Devin Haney finds a way to stay No. 1

Devin Haney retained his lightweight titles with a 12-round unanimous decision over Vasiliy Lomachenko Saturday that was not popular with many fans.

LAS VEGAS — Once again, boxing befuddled everyone. 

Vasiliy Lomachenko had appeared to have done enough to defeat Devin Haney in their undisputed lightweight title fight Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden. He was a gallant warrior and seemed to be on his way to victory.

However, the judges didn’t see it that way, giving Haney a 12-round unanimous decision win which didn’t sit well with the 14,436 inside the arena.

The decision was roundly booed after Tim Cheatham and David Sutherland scored it 115-113 while Dave Moretti had Haney winning 116-112. A four-point spread in a back-and-forth fight? I don’t think so.

But Bill Haney, Devin’s dad and head trainer, got it right. He told his son he was winning and damn if he wasn’t correct.

“I wasn’t 100 percent the judges would do the right thing because humans aren’t perfect,” he said. “But I’m glad they scored it the way they did.”

Haney did fight a good fight in remaining undefeated and improving to 30-0. Many of the rounds were close and could’ve gone either way. But his winning the 12th round on all three judges’ scorecards helped put it over the top for him.

“He’s a crafty fighter,” Haney said of the 35-year-old Lomachenko (17-3). “He turned it up in the championship rounds. He’s a great fighter.

“I know I had to go through the fire and take it to him. Not every fight is going to be pretty. Sometimes you have to do different things in order to win.”

Great enough to continue? I hope so. 

Consider what Lomachenko’s last year has been like. He took nearly a year off from boxing and returned to his homeland of Ukraine to help his fellow countrymen try to fend off the invasion by Russia.

How can you not respect Lomachenko for passing on fighting in Australia for the titles a year ago and put his career on hold? Whether or not his foregoing on an opportunity that Haney ultimately got and took advantage of might’ve changed things, we’ll never know. But in his heart, Lomachenko knows he made the right decision. Your country is at war and fighting for its sovereignty and survival, you put your personal needs and glories aside and you join your people.

As for the decision, Lomachenko, a world champion in three divisions, handled the loss with grace.

“I controlled the fight and I was winning the fight,” Lomachenko said. “I was sure I won. It is what it is.”

Haney may have won but the 24-year-old from the Bay Area who now calls Las Vegas home is going to likely lose with the Nevada Athletic Commission for this antics on the stage following Friday’s weigh-in where he shoved Lomachenko to the ground. He’s probably looking at a fine of his $4 million purse. It was a boneheaded stunt and all it did was fuel Lomachenko.

But I’m not expecting Haney to show any remorse. He’ll take whatever decision the commission comes up with and move on. 

And more than likely, he’s moving on from the lightweight division. Which would be a shame because there are a couple of potential mega-fights for him at 135 pounds. Shakur Stevenson would love to get Haney in the ring with him and I’m guessing Gervanta Davis, who looked so impressive stopping Ryan Garcia last month, would like a chance at a big payday. A rematch with Lomachenko perhaps?

But I’m not sure Davis wants to stay a lightweight. He had to battle to make weight for Lomachenko and as he pointed out, “I’ve been at 135 since I was 16. I’ve done everything at 135. 

“I proved myself tonight. Eventually I’m going to move up.”

Still, he had been tested like he hadn’t so far and while Haney was fortunate to get the decision, he did plenty of good things and should not be taken to task for what the judges ultimately did. He’s still an excellent fighter with a lot of ability and anyone who sees him as a vulnerable fighter going forward should do so at their own risk.

That said, he probably could take a lot from his performance Saturday and improve on it. Things like keeping his right hand higher so as to not get tagged with an opponent’s left hand the way Lomachenko used his left. He might be wise to develop some additional power if he’s going up to 140, or even if he opts to stay at 135. He wasn’t strong enough to drop Lomachenko, much less knock him out Saturday despite being the bigger guy.

It wasn’t his finest hour, but Haney will take it. As for the sketchy judging, well, doesn’t that see to be par for the course in boxing?