While George Kambosos Jr. brought the fans to the fight, Devin Haney almost immediately took them out of it.
On a brisk Sunday afternoon, nearly 42,000 fans packed into Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium to watch Kambosos (20-1, 10 KO) make the first defense of the lightweight titles he lifted from Teofimo Lopez last November. What they, and Kambosos, got was a boxing lesson of the highest order. The fight may have failed to live up to the hype of the contentious buildup, but that’s usually the case when the gulf of talent between the two combatants is this wide.
Haney (28-0, 15 KO) traveled across the globe into enemy territory and found himself at a tactical disadvantage from the outset. Visa issues initially left him without the services of his father and head trainer Bill Haney until a last-minute reprieve, which I assume involved a shadowy government agent gruffly mumbling the words “Do it” into a burner phone and then immediately cracking it in half like Gus Fring and throwing the parts into separate trash cans, reunited the two during fight week. His cut man Bob Ware was then detained at the airport just days before the fight and any thought this wasn’t an international conspiracy orchestrated by QAnon, Bill Gates and the Illuminati went directly out the window.
None of it would matter.
In boxing, the words “masterclass” and “boring” are often interchangeable and which one you choose to employ depends on what you’re looking to get out of the sport. Your mileage may vary on how much pure boxing you can take before your eyelids get heavy, but it’s impossible to deny the fundamental dominance Haney showed against Kambosos fans who simply want violence will always decry jab-heavy routs as dull or uninteresting but, at its core, this is the nature of boxing. Brutality is simply a byproduct, albeit an always welcome one.
The fact is, you don’t have to please everyone. Hell, you don’t have to please anyone. Title belts fit the same regardless of how much blood is spilled. The zeroes in your bank account appear just as round without two black eyes. How a fighter chooses to get his W is his business. Whether fans want to watch them do so is theirs. This is, after all, a business and rarely in business do all parties walk away happy.
As the two fighters entered the ring on an ESPN televised card this past weekend, the question of whether or not the attempted handicapping of Haney in the weeks prior would spill out into the ring was front of mind for many viewers. It wouldn’t take long to get an answer.
From the opening bell it was clear that Haney planned to use a snapping jab as his primary weapon. If Kambosos were to have any success at all, he would have to somehow get past the whip crack right hand of Haney and I’ll save you the suspense; he was not successful. Barreling in with his head down, Kambosos was periodically able to strafe Haney with short right hands inside but by the mid-rounds those moments came less and less.
Haney continued to bank rounds by simply popping his jab and moving out of range before Kambosos had a chance to return fire. If it seems like I’m being vague in my description of events, it’s most likely due to the fact that I am. This was simply a master boxer plying his trade against a merely good one. Sustained moments of action were in short supply, mostly because Kambosos was incapable of forcing Haney to supply any.
For all his bluster and manic D-level Conor McGregor energy, Kambosos does possess some heavy hands. An explosive first round knockdown against Lopez proved as much. But bullets are useless without a gun, and punching power doesn’t mean shit if you can’t land. Haney’s footspeed and ring IQ ensured that Kambosos’s weapons would remain holstered for much of the night.
In the end, scores of 118-110 and 116-112 twice, saw Haney take a unanimous decision in what should’ve been much closer to a shutout. With the win he becomes the undisputed lightweight champion of the world at just 24 years old.
Kambosos has a rematch clause in place which he says he intends to use but my guess is that a complete viewing of this fight in the cold light of day will convince him otherwise. Going back into the ring later this year with a still improving Devin Haney is like fucking on a trampoline; it seems like a good idea when you’re drunk but ultimately you’re just gonna end up with a broken rib and a bruised ego.
There are plenty of entertaining scraps to make for Kambosos with guys who are slightly more on his level. He’s an entertaining presence for some and target of derision for others, but that’s what sells. Against a certain class of fighter he can do big business and maybe even claim another title here or there. He’s a hometown hero and civic pride equals big bucks in boxing.
For newly crowned champ Haney, the sky is the limit. His ceiling is somewhere up in the stratosphere and we almost certainly haven’t seen anything close to it yet. Big names and even bigger fights await as a loaded lightweight division have all turned their sights on him. Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia, Shakur Stevenson, and Vasyl Lomachenko, to name a few. Mix and match those fighters in any manner you choose and you’ve got superfight potential.
However you slice it though, all roads now lead to Devin Haney. Seven years into his professional career he feels like both a prospect and veteran. As he takes center stage in one of the sport’s true glamor divisions, his mettle will now surely be tested. Thus far, he’s shown no signs of cracking.
There are those who will recognize and appreciate the artistry of his craft. There are those who will continue to call him boring as well.
As long as you call him what he now undisputedly is: The Lightweight Champion of the World.