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Haney vs. Loma Narratives Exposed

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By Alex Fesl: Following weeks of speculation, undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney, and former multi-division champion, Vasiliy Lomachenko, have agreed to terms for their highly anticipated showdown on May 20th in Las Vegas. Haney will be defending his WBC, WBO, WBA, and IBF lightweight titles against the decorated and highly skilled Lomachenko.

This fight has been marinating for months since Haney first took on and defeated former unified lightweight champion George Kambosos Jr twice last year. The overall consensus before that fight had been that Loma would take on the winner of Haney / Kambosos in order to redeem his loss to Teofima Lopez and reclaim his status as the king of the lightweight division.

While it is nice to have a fight that fans have been craving to finally come to fruition, it is not without controversy. As soon as the rumors started to gain traction that Loma and Haney were in negotiations for a mega showdown, fight fans began planting the seeds of doubt about the forthcoming matchup. Those seeds of doubt have emerged as full-fledged narratives.

Below I will explain and hopefully dispel some of these narratives so that fans can enjoy this fantastic upcoming matchup.

Objective view

The objective view of this fight is the true fight fan’s perspective. A true fight fan is excited at the prospects of witnessing the highly rated young lion, Haney, take on his toughest opponent to date, 2-time Olympic gold medalist and former lineal/unified lightweight champion, Lomachenko.

Without a doubt, this is an intriguing and compelling matchup. If this fight doesn’t excite you, then you may be watching the wrong sport, or better yet, you may be too consumed by the following narratives.

Anti-Haney narratives

Haney has come a long way from humble beginnings fighting in Tijuana bars at 17 years old to headlining a PPV fight in Las Vegas. Haney has continued to progress as a pro with impressive wins over Juan Carlos Burgos, Zaur Abdullaev, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Jorge Linares, Joseph Diaz Jr., and George Kambosos Jr.

Yet, Haney’s impressive career has not been without controversy. Many fans often label Haney as being a weight bully. Many fans note that Haney has been boiling down to 135 since he was a teenager. Further, fans will claim that Haney undoubtedly has outgrown the 135 lightweight limit but somehow makes the weight limit in order to bully smaller fighters. These same fans will claim that the supposed size advantage gives Haney an edge over other fighters. More on that in the next section.

Likewise, many fans lament that they do not enjoy the safety-first defensive style displayed by Haney. They note that Haney often utilizes lateral movement too much, holds excessively, and outright produces boring fights. To be fair, Haney’s fights are not the most exciting, but they are far from the worst. Haney fights in the way that best suits his attributes and gives him the best chance to win. Many all-time greats fought defensively like Haney. Just to name a few, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Pernell Whitaker were all known to move and hold from time to time. Some fans may prefer boxers slugging it out and bashing each other’s faces in, but that’s not what boxing is about. Boxing is a unique sport where the objective is to dominate with your skills, strategy, and power. Haney may not produce the most exciting fights, but in the purest sense, Haney is a world class boxer, and we shouldn’t penalize him for that.

Additionally, many fans also claim that Haney is untested or overrated as a fighter. I find this to be the strangest assessment of all. At 24 years old, Haney may have one of the most impressive resumes for any fighter 24 years old and younger. As previously stated, Haney has defeated several former champions and title challengers in his young career. Haney has also achieved a rare feat in the four-belt era of becoming an undisputed champion, all at a mere 24 years old. At 23 years old, WBC super flyweight champion Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez can make an argument alongside Haney as one of the most impressive young boxers. Like Haney, Bam is primed to dominate boxing for many years to come.

Weight narratives

Like mentioned previously, one of the dominating narratives surrounding the upcoming Haney vs. Loma fight is the weight. The ruling narrative is that Haney is too big for Loma. Haney has been fighting at lightweight for several years since he was a teenager, and Loma has only been campaigning at lightweight since 2018. While it may be true that Haney is physically bigger, as long as both fighters make weight on the day of the weigh-in, both fighters are on equal ground. If Haney makes the lightweight limit, he is a lightweight. The same goes for Loma. That is the system we have, and there are no excuses for either fighter being too big or being weight drained as long as they both make weight.

Age narratives

Another interesting narrative surrounding this fight is the fact that Loma is 35 years old and Haney is 24 years old. Loma is perceived as past his prime and not at the top of his game against Haney, who is closer to or near his prime. While that all may be true, it should not matter in the scheme of things.

In 2019, Haney defeated Zaur Abdullaev for the interim WBC lightweight title. Previously, Loma was the reigning WBC lightweight champion. Inexplicably, the WBC promoted Loma to Franchise champion rather than order Loma to face Haney, the then-number-one contender. Loma would then go on to face Teofimo Lopez but would surprisingly lose to Lopez. Given that, we could have easily had Loma vs. Haney back in 2020, but Loma did not push for it and opted to fight Lopez instead.

Loma seemingly ducked Haney three years ago when he was closer to his prime, so there really can’t be any excuses if he loses to the younger Haney now. The optics are that Loma didn’t want to fight Haney back then, but he does now.

Closing thoughts

For the most part, most of the narratives surrounding this upcoming fight are to take credit away from Haney if he beats Loma. If Loma wins, it will be because he is the better fighter. There are no anti-Loma narratives, as far as I know. The narratives are essentially being fueled by Loma fans that do not want to see their hero defeated by the young lion Haney. Rather than go back and forth with silly narratives, I believe we should all take the objective view of this fight. I look forward to seeing the emerging star, Haney, take on the determined legend, Lomachenko. Don’t let the narratives discourage you from watching this great fight.

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