LAS VEGAS — Devin Haney was on his way to a one-sided, perhaps star-making performance when Jorge Linares reminded him why he was a three-division world champion.
Linares hurt Haney badly at the end of the 10th round, and Haney wobbled to the corner. Linares pounded him in the 11th as Haney came out with unsteady legs, and then landed some good shots in the 12th.
But Haney had done enough early to build up the lead and win a unanimous decision in their bout for the WBC lightweight title Saturday at Mandalay Bay. Judges Steve Weisfeld and Patricia Morse-Jarman had it 116-112 for Haney. Dave Moretti favored Haney 115-113. Yahoo Sports had it 115-113 for Haney.
It was a brilliant performance most of the way for Haney, who had stood in the pocket and repeatedly beat Linares to the punch. Linares’ left eye was swollen early in the fight and he was taking considerable punishment from the fast-handed Haney.
At the end of the 10th, perhaps knowing his chances were wilting away, Linares picked up the pace. He caught Haney with a hook and then a multi-punch combination just before the bell. Haney stumbled to his corner and did well not to go down.
Linares was in command for the 11th and most of the 12th. Haney finally appeared to get his legs underneath him in the 12th and battled well with Linares, his toughest career test, the rest of the way.
He’s one of the four elite lightweights, but he’s faced the lightest opposition. The bout with Linares was made to give him that high-profile, respected opponent.
Linares has won titles at featherweight, super featherweight and lightweight and is a smart, technically savvy fighter who still has good hand speed.
But Haney’s hand speed is otherworldly and he was standing in front of Linares repeatedly beating him to the punch.
Champions like Linares don’t go down easily and he managed to hang in and turn the tide late, changing what was looking like a rout into a compelling battle.
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