Devin Haney Beats Jorge Linares via Decision to Retain Lightweight Title

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2021

Devin Haney fights Russia's Zaur Abdullaev during the fourth round WBC interim world lightweight championship boxing match Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in New York. Haney stopped Abdullaev in the fourth round.(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

It wasn't always easy, but Devin Haney survived the toughest test of his young career, defeating veteran boxer Jorge Linares by unanimous decision to retain his WBC world lightweight championship on Saturday night at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas.

The judges scored the bout 116-112, 116-112, 115-113, per the DAZN broadcast.

For nearly 10 full rounds, Haney put in a confident all-around performance. His jab was sharp and swift, he mixed in power punches to the head and body, and his defense was on point. Linares nearly stole the fight at the end with a short right hand stunning Haney in the final seconds of the 10th round, very similar to the one that saw him knock down Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2018. Here's a look at the punch, per DAZN Boxing:

DAZN Boxing @DAZNBoxing

Devin Haney wobbles going back to his corner after the 10th! 🤯 #HaneyLinares https://t.co/6JNgW7gh98

It forced 22-year-old world champion to stumble to the finish line, clinching to avoid a potential knockout blow in the final two rounds.

Boxing writer Steve Kim and actress Rosie Perez reacted to the fight:

Steve Kim @SteveKim323

116-112 twice and 115-113 for..... Devin Haney. Good call. But Linares' late rally will never be forgotten. And quite frankly, this win leaves more questions than any definitive answers for Haney... #boxing #HaneyLinares

Rosie Perez @rosieperezbklyn

We go to the scorecards! Clearly Haney should win. Linares may have lost but man did he put on a show in the later rounds! The crowd feeling him too. Gained lots of respect tonight. @DAZNBoxing @MatchroomBoxing #HaneyLinares

Haney, who remains undefeated, acknowledged he took a big shot, but quickly turned his attention to a potential unification bout, per The Athletic's Lance Pugmire:

Lance Pugmire @pugboxing

Haney "I want the biggest fights out there. If Teofimo Lopez is next, let's do it for all the belts."

Lance Pugmire @pugboxing

Haney says "it was a good shot, I wasn't hurt ... I went through adversity."

Haney pumped the jab early and often. His left hand was constantly buzzing Linares' chin, forcing him to keep his guard high and opening up opportunities to throw combos to the torso. Linares did manage to keep Haney honest with a few check hooks that landed cleanly, but he struggled to keep up with the younger fighter's pace.

Ring's Douglass Fischer liked what he saw from the champion:

Douglass Fischer @dougiefischer

Haney is punching with a lot of authority and confidence. #HaneyLinares

Haney kept up the aggression in the third round, stinging Linares with a right hook early in the round, and he also showed off his superior reflexes, pulling away from a few counterpunches aching to find a home.

Linares started making inroads in the fourth round, waiting for Haney to commit before firing back with left and right hooks. Even with the improved offense, he still kept eating jabs and well-timed power shots. The Athletic's Mike Coppinger noted the mounting damage Linares was taking:

Mike Coppinger @MikeCoppinger

By far Linares’ best round of the fight but Haney still takes it. Never seen him this aggressive, but it’s what he needs. Linares face swelling as usual. 4-0, Haney #HaneyLinares

In his last time out, Haney failed to knock out a clearly overmatched Yuriorkis Gamboa. That might've been weighing on the young fighter, as he was much keener to stay in the pocket against Linares. The sixth round saw the two fighters go toe-to-toe for nearly all three minutes. Haney landed a couple of uppercuts and pushed the 35-year-old Venezuelan around the ring, but the shift away from the jab allowed the elder fighter to get his timing down, leading to some of his best punches of the fight.

ESPN Ringside @ESPNRingside

Devin Haney’s technique is on full display tonight 🥊 #HaneyLinares https://t.co/YUMIXpcQZS

You could see the gears slowing down for Linares in the eighth round as Haney's relentless work on his ribcage took its toll. Haney remained a well-oiled machine, using his power jab to set up harder shots to the chin and body. A left hook early in the frame snapped Linares' head back, per DAZN Boxing:

DAZN Boxing @DAZNBoxing

What a left hook by Haney 😳 #HaneyLinares https://t.co/bvuirxRKqz

Despite taking a ton of punishment, Linares came within shouting distance of a win thanks to that anvil of a punch at end of the 10th round. It sent Haney stumbling back to his corner, and his legs still weren't underneath him in the 11th. After a mostly dominant performance, Haney was hanging on for dear life, drawing heavy boos from the crowd for his excessive clinching.

Haney managed to avoid the shocking upset, but his performance will raise some questions going forward. Clearly, he has great speed, technical skill and a multifaceted jab. However, the power just might not be there, as he wasn't able to get a knockdown against either Gamboa or Linares, aging veterans who have taken several trips to the canvas in their careers.

We also know Haney is vulnerable to good counterpunching, which could be a problem against a heavy-handed, sharp fighter like Teofimo Lopez, who may very well be his next opponent.