DEVIN HANEY, an emerging fighter of immense promise, scored a 12-round whitewash over an accomplished but faded former champion in 38-year-old Yuriorkis Gamboa. It was a typical coming of age contest, one where the young dominated the old to win unanimously on the scorecards (120-107 twice and 118-109) but one that attracted criticism nonetheless.
One: Haney won at a canter on this but never really looked like stopping a fighter 17 years his senior.
Two: Matchroom Boxing’s Haney has a lot to say for himself and when a fighter has a lot to say for themselves, particularly in the social media age where those words are heard by millions of ears, it’s imperative they deliver every time otherwise they open the door for critics to (unfairly) attack.
Three: Haney was prematurely elevated to the status of ‘world champion’ by a sanctioning body, in this case the WBC, hellbent on creating chaos in as many divisions as they can.
Four: Haney’s performance – while mature, controlled and dominant – came three weeks after Teofimo Lopez defeated Vasiliy Lomachenko in an upset victory over an existing, established and genuine world champion, and one week after another of Haney’s potential lightweight rivals, Gervonta Davis, delivered a KO of the ages while flattening Leo Santa Cruz. Both Lomachenko and Santa Cruz were significantly more threatening rivals than Gamboa.
Five: Haney has been calling out Davis and promised to improve on Gervonta’s 12th round stoppage of Gamboa in December last year.
In short, Haney had a lot of pressure on his young shoulders long before the opening bell. He was widely expected to do ‘a number’ on a 38-year-old who had done even less to merit a shot at the WBC lightweight belt than Haney had to actually hold it.
However, if taken as a standalone fight then Haney – still only 21 and out of the ring for a year after undergoing shoulder surgery – performed admirably enough. He will unquestionably learn plenty from bouts like this. And in truth, the time to really judge Haney is when he’s fighting at the same level where Lopez and Davis currently sit.
Gamboa started keenly inside Hollywood’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino but Haney boxed within himself. Even so, the younger man appeared in control during the opening three rounds before he upped the pace in the fourth. The Las Vegas resident scored with his right hand upstairs before a body blow appeared to slow his rival down.
The veteran had flashes of success with his right hand but the combination punching of Haney, who has impressive variety for a young fighter, trumped anything Gamboa could muster.
The Cuban, who won Olympic gold way back in 2004, would hold when Haney got too busy. It made for uncomfortable viewing and referee Telis Assimenios warned Gamboa several times before eventually taking a point away in the 11th.
Haney’s jab was snappy and on target. His hooks to body and head also caught the eye.
His inability to break down – and break free from – a fighter too keen to hold should pose questions but it’s perhaps unfair to expect Haney to come up with all the answers in the same bout.
It’s true that Lopez and Davis performed better against vastly superior opposition. But it’s important to remember that Lopez and Davis were presented with rivals who came to fight, as opposed to just survive. It’s a long way back, much too far in fact, for Gamboa after this.
For Haney, he remains a work in progress, irrespective of what any hype or sanctioning body titles may tell you. The judge and jury aren’t required just yet.
Heavyweight Filip Hrgovic is another fighter to watch. He feasted on a woefully out of shape Rydell Booker, dropping him in the second before stopping him after 43 seconds of the fifth on the undercard.
Team Sauerland, who guide the Croatian, were quick to point out that Hrgovic did to Booker in five rounds what James Toney failed to do in 12. It should also be pointed out that James Toney won a 12-rounder against Booker sixteen long years ago.
Nonetheless, Hrgovic – now 12-0 (10) – remains a highly promising heavyweight prospect.