A young, rising star clashes with one of the greats of the previous generation on Saturday when Devin Haney defends his status as undisputed lightweight champion against former unified champion Vasiliy Lomachenko. Years in the making, the fight is a classic crossroads clash that represents different things for both men.
For Lomachenko, who has held world titles in three different weight classes since turning professional after a storied amateur career, the fight is his first — and likely only — chance to. At 35 years old and fighting two weight classes higher than what would be considered his ideal weight, the clock is ticking toward the end of his career.
Haney, meanwhile, has emerged from a chaotic lightweight mix as the man with all four world championships. However, he did so without defeating any of the men viewed as his peers at the top of the division. The fight with Lomachenko is anand continue rising up boxing’s pound-for-pound rankings.
Lomachenko has never been hesitant to seek big challenges. He fought for a world title in just his second career fight and won the WBO featherweight title in his third. After three defenses, Lomachenko moved up a division and again won gold. In that stretch, Lomachenko was not only showcasing his brilliant technical skills but also began stopping opponents, scoring eight consecutive finishes in a run that extended to his first fight at lightweight, where he stopped Jorge Linares to win the WBA world title.
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Three fights after the win over Linares, Lomachenko had added the WBO and WBC titles to his collection and took aim at becoming undisputed champion against then-IBF champion Teofimo Lopez. Lomachenko came up short on that October 2020 night, giving away too many early rounds for a late rally to make up for and suffering a unanimous decision loss.
While Lomachenko was making an effort to become undisputed, Haney was holding the WBC world title in a situation that was as confusing as it sounds.
Haney won the WBC interim lightweight title in September 2019, becoming a mandatory challenger for Lomachenko, who held the WBC world title at the time. One month later, Lomachenko accepted the WBC’s offer to be elevated to “franchise champion,” which also resulted in Haney being promoted to world champion.
“I have been calling for this fight for four years. But the time has finally come,” Haney said this week. “I take my hat off to him. I respect everything that he’s done. I respect his decision to stay and defend his country. That gave me my shot to go to Australia, so it was only right that I give him the shot as well.”
Haney had claimed Lomachenko was ducking him prior to that move and Lomachenko accepting the franchise designation, which carries with it no obligations to make mandatory defenses, only amplified Haney’s feelings.
Despite Haney being WBC world champion and the franchise championship being “non-transferrable” according to the WBC’s own rules, the sanctioning body then transferred the franchise tag to Lopez after he defeated Lomachenko and claimed it did, in fact, make Lopez an undisputed champion.
“He talks about the past, but It’s hard to say things about the past,” Lomachenko said. “You can’t change it. Even if you talk about it, you can’t change it. Only God can change it.”
Haney was eventually able to clear things up in the ring, winning all the belts from George Kambosos Jr. in June 2022 after Kambosos’ shocking upset of Lopez. There was no longer a dispute over the status of undisputed champion, Haney was king of the mountain.
Haney, still upset about his feelings that Lomachenko ducked him years ago, has spent much of the build to the fight claiming his goal is to not only defeat Lomachenko, but to force his rival into retirement.
“I want to beat him bad. I want to send him into retirement,” Haney said on an episode of Top Rank’s Blood Sweat & Tears. “Lomachenko has never been an underdog, this is the first time. This time he’s fighting a bigger guy, a strong guy, faster guy, younger guy.
“All odds are stacked against him and on May 20 I will show the world why. Whatever he brings on fight night it won’t be enough, I’m going to make him look average, I’m going to make him look ordinary. I’m gonna embarrass him and he won’t be the same.”
The undercard features a vacant title fight as a pair of super flyweights square off. Junto Nakatani and Andrew Moloney meet for the title vacated by Kazuto Ioka. Nakatani, 25, is unbeaten at 24-0 so far in his career with 18 knockouts. He’s coming off his toughest test to date against Francisco Rodriguez Jr. in November when he took home a unanimous decision. Moloney, meanwhile, has continued to impress in Australia since his trilogy with Joshua Franco three years ago. Moloney has won four in a row as he gets back to the title level.
Plus, former unified super featherweight champion Oscar Valdez is back in his debut at lightweight when he takes on Adam Lopez. Valdez is coming off his first career loss when Shakur Stevenson ended his lengthy run with the titles at 130 pounds. Now, he’s ready to begin anew against an opponent he scored a TKO against in 2019.
“I’m excited because it’s been one year since my last fight. I’m coming off a loss, so I’m motivated. It doesn’t matter if you lose. What matters is how you come back. I’m going to come back and make a statement.”
Lopez, meanwhile, has been up and down since their first meeting in 2019, going 2-2 with 1 no contest.
“I’m surprised this rematch is happening. Oscar said he’d give me the rematch after our first fight,” Lopez said. “But it never happened. We went our separate ways. But it’s coming back full circle. I think it’s great that it’s happening on this card. It’s a huge fight. People wanted to see it. I’m excited for it.”
Let’s take a closer look at the rest of the undercard with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before getting to a prediction and pick on the main event.
Haney vs. Lomachenko fight card, odds
Devin Haney (c) -280
Vasiliy Lomachenko +230
Undisputed lightweight title
Junto Nakatani -440
Andrew Moloney +340
Vacant WBO super flyweight title
Raymond Muratalla -220
Jeremia Nakathila +180
Date: May 20 | Start time: 10 p.m. ET (main card)
Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena — Las Vegas, Nevada
TV channel: ESPN+ PPV ($59.99)
Lomachenko and Haney are both wonderful technicians, talented and with high boxing IQs. Unfortunately for Lomachenko, he’s no longer at his peak and he’s also just not a natural lightweight. Haney is going to be much bigger on fight night and that may be the deciding factor, even not taking Lomachenko’s age into account.
Haney is a fighter who lives and dies by the jab. With a nearly six-inch reach advantage, he should be able to utilize that weapon very effectively against Lomachenko. Lomachenko needs to figure out a way past the jab and to the inside to get any work done, and Haney is very good at smothering on the inside and forcing restarts back at distance where he can pick right back up with his jab.
Lomachenko’s worst habit is his tendency to start fights very slowly. We always hear about how he is “downloading information” in the early rounds, but doing so against Lopez cost him the fight and it nearly cost him again in his most recent outing, a surprisingly narrow decision win over Jamaine Ortiz. He simply can’t afford to give away four, three or even two rounds to Haney without even making an attempt at winning the frame. Haney isn’t likely to badly fade down the stretch and allow Lomachenko to run away with the second half of the fight.
Haney was badly hurt late by Linares in the 10th round, but it’s hard to pick Lomachenko on the hopes that he can do the same when age, size and a likely inability to get rid of his slow starting style are also at play. Lomachenko should never be counted out against anyone but Haney is just a bad style for Lomachenko, especially at this point in the careers of both men. Pick: Devin Haney via UD