LAS VEGAS – Devin Haney’s hand was raised for the 30th time in 30 fights, but the usual cheers were replaced by the 14,436 crowd Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
After all, Vasiliy Lomachenko delivered some very impressive combinations, especially late in the fight, leaving fans impressed that he took the undisputed lightweight championship away from Haney. But it was Haney (30-0, 15 KOs) who had to be shaken on the power of his body exactly punching with the right hand that left Lomachenko in the red side.
“People can say what they want to say; the jury was unanimous,” Haney said. “That’s all that matters with the judges. Every judge was on the same page.”
Indeed, Haney turned back Lomachenko’s challenge in the toughest fight of his career by scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 115-113. The 24-year-old boxer did it by holding off a late push from Lomachenko to win the final on all three cards, the difference between a win and a draw.
And while Lomachenko (17-3, 11 KOs) was able to close the distance early in the fight, Haney was there to push him back with an excellent jab and occasional right hand digs to the body.
“The body work won me the fight, so I knew I had to invest in it,” said Haney, ESPN’s No. 1 boxer. 10 pound-for-pound. “We watched many tapes of Loma; He wasn’t a big fan of body shots, so we stuck to the game plan, breaking him down.
“They have good moments during the rounds, but they don’t finish rounds strong because we invested in the body.”
Haney showed no interest in revenge after the fight, saying that he proved against the future Hall of Famer that he is the biggest man at 135 pounds. Haney said that he can fight at 140 pounds and see how he feels before making a decision on his four 135-pound titles, and can be done lightly for good.
“No weight for me at 135 is easy; it takes a lot of discipline,” Haney said. “I’m big for weight. I’ve been at 135 since I was 16.”
Haney, who has not signed a long-term advertising contract, is also a free agent, giving him the flexibility he craves. If he chooses to retain Top Rank, he could look to the winner of the June 10 junior welterweight title between Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez Jr. a swing at Haney – would be a lot of fun.
The biggest fight that Haney has is with Gervonta Davis, who is affiliated with the PBC, and with his former assistant, Eddie Hearn, Haney can look for a fight at 140 with Regis Prograis and Jack Catterall.
Haney doesn’t have to reveal himself at this point. But skeptics would have remained of Lomachenko’s performance at 35 years old – following a crushing defeat of Jamaine Ortiz – especially as Lomachenko blasted Haney to the ground with impressive shots.
Although Lomachenko never realized his dream of becoming the undisputed champion, he proved beyond doubt that he is still one of the best fighters in the world. Who he fights next is unknown at this point, but whether it’s Stevenson, Davis or any other lightweight, Lomachenko can threaten to win any contest.
Lomachenko almost hit Lopez with a torn collarbone but said he was healthy in the Haney fight. Lomachenko is 100 percent dangerous to anyone. The Top Rank promotes both Stevenson and Lomachenko, making it a natural fit if there isn’t a position Haney follows.
Lomachenko, a two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine, leaves Haney’s hometown a favorite and a new lease on life for his career. But it’s Haney who walks away with the titles following a well-deserved victory on his way to the top.
“One star has been, and one star has risen,” said Haney’s father and coach, Bill Haney. “I’m happy to say that the king of boxing is Devin Haney. In the words of Teddy Atlas, who once told Timothy Bradley, ‘You’ve got to be a firefighter; you’ve got to go through the fire,’ and that’s what Devin did.”