LAS VEGAS — Devin Haney’s hand was raised for the 30th time in 30 fights, but the usual cheers were replaced by boos from many of the 14,436 people on hand Saturday at the sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena.
After all, Vasiliy Lomachenko delivered the more eye-catching combinations, particularly late in the fight, leaving an impression with the fans that he had wrested the undisputed lightweight championship from Haney. But it was Haney (30-0, 15 KOs) who deserved the nod on the strength of his precise body punching and the right hands that left Lomachenko’s flank red.
“The people can say what they want to say; the judges had a unanimous decision,” Haney said. “That’s all that matters is the judges. Each judge was on the same page.”
Indeed, Haney turned back the challenge of Lomachenko in the toughest fight of his career via scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 115-113. The 24-year-old boxer did so by staving off Lomachenko’s late push to win the final round on all three scorecards, the difference between a win and a draw.
And when 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 a digging right hand to the body time and again.
“The body work won me the fight, so I knew I had to invest in that body,” said Haney, ESPN’s No. 10 pound-for-pound boxer. “We watched a lot of tape on Loma; he wasn’t the biggest fan of body shots, so we stuck to the game plan, breaking him down.
“He would have some good moments during the round, but he wasn’t finishing the whole round strong because we invested in the body.”
Haney didn’t show much interest in a rematch after the fight, saying he proved against a future Hall of Famer that he is the top guy at 135 pounds. Haney said he could fight at 140 pounds and see how he feels before he makes a decision on his four 135-pound titles, but he also could be done at lightweight for good.
“No weight cut for me at 135 is easy; it takes a lot of discipline,” Haney said. “I’m huge for the weight. I’ve been at 135 since I was 16 years old.”
Haney, who has never signed a long-term promotional contract, is once again a free agent, giving him the flexibility he craves. If he chooses to remain with Top Rank, he could eye the winner of the June 10 junior welterweight title bout between Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez Jr. If not, a fight against Shakur Stevenson — who confronted Haney in the ring and said Lomachenko deserved the nod over Haney — could be of massive interest.
The biggest fight available to Haney is Gervonta Davis, who is aligned with PBC. Haney, with his former promoter, Eddie Hearn, also could seek fights at 140 with Regis Prograis and Jack Catterall, who are aligned with Matchroom.
Haney shouldn’t have to prove himself at this point. But doubters remain after the way Lomachenko performed at 35 years old — following a disappointing performance against long-odds underdog Jamaine Ortiz — and especially with Lomachenko busting up Haney down the stretch with flashy flurries.
Even if Lomachenko didn’t realize his dream of becoming undisputed champion, he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is still one of the best fighters in the world. Whom he fights next is unclear right now, but whether it’s Stevenson, Davis or any other top lightweight, Lomachenko would clearly threaten to win any of those matchups.
Lomachenko nearly beat Lopez with a torn rotator cuff but said heading into the Haney fight that he was fully healthy. A Lomachenko at 100 percent is dangerous for anyone. Top Rank promotes both Stevenson and Lomachenko, making it a natural fit if neither lands Haney next.
Lomachenko, the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine, leaves Haney’s hometown the sentimental favorite and with a new lease on his career. But it is Haney who leaves with the titles following a victory he undoubtedly deserved on his way to greater heights.
“One star has set, and one star has risen,” said Haney’s father and trainer, Bill Haney. “I’m happy to say that the king of boxing is Devin Haney. In the words of Teddy Atlas, who told Timothy Bradley one time, ‘You have to be a fireman; you have to go through the fire,’ and that’s what Devin did.”