Considering that the two major main events overlapped each other, the chances are most people who were watching this main event that night switched over to Showtime by round 8, where 🇺🇸Devin “The Dream” Haney (26-0-0, 15KO) was pitching a near virtuoso shutout. To the surprise of many of those same people, they heard about the strong push put forth by 🇻🇪Jorge Linares (47-6-0, 29KO) that rocked, and wobbled the youngster on many occasion.
Linares, due to a little fatigue, and Haney holding on for dear life it seemed down the stretch, allowed the scorecards to get read after 12, which awarded Haney the Unanimous Decision victory to defend his WBC title, in an outing that was both somehow very sharp, and question raising at the same time. How so? keep reading…
Haney was working his quick, authoritative jab early, while Linares stood his ground in the pocket often, looking to counter with the left hook whenever Devin would commit to his right hand. Haney changed levels often, variating his combinations to the head and to the body, while remaining defensively responsible – a masterful first round it was for the young fighter establish early rhythm dominance.
Haney opened up the second round with a razor sharp 1-2-3 combination upstairs. Haney was as sharp as a tack, while Linares was having difficulty establishing his footing, and timing Haney, who could claim to have equal handspeed to Linares at this juncture of his long tenured, veteran career.
You could see the big strength disparity in Haney’s favor on the inside during clinches, literally breaking himself, and either walking Linares back to the ropes, or throwing him off of him, followed with a power shot or two. At this point in the fight, it was hard to discern if Linares had any legitimate advantage over the young, gifted 23 year old super talent.
Haney adjusted in round 3, and started peppering Linares to the body with a jab, every time Linares looked like he was ready to gather himself to spring forward to let his hands go, ultimately keeping him at bay. Linares did land a solid left hook in the fourth round, his first meaningful land since the first, but the challenge was, could he make that consistent?
Linares wow’d the crowd with a heavy jab, cross, hook combination at the backend of the fourth round, the first time I’ve ever seen a 3 punch combination land on Haney during his pro career. Haney rebounded well for the rest of the 4th round. Linares, perhaps he didn’t win the round (your call), but you got the sense that he was starting to get cooking.
Sometimes for a veteran fighter, they need a few rounds to rev the old car engine up, so once we got to round 5, this was essentially when the real fight started. Haney re-committed back to the jab in the 5th, and regained control back in the fight, though, Linares had his moments along the way.
Haney in round 6 started to walk Linares down, and did so, bracing himself on the older former World Champion, and ripping uppercuts up the chute, to the chin. Linares threw flurries that had enough on them to get Haney off of him periodically, but Haney enacted a boatload of mental pressure.
Linares best punch landed in the fight (thus far) was a big, sweeping left hook with seconds left to go in the 6th that got his attention…though Haney showed some good whiskers in taking the impact of the blow. Haney’s conditioning was notable in round 7, in a positive way, as he kept the jab going, gave constant movement as an elusive target while maintaining position in mid distance.
Haney landed a nasty left hook in round 8, but surprisingly Linares took it rather well. This was a fight where Devin showcased offensive creativity, and defensive responsibility that you would expect from a 33 year old gym rat, certainly not from someone at 23 years of age, in his first step up opportunity in terms of pro opponents – truly indicative of all the work he put in the gym, and attention to detail to the fundamentals, and in whom he learned from.
Round 9, each had some of their best moments in the fight, largely predicated on counterpunching, where each would duck, slip, and pick off most of them, but each were successful in fitting in the last punches of their sequences. Linares managed to buckle Haney momentarily with a snappy left uppercut at an angle.
Round 10, right before the ending bell, Linares landed a scintillating 5 punch combination, with the money punch being the right cross that thoroughly rocked Haney to his boots, and had him wobble back to his corner, a helluva moment, one that completely shifted the tide & momentum.
Going into the Championship rounds, Linares came out aggressive, and Haney was on very, very shaky legs, still feeling the effects of the power from Jorge the round prior. Haney for the first time in the fight resorted to constant holding, as that was his only option to try and regain his head.
Linares seemed to have punched himself out for a little while, which allowed Devin to regain some of his senses, though Linares mustered up a good attack on the inside, firing his free right hand 4 times in a row over the top, doing enough to take a second round in a row, and make things very interesting, not in the points aspect of the contest, but a weakening Champion standing in front of him, could he be taken out?
Round 12, Linares dug down to give what he had left, but Haney excessively held at an alarming rate, without any warning from Referee Russell Mora, which was criminal when gauging his performance in Referee’ing capacity. He held all the way to the final bell which nullified Linares opportunities, thus Haney keeping points advantage in tact.
The crowd vehemently voiced their displease in the manner in which Haney ended the fight, and at the same time, they understood that he did do the early work to deserve the decision, but perhaps in their eyes, didn’t do so with fortitude – understandable.
The scorecards read as a Unanimous Decision, but reflected well the tone and tenure of the 12 round affair (minus the 115-113 score, too close), and it was Devin Haney, who picked up the WBC title defense (once again, make of that what you will), and secured the 26th victory of his trending upward career.
While it is an impressive feat to defeat someone as high caliber as Linares is, even at this advanced stage in his career, the other handful of top-tier Lightweights may all collectively be raising their eyebrow, and chomping on the bit, while studying the tape, given the way that he finished the fight.
It is one of those weird situations where you as a watcher can be thoroughly impressed by a boxers performance, yet raise questions about the vital side of the equation attached to the events that took place inside the ring on that night.
At the very least, it’s something worthy to note, and to keep an eye on going forward. A strong start, perhaps overshadowed by a rocky finish, but the narrative isn’t the rocky finish, it was what he did during those rocky times that will become the talk of the fight, whether warranted or not, the door was left open for that criticism.