Tonight, boxing fans are in for a treat when lineal champ Devin Haney faces Vasiliy Lomachenko in a battle of craft and skills. Highly skilled matchups like this one don’t come around all that often, so it will be very interesting to see how this one plays out in the ring. The fight will be on ESPN+ PPV. There are a few bouts worth mentioning on the undercard, along with the ESPN/ESPN+ televised portion, which I’ll save for the end.
Having turned professional at an older age combined with a deep amateur record, Vasiliy hit the ground running, giving him an advantage over Devin Haney in the championship-level experience category. Haney, on the other hand, got into the pro ranks very young and was rightfully moved at a much different pace. But now, having faced adverse moments against Jorge Linares and Joseph Diaz Jr, as well as 24 solid rounds on the road with George Kambosos, Devin is ready for this challenge.
Let’s get right into the several questions and keys for both men on fight night. Can Lomachenko get past Devin Haney’s jab and length in general? Can Haney land successfully throughout the rounds with something other than a jab? Will Lomachenko get off to a faster start than usual? Can Haney deal with the angles and overall craftiness of Loma in the clinch? The clinch is a good place to start, and it will probably tell us a lot about the outcome of tonight’s contest.
If Loma can bypass Haney’s jab, his footwork, and angles as the aggressor could give Devin issues. Punching with a free hand in tight quarters is Lomachenko’s go-to move and could pay dividends in many ways. By scoring short quick punches and frustrating Haney could make him lose focus. Haney has talked about Lomachenko being a dirty fighter which I totally disagree with, but he could be sending a message to the ref. Haney’s biggest weakness outside of maybe punching power appears to be inside fighting. Even when Devin holds, he puts himself in bad positions that could cost him dearly. Holding or just shelling up is Devin’s flaw inside Lomachenko excels at hitting on the break and/or getting a hand free to punch, which will compound Haney’s issues. Addressing slow starts, having a feel-out round is perfectly okay as long as it doesn’t bleed into 3 or 4 rounds as it did for Loma against Teofimo Lopez.
On the Devin Haney side of things throwing a jab is a must, no secret there. Haney will have to keep the action in the middle of the ring and, at times, push Loma back by jabbing to the stomach and pressing forward to an extent of course. If he does use movement and/or pivot on the outside, Haney can’t spend a bunch of time on the ropes. Having outside foot placement is another key, especially when facing a southpaw. Vasiliy is not a conventional boxer, as we know. That said, he does have a bad habit of making mistakes on his back foot, at times lacking some basic foot position fundamentals while moving on the outside. A meaningful jab and landing short shots at close range will force Loma to reset and think twice on the way in.
Haney has fairly good defense, but at this point, he hasn’t shown elite-level instincts. Linares had Haney hurt, and Devin’s main strategy was to hold. And we’re not talking about the smart kind of holding to the contrary, he spent way too many minutes of more than one round just looking to hold. Reaching out irresponsibly, creating holes that a keen fighter in Loma will sniff out. Another item of concern is how Haney has been open to left hands. Not just that, but getting hit in a short amount of time with the same or very similar punch repeatedly, again, Loma will feast if given the opportunity.
To his credit, Haney did react differently when Diaz buzzed him, so let’s see if that carries over versus the Ukrainian native. Instead of shelling up when Loma is rapid-fire short punching, Haney needs to clinch and turn him or try to use an exit strategy instead of being trapped on the ropes. (By the way, the best breakdown of this fight I’ve seen comes via @boxinggems YouTube channel, so subscribe) If this undisputed title fight is fought mostly in the trenches and/or Loma is able to put Haney on his back foot Vasiliy will win. If Haney can make slight improvements in those same trenches and, at times, push Loma back along with a variation of punches set up by his jab, Devin will win.
Age has to be brought up, and Loma didn’t look all that great in his last outing against Jamaine Ortiz. Getting hit more than he probably should’ve, not taking anything away from Ortiz. Loma is a better counterpuncher than Haney, but his defense involves footwork rather than upper-body head defense. Also, everyone is talking about Devin’s jab but beyond the early rounds, the southpaw Joseph Diaz Jr. was able to take Haney’s jab from him, even out-landing him in the department. This boxing junkie thinks will see a smart and efficient game plan from Devin Haney enough to get his hand raised. Don’t get me wrong, Lomachenko is a live dog ranging from +200 all the way up to +230 and is more than worth a bet. All and all, Haney/Loma will be what this boxing podcaster likes to call a “skill-fest.” I don’t see a 10-2 route coming from either man. To be honest, Haney via 7-5 or 8-4 seems more realistic. (9-3 Max)
My Official Prediction is Devin Haney by Majority-Decision.
Side Note: Oscar Valdez returns in what should be an all-action rematch versus Adam Lopez. Junto Nakatani will take care of business in his fight with Andrew Moloney. The fight that really piques my interest on the undercard is Muratalla vs. Nakathila. Muratalla overcame early adversity in his last outing and in tough in a quick turnaround bout versus a hard-nosed puncher in Nakathila.
Written by Chris Carlson, Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio