The Weekender

World lightweight champion Devin Haney (left) faces Vasiliy Lomachenko.

No Light Matter

In these current troubled times, when you push a Ukrainian you expect a reaction. The time may be delayed but is likely coming.

The final media staged weigh-in for tonight’s big lightweight (135lb/9st,9lbs) championship fight in Las Vegas, USA ended on a confrontational, and maybe, fight defining note.

In a Top Rank led main event The Ring magazine and current undisputed champion, American Devin ‘Dream’ Haney (29-0, 15 KO’s) will defend his titles against double Olympic champion and former three-weight professional world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KO’s). It’s an elite match up held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.  

Last night, as both were brought together for the penultimate time for the expected and traditional pre-fight face off Haney visibly exchanged loud words with his challenger. In concluding his rant, receiving no visible reaction from Lomachenko, he lunged out quickly and unexpectedly shoved ‘Loma’ off balance. All in attendance were aghast as chaos initially ensued, before some semblance of order was restored. The Ukrainian was surprised but largely unshaken. His final chilling comments on being interviewed and directed towards his opponent and media was “Now he’s mine. He is scared”.

The first may be true and the latter may be be wishful thinking, but tonight we will find out for sure.

This a quality match up and ‘pick-ems’ between the 24 year old champion and Ukrainian veteran.

‘Loma’, at 35, and in the back end of his career, is a big outsider with most pundits and observers. His boxing class though is beyond reproach.  As an amateur he compiled an impressive 396-1 record with that sole loss avenged and his dominance topped by Olympic glory (Beijing 2008 and London 2012). He then achieved his world titles as a professional in record time, even after suffering his first defeat in only his second paid contest. A world title challenge to Orlando Salito in March 2014.  He subsequently held world titles from featherweight (126lbs/9st) to lightweight and is currently ranked #7 pound-for-pound by The Ring, having been inside their top ten for 361 weeks and their former #1.

Haney, from San Francisco, is yet to feature in their pound-for-pound listing but has done all expected of him as a professional after an impressive amateur career. Each test, he’s stepped up and achieved. This was emphasised by capturing two victories against former undisputed champion, George Kambosos Jr., both of them in the Australian’s backyard.

Haney is a slick boxer, very much in the Floyd Mayweather Jr. mode, and will attempt to outbox his foe.  Lomachenko, a southpaw, won’t be found wanting in that department and the acclaimed ‘Matrix’ will see this as his final chance to regain his former undisputed title. Loma held all the belts back in 2018 and was voted The Ring’s Fighter of the Year before being spectacularly dethroned by Teofimo Lopez in New York during ‘COVID lockdown’ in October 2020.  

This is very much an emotional return for Lomachenko with his country still at war and having taken time out to defend his family and country from Russian aggression.

The height differential is only officially an inch (Loma at 5’7” and Haney 5’8”) but it appeared more pronounced in this week’s face-offs. Haney is clearly the man with the bigger frame but Lomachenko will attempt to negate this with his technique and aggressive sorties.

The American claims he first called out Lomachenko four years ago and has been denied until now the opportunity to defeat him. It is true to say that Loma had ‘bigger fish to fry’ at the time as he cemented a fistic legacy but now the timing seems right.

In many ways this is an opportunity for Loma’s ‘last hurrah’ as he attempts to turn back the clock. Some legends of the ring have achieved this in past (e.g. Robinson, Ali, Duran, Leonard) and he will attempt to do so again. The odds are against him being successful, but we see him prevailing in a split decision points victory. Then the career will be almost complete and the Ukrainian enter boxing folklore. Haney is young and skilled enough to come again.

The contest is headline promoted by Top Rank and will be available live on ESPN+ pay-per-view in the USA and Sky Sports in the UK.

Last month, Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis (29-0, 27 KO’s) excelled against Ryan Garcia (23-1, 19 KO’s) in a catchweight contest and earlier two-weight ‘world’ champion Shakur Stevenson impressively entered the lightweight party.

Tonight’s Las Vegas card also features a ten round junior-lightweight contest between Oscar Valdez (30-1, 23 KO’s) and Adam Lopez (16-4, 6 KO’s) in a rematch of their 2019 fight won by Valdez.

Also featured is another ten rounder between Raymond Muratella (17-0, 14 KO’s) and Namibia’s Jeremia Nakatila (23-2, 19 KO’s) also at lightweight.

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