By Rory Hickey: On May 20th, Devin Haney (29-0, 15 KO) will defend his undisputed lightweight championship against Vasyl Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KO) in a highly anticipated fight inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
While the bout last month between Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia had more mainstream buzz, Haney vs. Lomachenko is a fight that boxing fans are anticipating as much, if not more. A young lion in Devin Haney testing himself against the technical wizardry of Vasyl Lomachenko is the type of fight that boxing fans love to see. The bout, billed as Checkmate, will be like a high-speed chess match, with two intelligent in-ring tacticians matching wits and fists.
Haney and Lomachenko have been circling each other for a few years. In 2020, Lomachenko was the unified lightweight champion, and Haney wanted a shot at Lomachenko.
When the then-21-year-old Haney got asked about taking on Lomachenko, he said, “I’ll tell you this. I will never lose to a white boy in my life. I don’t care what nobody got to say. Fight a white boy ten times, I’m going to beat him ten times.”
Lomachenko and his promotional team had no interest in giving the unproven, little-known Haney an opportunity. Now four years later, Haney will finally get his shot at Lomachenko. Haney has more than proven himself becoming the undisputed lightweight champion, having defeated George Kambosos Jr. to become the youngest-ever undisputed champion in the modern era of boxing.
Oddsmakers have installed Devin Haney as a solid favorite, with his odds hovering around -250. That gives Haney an implied probability of about 70% to defeat Lomachenko. Of course, the bout will occur not at an MGM casino but inside the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
One intriguing aspect of the fight is the time of year it is taking place. Devin Haney wanted this fight to occur in March, before Ramadan. Haney, a practicing Muslim, later agreed to fight Lomachenko on May 20th. The issue was that part of Haney’s training camp would be during Ramadan, between March 23rd and April 20th. As documented on Top Rank’s promotional show Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Haney was initially fasting during camp in observance of Ramadan until Haney and his team decided that he should stop fasting to train safely and effectively. Haney gave back by feeding needy, less fortunate community members.
There are two key advantages that Haney has over Lomachenko. Haney, 24, is over ten years younger than Lomachenko, who turned 35 in February. Additionally, though Haney (5’ 8”) is just one inch taller than Lomachenko (5’ 7”), his 71-inch reach is nearly half a foot longer than Lomachenko’s 65.5-inch reach. When Lomachenko lost his lightweight crown to Teofimo Lopez in October 2020, Lopez was able to use his three-inch reach advantage to establish his jab and keep Lomachenko out of range. Haney would be wise to emulate Teofimo’s approach.
Lomachenko should feel more capable of solving any problem Haney poses with his length. The Ukrainian had surgery on his right rotator cuff following his loss to Lopez, the second surgical procedure on the shoulder in three years- he tore the same rotator cuff in 2018.
Lomachenko has had three fights since his loss and surgery, defeating Masayoshi Nakatani, Richard Commey, and Jamaine Ortiz. Maybe Lomachenko is healthier now and will have solutions if Haney attempts to take a page from Lopez’s playbook. But as technically gifted as the 35-year-old Lomachenko is, Father Time is undefeated. Though the fight with Haney will be just Lomachenko’s twentieth as a professional, he is no novice of the fight game.
Lomachenko was one of the greatest amateur boxers in recent history, winning Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 and compiling an amateur record of 396-1. As a professional, Lomachenko became the fastest fighter to win championships in two weight classes, capturing featherweight and junior lightweight titles seven fights into his pro career. A victory over Devin Haney would be the exclamation point at the end of Lomachenko’s Hall of Fame career.
This bout could be Devin Haney’s last in the lightweight division. Haney, who has been fighting at this weight class since he was sixteen, has acknowledged how tough it is now to make the 135-pound weight limit. Win or lose, Haney will most likely move up to the junior welterweight division and its 140-pound weight limit. Haney has indicated he would only stay at 135 pounds for fights against either Gervonta “Tank” Davis or Shakur Stevenson. Stevenson will be ringside for Haney vs. Lomachenko to get a good look at two potential opponents. If Haney ascends to the 140-pound weight class, possible opponents include Josh Taylor, Teofimo Lopez, or amateur rival Ryan Garcia. Devin Haney is determined to establish himself as the best in boxing, regardless of his weight class.
A victory by Devin Haney would give him the most impressive win of his career and cement him as a star in boxing. With a loss, Vasyl Lomachenko would have thoughts of retirement at least begin to creep into his psyche. But if Lomachenko upsets Haney to accomplish his dream of becoming undisputed lightweight champion, he would disrupt the youth movement at 135-140 pounds and another bullet point to his Hall of Fame resume. Haney could move up to the junior welterweight division with a loss and begin climbing that mountain, but his confidence level and faith in himself would never be quite the same.
On Saturday night, Las Vegas will host one of the biggest fights of the year in boxing. Once the pageantry before the fight subsides and the elaborate introductions end, it will just be Devin Haney and Vasyl Lomachenko inside the ring with referee Harvey Dock. Then the fireworks will really begin.