It was too easy for WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney to evade Jorge Linares on May 29 at Michelob Ultra Arena. Too easy for him to land scoring shots. Win round after round.
Too easy that it became too hard to focus.
“I kind of fell asleep in there. And I got a little lax. … Linares hit me with a good shot, and it woke me up,” said Haney, recalling his last title defense. “He hit me right on the chin. I might have been hurt, but he didn’t put me down. He didn’t come in the next round and knock me out.
“At the end of the day, we finished the fight, we got the job done. Now we’re on to the next.”
Haney [26-0, 15 knockouts] is refocused and will return to the ring Saturday to face former two-weight world champion JoJo Diaz Jr. [32-1-1, 15 KOs] at the MGM Grand Garden in the most significant fight of Haney’s career. A win could trigger a showdown with unified lightweight champion George Kambosos Jr., who claimed the WBA, IBF, WBO and WBC franchise titles last week with a stunning upset of Teofimo Lopez.
Kambosos said he would be interested in fighting Haney for the undisputed lightweight championship and traveled to Las Vegas to watch Saturday’s fight. Other opponents such as Gervonta Davis and Vasiliy Lomachenko also intrigue Kambosos.
“We can’t look past JoJo Diaz, but we can’t help see George Kambosos in our city parading around as if he’s an undisputed champion,” said Haney’s father, trainer and manager, Bill. “We hope after this fight George Kambosos and his team are a man of their word and stick behind it, let’s make this happen.”
The fight is Haney’s first since he beat Linares, and he said he learned from his victory over the former three-weight world champion. Haney, a 23-year-old Las Vegan, boxed brilliantly through the first nine rounds, using his snapping jab and superior reach to control the pace.
But he was too aggressive toward the end of the 10th and wobbled by a two-punch combination before the bell.
Haney avoided a knockout to win a unanimous decision, but realizes it wasn’t his most impressive showing.
A better showing Saturday is crucial to securing a bout with Kambosos, whose status as unified champion allows for more autonomy and flexibility.
“If I go in there and I just beat JoJo Diaz clean, 12 rounds, win every round, then [critics are] going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, it was good, but it wasn’t good enough,’” Haney said. “I want to go in there and beat JoJo Diaz worse than he’s ever been beat. … I always want to beat my opponent the best way possible.”
That said, Haney doesn’t feel additional pressure to perform — even though the undisputed title is indirectly on the line. He’s headlining a card for the first time and relishing the opportunity.
“Devin loves boxing. He loves coming to the gym. Loves working out. Loves improving,” said one of his trainers, Ben Davison. “He’s part of the 1 percent club. Desperate for any 1 percent improvement you can make. As long as he keeps that mentality, he’ll get there.”
I am a young and vibrant sports journalist from Ghana, a member of the Sports Writers’ Association of Ghana(SWAG), and working with Sports Preview Ghana and sports reporting outfit poised to bring all the latest and trending sports news around the globe.