2021 Northern California Boxer of the Year: Devin Haney
In a year in which most of Northern California’s fighters took a step backward in terms of success in professional boxing, Haney had his best year as a pro defeating two worthy adversaries in former world champions, Jorge Linares and Joseph Diaz Jr.
Haney is now a legitimate top-5 lightweight in the world holding a form of the WBC lightweight belt, and proving he is a world-class talent, because fighters who are not that, don’t beat Joseph Diaz Jr. The addition of Ben Davison also has appeared crucial as in the Diaz fight, Haney appeared to use more angles than prior fights and worked both high and low against Diaz with the right hand to the body being the money punch. The reason I credit Davison with this, is Davison is the new variable to the team dynamic, though this movement and punch placement could have been brought out by a higher tier of fighter.
Haney began his 2021 with his toughest test of his career against Jorge Linares, a four-time, three-division world champion who despite being 36-years-old, is a fearsome puncher, and a very talented boxer. Haney outboxed the man who will one day be on hall-of-fame ballot, Linares, and overcame adversity as well, as he had to recover from a big right-hand Linares landed late in the fight that seemed to buzz him at the end of the round.
Haney’s second fight was against the WBC interim lightweight world champion, Joseph Diaz Jr., who defeated Javier Fortuna in a bout that was originally intended for Ryan Garcia. Haney in this fight didn’t have to worry as much about the power, as Diaz had started at lower weights, but had to deal with educated pressure, that Haney managed very well for a very young fighter at this point his career.
Haney stood out far-and-away as the best fighter in Northern California based on his wins, and the Oakland, California, native will look to go into 2022 with a case to be made to be Boxer of the Year, if he can win all the belts at lightweight, which I think is his plan.
The only criticism is Haney at the highest level is not seeming to be able to generate a ton of power on his shots against the truly elite fighters of the division which will seemingly always be a deterrent for some fight fans, who are coming just to see brutality, knocks fight that bill.
Marcos Hernandez – Despite losing in the co-main event on Canelo vs. Caleb Plant to former world champion Anthony Dirrell, one weight class above his ideal weight, taking the bout at 168 lbs, Hernandez still outshined most, as the rest of Northern California boxing had a rough year.
Hernandez of Fresno, California, has been a battle-tested veteran, who picked up a massive upset win over Jose Resindez, who was being fast-tracked into big money fights. Hernandez dropped Resendiz en route to a wide points decision over him. Hernandez started the year off with a draw against Brandyn Lynch in a fight many on press row scored for Hernandez as well. This fight in January was only a month after a loss to Alantez Fox.
Despite being 1-1-1 in 2021, Hernandez regain a lot of momentum in 2021, and should be in the mix for many fighters in 2022.
Manuel Jaimes – Jaimes started the year off with a draw in Mexico in a fight that seemed to have many different issues, then had trouble getting back into to the ring with two postponed bouts, only to stop former world title challenger Moises Flores quickly in his homecoming in Stockton, California on December 4th. Jaimes holds the WBC lightweight youth title, and should be competing against world-class guys late next year and early 2023. An emerging Northern California star.