Devin Haney overcomes late adversity to outpoint Jorge Linares

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Devin Haney looked like a great-fighter-in-the-making for nine-plus rounds of his unanimous-decision victory over Jorge Linares on Saturday in Las Vegas. The last few rounds? He looked more like a survivor.

Haney, who holds the WBC’s secondary lightweight title, dominated his veteran opponent with his complete skill set from the opening bell. He kept his sharp jab in Linares face and body, landed power shots consistently and was an elusive target.

Most important, he simply outworked Linares. The Venezuelan, a former three-division titleholder, maintained an aggressive posture but simply didn’t throw or land as many punches as Haney did.

And then, in the closing seconds of Round 10, Linares landed the biggest shot of the fight, a right hand that rocked Haney and sent him wobbling to his corner. It took him time to recover. He held most of Round 11, which made it difficult for Linares to finish him off, until he finally got his wits about him.

Haney, apparently still wary of Linares’ power, also held much of an uneventful Round 12.

The official scores were 116-112, 116-112 and 115-113. Boxing Junkie scored it 117-110 for Haney.

Haney’s willingness to trade punches with Linares (47-6, 29 KOs) for the first three quarters of the fight was surprising given his stick-and-move tactics of the past. He said that tactic was part of making a statement.

“That’s what the fans wanted to see, if I could go in there and walk my opponent down,” he said. “I hit him with some big shots. I showed I could do it all, I could box and I could bang. He hit me with a good shot. I faced aversity and I got the job done.”

Haney (26-0, 15 KOs) was asked how he felt when he walked unsteadily to his corner.

“It was a good shot. I was never hurt,” he said. “But at the end of day. I’m going to go in there, I’m going to box smart. I was never hurt. But I still continued to box smart.”

He was pressed further on the point and seemed to get annoyed.

“This is boxing,” he said. “You’re going to get hit with big shots. It’s about continuing to box smart. At the end of the day I didn’t get dropped, I didn’t’ get hurt. We saw other fighters in the lightweight division get dropped and the world praised them. I get hit with a big shot and they act like it was something. It was nothing.”

It should get more challenging for Haney going forward. The fight fans are talking about now is Haney vs. undisputed 135-pound champion Teofimo Lopez, who faces capable George Kambosos Jr. on June 19.

If Lopez wins, Haney would welcome that fight.

“Of course, I want to make the biggest fights out there,” he said. “… I stayed focus on Jorge Linares. I knew that he was tough competitor, I focused on my game plan and went in there and I got the job done. If Teofimo wants to get in next, let’s do it for all the belts, for the real undisputed.”

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