ON a night that was originally supposed to mark the heavyweight debut of former unified cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, that is, until a biceps injury bumped him off the main event, 20-year-old lightweight Devin Haney filled in as the marquee fighter at the MGM National Harbor — and did not disappoint, obliterating Mexican Antonio Moran with a sizzling, picture-perfect overhand right to earn a seventh-round knockout.
It was an unambiguously violent ending that saw the Mexican Moran lying catatonic on the canvas for nearly 10 minutes.
Of all the vaunted youngsters on the American boxing scene, including Teofimo Lopez, Vergil Ortiz, Jaron Ennis, and Ryan Garcia, to a name a few, there may be no one more complete a fighter than the Oakland-born, Las Vegas native Haney. To be sure, the only knock on him thus far has been that he does not carry concussive power in his fists. Observers will surely be more wary of making that point in the ensuing months.
“There were a lot of rumours going around that I don’t have punching power and I can’t knock anyone out,” Haney said postfight. “But as you can see, I can.”
The fight marked the launch of Haney’s newly-minted promotional contract with Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn and streaming service DAZN. After more than three years of operating on his own and fighting pudgy dilettantes in Tijuana barrooms for the majority of his career, Haney is now poised to let one of the more powerful promotional machineries guide his career.
In the opening round Haney came out busy, working behind a stiff jab and digging solid shots to the long torso of Moran, who many considered the toughest opposition of Haney’s nascent career. By the third round, Moran’s face was already splotchy red from Haney’s pinpoint counters. Though Moran pressed on and even managed to get Haney’s attention with a few solid right hands to the body, he was outgunned on every level. Haney was simply too slippery on defence and too adroit on offence for the Mexican to have a chance.
In the fifth round, Haney began to turn things up, landing a right to the body that sent Moran crashing to the canvas. Referee Kenny Chevalier credited Haney with a knockdown, but upon further review it appeared Haney had stepped on Moran’s foot. In any case, it was academic, as Haney continued to hammer away on Moran with punishing straight rights and left hooks to end the round.
Then came the fateful seventh. Following a body shot with his right hand, Haney stuck out his jab and came back with a booming right to the top that instantly caused the Mexican challenger to keel over on the ropes. Referee Chevalier did not even bother starting the count, calling off the fight at 2-32.
On the Matchroom Promotions undercard, highly-regarded Croatian heavyweight Filip Hrgovic did not break a sweat in his American debut. A minute into the first round, Hrgovic dropped the shopworn Gregory Corbin, of Dallas, Texas, with a chopping right hand that landed flush on the left temple. Though he was able to beat the count, Corbin grimaced and seemed to gesture to referee Kenny Bayless that he was hit in the back of the head, prompting Bayless to stop the match at 1-00.
Las Vegas-based heavyweight contender Michael Hunter also wasted no time in dispatching his opponent, Brazil’s Fabio Maldonado, a former MMA fighter, in the second round.
Having scored two knockdowns of Maldonado early on in the second, Hunter put the finishing touches with a straight right that sent Maldonado reeling into the corner, as referee Dock frantically waved off the bout at 1-45.
Despite his accomplishments as an amateur, including taking home gold at the 2016 Olympics, 28-year-old Kazakh prospect Daniyar Yeleussinov still has much to learn in the professional ranks, notching a six-round unanimous decision over Chile’s Juan Norambuena.
Judges Lynne Carter and Dave Moretti had it 60-54 and John Gradowski had it 59-55, all for the southpaw welterweight. Though he clearly outworked his opponent, Yeleussinov needs to shore up his defence as Norambuena was able to connect on a few flush shots. Vic DeWysocki refereed.
The Verdict With Matchroom now guiding his career, watch Haney go places.