A critical look at the past week in boxing
THE BIGGEST WINNER
What are we to make of Haney’s proximity, but win by unanimous decision over Vasily Lomachenko on Saturday in Las Vegas? On the one hand, he defeated the still-promising future Hall of Famer to retain his undisputed 135-pound championship. And he did it by going through the clutch: he won 12p round on all three cards, which prevented a draw. It was the biggest achievement in the 24-year-old’s young career. It deserves recognition. On the other hand, he has been pushed to the limit by the 35-year-old who is naturally shorter than him and is believed to be in his decline before the fight. He landed heavier shots in the first half only to weaken the stretch when Lomachenko seemed to be on the rise. The Ukrainian landed almost freely in rounds 10 and 11 before Haney took the decisive position. It was a good performance for Haney considering the opponent, but he didn’t come close to demonstrating in the fight that he was the best lightweight fighter, which he probably hoped to do. Right now it seems clear that #1 and #2 are Gervonta Davis and Shakur Stevenson, in no particular order. Good news for Haney? He’s still a champion. It has many good options for the future. And the experience gained in this fight will help you develop as a warrior.
Lomachenko failed to fulfill his dream of becoming the undisputed champion. And at his age, one wonders if he’ll ever get another chance. This must be devastating for him, especially because he clearly felt he deserved to win by decision. However, he made a strong statement. His unanimous decision loss to Teofimo Lopez in 2020, subsequent shoulder surgery and time away from boxing to take part in his country’s war with Russia made the aging former pound-for-pound king almost an afterthought. Against one of the most talented youngsters on Saturday, he showed that he remains a threat to anyone when fit. As he put it, “I think I showed I could be in boxing.” Indeed, if anyone was hesitant to put him on the elite lightweight shortlist, now they can’t. The question is, will he get another big chance? It is possible. Haney can go up to 140 pounds, which would open his way to titles. Lomachenko would be among those who could fight for the belt. Both Davis and Stevenson need high-profile opponents. If they fail to sign Haney, Lomachenko would be an excellent choice after a good performance on Saturday. Just to be clear: Loma is back.
Haney said he had “achieved everything at 135lbs” when explaining why this might be the right time to move up to 140lbs. Has he really achieved everything? He will reign as the undisputed champion, defeating George Kambosos Jr. twice. and managed to overtake Lomachenko, which is impressive. However, he is unlikely to face the two biggest threats, Davis and Stevenson. If he goes to 140 pounds without fighting them, he’ll have a glaring gap in his 135-pound resume. And make no mistake: both Davis and Stevenson would love the opportunity to fight for all four major belts. Of course, Haney would be wise to move up to 140 if reaching 135 became too difficult. Great challenges await him at this weight as well: the winner of the June 10 Josh Taylor-Teofimo Lopez fight, Regis Prograis, Subriel Matias, Jose Ramirez and others. Bottom line: Haney will have plenty of intriguing options no matter what he decides to do.
THE BIGGEST WINNER II
Cameron’s historical figure majority vote victory over the previously undefeated Katie Taylor on her Saturday homecoming in Dublin, Ireland was no accident: she deserved it. The undisputed 140-pound champion from England put pressure on the 135-pound champion from the opening bell until her hand went up after 10 fierce, entertaining rounds. Cameron (18-0, 8 KOs) is now arguably ranked below Clarissa Shields in the pound-for-pound rankings, which is a major breakthrough for the talented 32-year-old. Taylor? First of all, kudos to her for taking such a hard fight in her first professional fight in her home country, which could only have been a show. She wanted the fight for a milestone to matter. And there is no shame in losing to an excellent, naturally larger opponent in an attempt to become “undisputed” in a different weight class. She did a good job of timing her hard-charging opponent with quick, accurate punches, only to hit cards 96-94, 96-94, and 95-95. The loss leaves Shields alone at the top, but no one is going to write off Taylor (22-1, 6 KOs). She has proven that at 36 she remains an elite fighter. Apparently, it has much more to offer.
The fact that Haney received a nod over Lomachenko in a close fight was not out of place. I scored it 114-114, but a score of 115-113 – the sum of the two judges – would have been acceptable anyway. The only problem I had with the scoring was the veteran judge Dave Moretti card. He was 116-112 for Haney, which I thought was too wide but not outrageous. What was surprising was the fact that he gave Haney five of the last six rounds when Lomachenko was at his best. I can’t even imagine what Moretti saw. … A new Japanese star has appeared on the scene. Junto Nakatani (25-0, 19 KOs) gave eye-opening performance on the Haney-Lomachenko card, betting Andrzej Moloney (25-3, 16 KOs) three times and stopping him with a brutal strike like never before to win the vacant 115-pound title. Nakatani couldn’t have said more. I like Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez AND Bam Rodriguez are officially notified. … Former holder of two divisions Oscar Valdez (31-1, 23 KOs) looked sharp in his fight with a capable but light punch Adam Lopez (16-5, 6 KOs) on the Haney-Lomachenko card, winning a wide decision to become the rightful contender at 135 pounds. Valdez had his worst night as a pro, losing by decision to Stevenson which cost him the 130-pound belt.