DEVIN HANEY passed the biggest test of his young career Friday night on ShoBox: The New Generation, kicking off the 2019 boxing year with a dazzling performance and unanimous decision victory over fellow undefeated former South African champion Xolisani Ndongeni live on SHOWTIME from StageWorks of Louisiana.
Haney (21-0, 13 KOs) scored a second-round knockdown and wore Ndongeni (25-1, 13 KOs) down with punishing body shots in the latter part of the fight in winning easily on all three judges’ scorecards, 100-89 twice, and 99-90.
Haney told SHOWTIME’s Steve Farhood in the ring after the fight he only wants to be considered a contender from here on out. “I want those top guys,” he said. “Now they really can’t deny me. I’ve been saying this for a long time but now, I’m a contender.”
The knockdown came at 1:30 of the second round as a Haney right hand landed flush knocking the unbalanced Ndongeni to the canvas. But it was Haney’s body shots that wore out the stubborn Ndongeni, who was fighting in the United States for just the second time. Haney badly wanted to end the fight with a knockout, even telling his father Bill Haney between rounds, “I’m going to knock him out!”
“He’s a great fighter,” said Haney, who with the victory takes home the WBO Intercontinental and WBC International belts. “You don’t make it to 25-0 without being anybody. I knew it was going to be tough opponent from the very beginning. He’s a really good fighter and I didn’t choose him. That was the opponent that came up and you know me, I don’t turn down anybody. I fight whoever comes in front of me.”
Farhood said 2019 could be the year Haney fights for a world title. “I’m impressed because he showed a side of himself that we hadn’t seen before,” the International Boxing Hall of Famer Farhood said. “For a young fighter, although he’s very skilled, you want to see him handle all kinds of situations. He went to the body effectively and if the fight goes 30 seconds longer he gets the stoppage. Is a world title fight in 2019 a possibility? Certainly. Just because he’s 20 doesn’t mean he’s not good enough. It’s clear there’s no one that’s going to out-box him.”
Farhood finally gave Ndongeni a round for the first time in the seventh as he used some effective body work to control the round, although never visibly hurting Haney or putting him in too much danger.
As the fight went deeper and deeper, Haney just kept getting stronger. In the final two rounds, he led 69-28 on overall landed punches (16-6 jabs and 53-22 power). In the final minute of the final round, Haney out-landed Ndongeni 23-3 in total connects.
“I’m getting stronger with each fight and I feel my man strength emerging,” Haney said. “Ndongeni is a very durable fighter. I attribute his big heart for keeping him in the fight. I knew I was the superior fighter. I showed everyone I can fight coming forward, I can box, I can bang, I do it all. I’m ready…no one is stopping me.”
In a battle of undefeated Rubens, former decorated amateur Ruben Villa (15-0, 5 KOs) handed Colombian Ruben Cervera (10-1, 9 KOs) his first career defeat scoring a dominating unanimous decision, 80-72 on all three scorecards in the eight-round featherweight co-feature bout.
The 21-year-old two-time Junior Olympic National Champion and the 2014 and 2015 National Golden Gloves Champion from Salinas, Calif., Villa outworked and outperformed the slower but determined Cervera en route to a decisive decision victory.
“It felt good fighting on the big stage and I got the victory against a very tough undefeated fighter,” the one-time Olympic alternate Villa said. “I felt I controlled the entire fight with my superior boxing skills. I’m ready to step up to the next level. I’m taking on all comers no matter who they are, I feel I’m the best featherweight in the world.”
In the sixth round, Villa got to work featuring a strong right hand and following up with jabs and combinations that seemed to buzz Cevera, who was out-landed on punches in the round 35-5.
The jab was the key weapon for Villa as he led 105-23 in connects as well as holding a 36 percent to eight percent advantage in jab accuracy. Villa exceeded double-digits in jabs in every round but the first.
The lefty Villa said visiting Riverside and spending time with noted trained Robert Garcia has helped his game. “I’ll give myself an 8 or 9 tonight,” he said. “I believe in my speed. I know there are guys like [Abner] Mares and [Leo] Santa Cruz who people know, but visiting Riverside let me see I can step in there with anyone.”
Cevera became the 182nd career fighter to lose his undefeated record on ShoBox. “I knew Ruben Villa was a very fast fighter because I saw some video of him, but I didn’t know he was that fast,” Cervera said. “He’s much faster when you see him inside the ring. I tried everything I could but my distance was off. I was able to hit them with a couple of combinations and he probably felt my power. I don’t disagree with the judges’ decision, he was the better man tonight.”
In the telecast opener, Cuban heavyweight Frank Sanchez (11-0, 9 KOs) overcame a 14-minute delay between the first and second rounds knocking out former college football player Willie Jake, Jr. (8-2-1, 2 KOs) at 2:59 of the second round. Both fighters sat calmly on their stools as local promoters worked to repair two of the ropes that had fallen from their post.
After controlling the action in the first round, Frank’s raw punches simply overpowered the heavier Jake, catching him with a glancing right to the head and a cuffing hook to the body that caused Jake to fall face-first to the canvas and the fight was waved off with just one second remaining in the second round.
Sanchez was the more accurate fighter landing 39 percent of his power shots to Jake’s 25 percent. He also outlanded the Indianapolis native in total connects (28-15) and in landed power shots (20-14).
“I wanted to show the world that I’m the new Cuban boxing sensation,” said Sanchez, who grew up in Guantanamo, Cuba, and now resides in Miami. “I didn’t let the ring rope delay affect my performance. I was ready to go no matter what happened. My manager the great Richard Steele [former boxing referee] is already putting together my next fight. I’m coming for everyone in the heavyweight division. All contenders better watch out.”