Devin Haney retains WBC lightweight title with stylish points win over Joseph Diaz

Devin ‘The Dream’ Haney retained his WBC world lightweight title and set up a potential undisputed lightweight world championship match with George Kambosos Jr. by outpointing Joseph ‘Jo Jo’ Diaz in Las Vegas.

IN THE RED CORNER – DEVIN HANEY

Haney came into this bout holding the only world title not owned by Kambosos and ranked #4 in the lightweight division by Ring Magazine.

Holding a career record of 26-0 (15KO), Haney won the vacant WBC interim championship in 2019 when he forced undefeated Russian opponent Zaur Abdullaev to retire on his stool after four rounds. A month later, the WBC upgraded Haney from interim to full champion status before a successful defense against Alfredo Santiago via unanimous decision.

Two wins over quality opponents followed ahead of this fight, with Haney outpointing Yuriorkis Gamboa and Jorge Linares, both by unanimous decision.

IN THE BLUE CORNER – JOSEPH DIAZ

Former IBF junior lightweight world champion Diaz entered this bout having proven himself against top level opposition time and again. After beginning his career with 26 straight wins, Diaz suffered his first career defeat when he was beaten by Gary Russell Jr. by unanimous decision when challenging for the WBC world featherweight title.

Diaz responded with four straight wins to set up the biggest night of his career to date, a win over Tevin Farmer to claim the IBF junior lightweight world title. Diaz dropped the title in unceremonious fashion, being stripped of the belt after failing to make weight for his first defense, a majority draw against Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov.

Last time out, Diaz beat Javier Fortuna by unanimous decision to run his career record to 32-1-1 (15KO) and move up to #6 in the Ring Magazine lightweight list.

IT’S SHOWTIME

It was a cagey start to the fight, with both men circling the ring before Haney landed with two jabs for the first scoring blows of the fight. Haney tried to find his range with one-two combinations, while Diaz threw a right hook, only to miss and receive a solid right hand to the body from Haney.

The defending champion continued to throw and land right hands in what was a dominant opening round for Haney.

Diaz opened round two with a higher offensive output before Haney settled into the round and landed several stiff right hands. Diaz threw a left-handed body shot that backed Haney onto the ropes before the champion fought his way back to center ring, only to end up in a clinch where Diaz landed several body blows.

The challenger landed two jabs and a left hand to the body while closing out a strong round that looked to have levelled the fight on the scorecards going into round three.

Haney started the third round on the front foot, displaying good footwork and finding the target with several strong right-handed punches. Haney switched levels, bending his knees to aim punches at the body and head before Diaz grabbed on for a clinch. Both men were separated by referee Russell Mora before finding themselves in a clinch again soon after and Mora broke them up as Diaz attempted to rough up Haney on the inside.

A stiff punch in the latter stages of round three caught Diaz off balance and saw him backpedal into the ropes before the bell rang and both men returned to their corners.

Haney opened round four by sizing up Diaz for a straight right-handed shot before Diaz landed a strong left-handed body blow and wrestled Haney to the ground in a scuffle against the ropes. Referee Mora ruled no knockdown and the fight continued with Diaz landing a stiff left hand to the jaw and stinging Haney with yet another left hand soon after.

Diaz spent the remainder of the round on the front foot while Haney picked his shots well on the counterattack and had angry words for the challenger as the round ended.

The challenger Diaz continued to have success with body shots in round five, rocking Haney against the ropes with a left-handed liver punch. Haney responded by adopting a low guard to draw out Diaz and firing strong, powerful shots as the round progressed.

Haney split the guard of Diaz with a right-handed uppercut before Diaz stepped forward and backed the champion onto the ropes, peppering Haney with punches before Haney escaped with quick footwork.

Diaz went high and low with right-handed punches to open round six, before Haney responded with two body blows. Diaz continued to close the distance and throw punches, but it was Haney who landed the first significant punch of the round when he wound up a thudding left hand to the body.

The pressure from Diaz did not stop, but Haney found his range well and peppered the challenger with heavy counter shots. Diaz walked Haney into a corner in the final minute of the round, but more good footwork from the champion saw him spin out and continue to circle the ring while finding spots to land counter punches.

For the first half of round seven, Haney was in the ascendance as he picked his spots to successfully fire off a range of punches. In the second half of the round, Diaz came to life and landed three heavy left hands to keep the fight in the balance and rouse the heavily pro-Diaz crowd. Haney edged the round due to a higher volume of punches, but Diaz would not go away and continued to land heavy shots.

Round eight opened with a clinch in the first minute, with referee Mora stepping in to separate the pair as Diaz landed multiple body blows while in close. Haney pawed out a jab before sinking in a heavy right hand to the body and scoring with a one-two combination as Diaz relentlessly walked forward.

