Weekend Review: What statement did Devin Haney make in tight victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko?
A critical look at the past week in boxing
What are we to make of Haney’s close, but unanimous decision victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko on Saturday in Las Vegas? On one hand, he took down a still-sharp future Hall of Famer to retain his undisputed 135-pound championship. And he did it by coming through in the clutch: He won the 12th round on all three cards, which prevented a draw. It was the biggest accomplishment of the 24-year-old’s young career. He deserves credit. On the other hand, he was pushed to his limits by a 35-year-old who is naturally smaller than he is and thought to be in decline going into the fight. He landed the heavier shots in the first half only to wilt down the stretch, when Lomachenko seemed to grow stronger. The Ukrainian landed almost at will in Rounds 10 and 11, before Haney took his decisive stand. It was a good performance by Haney given the opposition but he didn’t come close to demonstrating in the fight that he’s the best lightweight, which he presumably hoped to do. It seems clear at the moment that Nos. 1 and 2 are Gervonta Davis and Shakur Stevenson, in whichever order you prefer. The good news for Haney? He’s still the champion. He has many good options going forward. And the experience gained in that fight will help grow as a fighter.
Vasiliy Lomachenko made a strong statement in defeat. Sarah Stier / Getty Images
Lomachenko failed to realize a dream of becoming an undisputed champion. And at his age one wonders whether he’ll ever get another chance. That has to be devastating for him, particularly because he obviously thought he deserved to win the decision. He made a powerful statement, though. His unanimous decision loss to Teofimo Lopez in 2020, subsequent shoulder surgery and time away from boxing to do his part in his country’s war with Russia made the aging former pound-for-pound king almost an afterthought. He demonstrated on Saturday against one of the most-gifted young fighters that he remains a threat to anyone when he’s healthy. As he put it, “I think I showed that I can be in boxing.” Indeed, if anyone hesitated to include him among the short list of elite lightweights beforehand, they can’t now. The question is: Can he get another big opportunity? It’s possible. Haney might move up to 140 pounds, which would open up his titles. Lomachenko would be among those in position to fight for a belt. And both Davis and Stevenson need high-profile opponents. If they can’t get Haney, Lomachenko would an excellent choice after his strong performance on Saturday. To be clear: Loma is back.
Shakur Stevenson is among many potential foes for Devin Haney. Steve Marcus / Getty Images
Haney said he has “accomplished everything at 135” when he was explaining why it might be the right time for him to move up to 140 pounds. Has he really accomplished everything? He will have reigned as undisputed champion, defeated George Kambosos Jr. twice and managed to get past Lomachenko, which is impressive. However, he will not have faced arguably his two biggest threats, Davis and Stevenson. If he moves up to 140 without fighting them, he will have a glaring gap in his 135-pound resume. And make no mistake: Both Davis and Stevenson would love the opportunity to fight for all four major belts. Of course, Haney would be wise to move up to 140 if making 135 has become too difficult. There are wonderful challenges waiting for him at that weight, too: the winner of the June 10 Josh Taylor-Teofimo Lopez fight, Regis Prograis, Subriel Matias, Jose Ramirez and others. Bottom line: Haney will have plenty of intriguing options regardless of what he decides to do.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Cameron’s historic majority decision victory over previously unbeaten Katie Taylor in Taylor’s homecoming Saturday in Dublin, Ireland was no fluke: She earned it. The undisputed 140-pound champion from England put pressure on the 135-pound champ from the opening bell until her hand was raised after 10 hard-fought, entertaining rounds. Cameron (18-0, 8 KOs) now arguably sits below only Claressa Shields in the pound-for-pound rankings, which is a major breakthrough for the talented 32-year-old. Taylor? First, kudos to her for taking such a difficult fight in what could’ve been a mere showcase in her first professional fight in her native country. She wanted the milestone bout to be meaningful. And there’s no shame in losing to excellent, naturally bigger opponent in an attempt to become “undisputed” in another weight class. She did a good job of timing her hard-charging opponent with quick, accurate punches only to come up just short on the cards, 96-94, 96-94 and 95-95. The setback leaves Shields alone at the top but no one is going to write off Taylor (22-1, 6 KOs). She proved she remains an elite fighter at 36. She obviously has a lot more to give.
The fact Haney received the nod over Lomachenko in a close, give-and-take fight was not out of line. I scored it 114-114 but a 115-113 score – the tally of two judges – either way would’ve been acceptable. The only problem I had with the scoring was veteran judge Dave Moretti’s card. He had it 116-112 for Haney, which I thought was too wide but not outrageous. What was baffling was the fact he gave Haney five of the final six rounds, when Lomachenko was at his best. I can’t even imagine what Moretti saw. … A new Japanese star has arrived on the scene. Junto Nakatani (25-0, 19 KOs) gave an eye-opening performance on the Haney-Lomachenko card, putting Andrew Moloney (25-3, 16 KOs) down three times and stopping him with as brutal a punch as you’ll ever see to win a vacant 115-pound title. Nakatani couldn’t have made a stronger statement. The likes of Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez and Bam Rodriguez are officially on notice. … Former two-division titleholder Oscar Valdez (31-1, 23 KOs) looked sharp in his comeback fight against capable, but light-punching Adam Lopez (16-5, 6 KOs) on the Haney-Lomachenko card, winning a wide decision to establish himself as a legitimate 135-pound contender. Valdez was coming off his worst night as a pro, a wide-decision loss to Stevenson that cost him his 130-pound belt.
Photos: Devin Haney's narrow victory over resurgent Vasiliy Lomachenko
Devin Haney survives vintage performance by Vasiliy Lomachenko to eke out victory
Watch it: Junto Nakatani's devastating one-punch knockout of Andrew Moloney
Junto Nakatani stops Andrew Moloney with epic shot in 12th to win 115-pound title
Photos: Chantelle Cameron spoils Katie Taylor's Irish homecoming
Chantelle Cameron hands Katie Taylor first defeat by majority decision
Devin Haney vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko: LIVE round-by-round updates, results, full coverage