcia winning have been whittled down to a puncher’s chance. The bookmakers have Haney as a huge odds-on favourite at 1/8 with Garcia at 5/1. BN asked Taylor if he thought the same as others and if Garcia has more than just a cliché for his hopes of winning.

“Well, everyone’s got a puncher’s chance,” he answered.

“Garcia is quite quick, and you don’t dismantle and knock out Luke Campbell with relative ease if you’re not good. He is a good fighter, but I just don’t think he’s as good as Devin Haney or as complete a fighter. Devin’s got more to his game. More repertoire, more boxing brain, more variety. I think Devin Haney’s the more complete fighter.”

The underdog has turned into something of an anomaly within the sport. It has been over three years since Garcia triumphed against Luke Campbell in what was an acid test for the 21st fight of his career. As the clock counts down to his bout against Haney the seventh-round stoppage win against Campbell remains the biggest scalp Garcia has taken.

Almost one year ago to the day Garcia came up short against Gervonta “Tank” Davis in a 21st century super-fight which did its job of crossing over into the mainstream and considerably fattened up their bank balances. But competition comes down to winning and losing and unless you are a Joe Frazier, or a Thomas Hearns history doesn’t often remember those who didn’t get the job done.

The seventh-round stoppage win for Davis raised questions over Garcia’s heart and whether or not he can compete against today’s greats like Davis or now Haney. So, how has Garcia managed to land another huge fight and another huge pay day? Well, 20 million followers across three social media platforms may have something do with it. Is Garcia getting another opportunity of this magnitude because of his popularity or because of his abilities as a fighter?

“I think it’s a bit of both,” Taylor commented.

“He is a talented fighter, but I do think because he is that popular, he is getting these fights. It’s a mixture of both for me. He is talented, he’s got that speed, he’s got that sharpness, but his boxing side of things isn’t the best, but he is hugely popular on social media. I think all that stuff has went to his head a little bit hence what he’s been saying and the crazy outbursts he’s been doing. As long as he’s in that gym concentrating on the main thing that’s all that matters.”

“I think his popularity has landed him these fights,” he added. “I don’t think he’s merited these fights. He’s not really fought anyone of note. Obviously, his best win is Luke Campbell and [it was] a great win. Luke was a great fighter himself, but I believe Luke was a little bit older and coming to the end of his career. I think it’s a bit of both. He is talented but because of his popularity he is getting these opportunities as well.”