Haney circled left and right on the balls of his feet, maintaining himself as a moving target for the advancing Diaz and consistently landing quality punches as the challenger advanced looking to land powerful shots.

Diaz was first out of the gate in round nine, firing off a one-two combination before Haney was warned by referee Mora for a low blow. The resilient Diaz seemed happy to eat one shot in order to land two of his own and closed the distance on Haney for most of the round.

Haney was boxing well off the back foot and continued to land a high percentage of counter punches in a well-balanced fight so far. Statistics from DAZN reported that defending champion Haney had landed 120 of 432 punches through round nine, while challenger Diaz had found the mark with 103 of 423.

In the corner of Diaz, father and trainer Joseph Diaz Sr. calmly instructed his son to continue throwing regular jabs, especially when Haney was on the ropes to lessen the threat of counter punches from the champion.

The words of Diaz Sr. were not heeded in the opening 30 seconds of round 10, as Haney threw out the higher number of shots before Diaz found the target with a strong left hook. The pressure from Diaz was never ending, but Haney landed a stinging left-handed body shot in the final seconds of the round to slow the challenger. Reporting ringside for DAZN, lightweight kingpin Kambosos reported a 97-93 lead for Haney on his unofficial scorecard.

Haney split the guard of Diaz with a right-handed uppercut while backed into the corner, before following it up with a series of stinging counter shots on the ever-advancing Diaz. Haney continued to land stinging counter shots throughout the round but could not slow the advancing Diaz who walked into a close quarters exchange at the bell.

Knowing he was likely behind on the scorecards, Diaz came out strong for the final round, landing a series of hooks to the body before sinking a powerful shot into the ribs of the defending champion. Diaz applied pressure in search of the knockout, but Haney managed to slow the challenger with some stiff counter shots.

Haney finished the fight on the front foot before the final bell rang and both fighters climbed the ropes and gestured to the crowd believing they had done enough to win the contest. The final statistics shown by DAZN reported Haney to have landed 164 of 614 punches, while challenger Diaz had found the target with 140 of 573.

The final scores were read out by David Diamante and all three judges awarded the bout to Haney by scores of 117-111, 117-111 and 116-112.

WHAT THEY SAID

Having successfully defended his WBC crown, Haney was full of praise for tough challenger Diaz. “I knew I was fighting a tough competitor, Jojo Diaz makes it hard for everybody he’s been in the ring with. He only had one loss, he had a lot of experience, I went in there and I got the job done,” said Haney.

“The game plan was to keep him at bay, with my jab and my probes, with my combinations off of it and that’s what I did,” continued the world champion. Haney then praised the spirit and aggression of Diaz, who made the fight difficult in every round, “he’s a true champion, he went in there and he gave me a good fight.”

Beaten but not bowed, Diaz thanked the fans for attending and then observed that “I thought it was a closer fight than what it was (on the scorecards), I thought I was dictating the pace and had some good body shots, but it is what it is. I’m just gonna go back to the drawing board and get stronger. This is what I do, I want to challenge the best and if I end up coming short, I’m just gonna progress and get better.”

“I was trying to find my distance and my timing because I knew that he was opening up when he was exchanging with his right hand, so I was trying to time him with my good uppercut to the body,” continued Diaz. “I landed it several times and then I tried to get it in, but he’s a smart fighter, he would go in the clinch, let us get out again and then use his distance, use his range so he had a good gameplan.”

WHAT NEXT FOR THE WINNER

“Come on Kambosos, let’s do it for all the belts. The real undisputed, let’s do it next.” Haney was clear and targeted post fight, making it more than clear that an undisputed clash with Kambosos is what he wants next.

When DAZN commentator Chris Mannix said Haney may have to go to Australia for what would be an excellent fight, the WBC champion replied adamantly that “I’ll go to Jupiter if I got to.” Having called out Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez after previous wins, Haney has consistently shown a desire to fight the best possible opposition.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE LOSER

“I feel like I belong in there with the best and I’m gonna keep challenging the best until my career is over,” said Diaz after the fight. There are plenty of options in a thriving division that also features young undefeated star Ryan Garcia.

Diaz performed well in this fight, and a showdown with Garcia or the winner of the upcoming Lomachenko v Richard Commey clash would certainly be a case of challenging the best.

AUTHOR’S SCORECARD (round by round)

Han-Dia

Rd1: 10-9

Rd2: 19-19

Rd3: 29-28

Rd4: 38-38

Rd5: 47-48

Rd6: 57-57

Rd7: 67-66

Rd8: 77-75

Rd9: 86-85

Rd10: 96-94

Rd11: 106-103

Final: 115-113