Sound For Sound is a recurring column that further explores the relationship of rhythm and boxing by celebrating the music that influences and motivates fighters as they prepare for, and to excel under, the game’s brightest of lights
Undefeated rising Lightweight contender Devin Haney faces Antonio Moran Saturday night in Oxon Hill, Maryland at MGM National Harbor in his first bout as part of Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA
Back in 1989 watching and listening to Edward Archer, at the time, it was easy to overlook the fact, this new arrival to the hip hop world known as Special Ed, was really just a 16- or 17-year old kid from Brooklyn.
I want to be a multi-weight champion and I want to rule the sport as a pound-for-pound star. – Devin Haney
Focusing on his age seemed pointless when after a few bars into the opening verse of his debut single “I Got It Made”, he forewarned listeners, “I’m kinda young–but my tongue speaks maturity/ I’m not a child, I don’t need nothing for security…” So enthralled with the youngster’s vocabulary, flow and lyrical content this writer even skipped past there being any real deep meaning behind the album’s title The Youngest In Charge.
Without getting bogged down in a discussion of whether or not Special Ed was the first teenage rapper to do fill-in-the-blank, the kid was never marketed as a teenage rapper like subsequent acts Kriss Kross, Da Youngstas, or Illegal. Well, maybe Illegal isn’t such a great comparison.
In 2018, 19-year old Devin “The Dream” Haney (21-0, 13 KOs) and his team launched Devin Haney Promotions (DHP), making the California fighter the youngest active fighter/promoter in boxing history. Talk about being the youngest in charge.
On Haney’s way to his debut on the DAZN app this Saturday, as the start of his partnership with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA, the Bay area native has already accomplished some other magnificent moves. In 2018 he fought in the main event of a premium cable network’s broadcast on two separate occasions. The world-ranked Lightweight currently holds both the WBC International and WBO Inter-Continental titles.
“The landscape is very interesting right now. A World title is very important to me, over money and anything else, being World champion is the ultimate goal. To be a World ruler at 20 would be history, the youngest in the game. My ring IQ at my age is crazy, I’m able to adapt and adjust, I’ve been in there with so many great fighters like Floyd Mayweather, Shawn Porter, Amir Khan, and I’m able to adjust.
On his debut single back in 1989, Special Ed’s wide-ranging litany of boasts about how he had it made – all before legally being an adult – was dope. The track wasn’t some overused sample fans would easily recognize. Ed’s view of the world was fresh and he skillfully mixed in humor, cockiness, and firmness while displaying a solid grasp of the how the world actually works that was startling. But, could he do all of that to carry an entire LP?
The second single, “Think About It”, instantly drew listeners in with a subtly updated sample of Average White Bands “School Boy Crush”, famously murdered years earlier by supreme MC Rakim. Again, Ed displayed his wisdom with a number of thoughtful observations for his fans to pander. However, the third single confirmed that the young rapper was undeniably magnificent.
The parallels between boxer and artist, for this particular S4S, are that Haney’s mix of skill he displays in the ring is similar to how Special Ed continued to point out on “I’m The Magnificent” that despite his youth, he could more than hold his own in the booth – with both convincing observers of bright futures in their respective realms.
“Boxing is something that I love so it doesn’t feel like a job to me, but the job is not done, I want to be a multi-weight champion and I want to rule the sport as a pound-for-pound star. When I am the face of boxing down the line, who knows what will happen, but right now those big goals are keeping me motivated.
I’m the magnificent with the sensational style
And I can go on and on for like a mile, a minute
I get in it like a car and drive
And if the record is a smash, I can still survive
With the logo of Haney’s promotional company being visible – and front and center – during his televised fights it’s evident that the 20-year old isn’t waiting to arrive at a latter part of his career where, for whatever reason, he may need to re-invent himself á la one of his mentors Floyd Mayweather. Haney has unabashedly and publicly stated his desires, on numerous occasions, letting it be known he wants the fame and all of Money May’s trappings now.
I’m Special Ed, with the special presentation, hey
I like to play, so for me it’s recreation
It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure
If worse comes to worse, I’ve got your thirst quencher
But ya gotta buy it, don’t’ even try it
I don’t rhyme for free, no matter how dry it gets
I collect my money in sets
One before the show and again when I jet
So I get mine, and I’m a get more
‘Cause I’m financially secure and I’m sure
In addition to revealing his audacious business objectives, Haney frequently reminds fans of his commitment to putting in the prerequisite work required to hone all of the skills that are already paying some hefty bills. And, while it may seem like it’s the ‘Devin Haney Show’, similar to the way Special Ed turned hip hop on its head with help from the sounds of accomplished producer Howie Tee, the presence of father/trainer and manager William Haney represents a major boon to the family-based enterprise.
I’m the magnificent, dynamite, super dope, outta sight
Special Ed with my trusty pal
Action Love, the run we shall
Continue to win, yet this is not a game
But I’m ‘a play you if say you claim to be better
I hate rumors and I give tumors
And our jammies get Grammys
Yet I’m not an actor, it’s just a factor that we’re famous
Don’t blame us for nothin’
Action Love is cuttin’, I’m on the rhyme
Skin your teeth and it’s your beef that I’ll grind
Unfortunately, the only major significance of Saturday night’s bout versus Antonio Moran is that it marks Haney’s first fight on the DAZN app. Haney is not fighting for boxing’s version of a Grammy, a world title. As a result of the WBC announcing the winner of their 135-pound title vacated by Mikey Garcia will be decided by unified Lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and the UK’s Luke Campbell, Haney’s performance can only further solidify his Top 5 ranking in both the WBC and WBA. There is also room for improvement regarding his No. 9 and No. 6 positions held in the IBF and WBO, respectively.
“There’s nothing to stop me from getting to number one, it’s just time,” said Haney. “Timing is everything and my time is going to come. I am only 20 years old, the other Lightweights out there better catch me now because I am only going to get stronger and faster so the top guys need to fight me now.
Moran (24-3, 17 KOs) represents another stern test, and is a solid opponent for Haney’s DAZN debut. The card takes place at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, but will air live on Sky Sports in the UK. The undercard also features important members of the Matchroom Boxing roster in Heavyweights Michael Hunter and Croatian Filip Hrgovic in separate bouts, as well as a Super Lightweight unification bout between WBC champion Jessica McCaskill and WBA champion Anahi Sanchez.
Haney vs Moran was elevated to the main event after an injury postponed the Heavyweight debut of former undisputed Cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk. Otherwise, Saturday night would have ended with Usyk facing Carlos Takam.
Special Ed’s The Youngest in Charge went gold back in 1989. The follow-up a year later Legal is memorable largely because of the story telling of the James Bond/007-themed single “The Mission.” However, Ed did have to re-invent, or reintroduce, himself four years later as a member of the unicorn-like supergroup Crooklyn Dodgers. He helped destroy a Q-Tip produced track, with the help of Brooklyn standouts Buckshot and Masta Ace, to create a flawless song called “Crooklyn.” The three veteran emcees assembled for the key song on the soundtrack of Spike Lee’s 1994 film by the same name.
Tomorrow night, it’s highly unlikely Moran becomes the seminal protagonist in the beginning of a cautionary tale about upstart Haney and his once-promising DHP imprint. For both Haney and Matchroom Boxing USA, that just wouldn’t be magnificent.
PS. Salute on the 47th birthday (May 21) of the late great Christopher Wallace “Ashy to Classy”
All photos by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA