The WBC lightweight title fight between Haney and Jorge Linares was a typical springtime bout at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. Linares was the favorite, having fought two times already this year, while Haney hadn’t faced much competition. However, Haney didn’t appear to be worried about the 23 year old Mexican, and took the fight to the mat in the early going.

Haney and Linares battled to the final bell before Haney managed to slip a jab around the Colombian’s guard to get off the floor and dive on a takedown in the final minute.

This week marked a very important week in Haney’s career. His hard work paid off with a split decision win over Jorge Linares in an IBF lightweight title fight on the undercard of Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares. It was a close fight that could have gone either way, and while Haney didn’t win by knockout like he has in the past, he did everything right to come away with the win.

It only takes one blow to ruin a good night.

Devin Haney’s Saturday night was going well until Jorge Linares caught him in the 10th. Round catches him with a right jab. The moment that blow was struck, the toughest test of Haney’s career became even tougher.

Haney did enough to win. He withstood a ferocious attack from veteran Linares to win by unanimous decision – 116-112, 116-112, 115-113 – and retain his WBC lightweight title in Las Vegas.

But the final six minutes and the reaction of the fans after his victory showed the dilemma Haney faces in his burgeoning career. Even on a night where he did his best to show that he is an exciting fighter worthy of the biggest fights, Haney received a mixed reaction of boos and approval.

Haney (26-0, 15 KOs) dominated Linares until the final seconds of the tenth round. Just before the bell, Linares (47-6, 29 KOs) shocked Honey with a right jab. The champion returned to his corner on shaky legs, and Linares waved his arms to the side to make sure Hani knew where he was going.

Such a move was almost inevitable given Haney’s approach to the fight with the former champion. In his last fight, Haynie defeated Yuriorkis Gamboa via unanimous decision that was both dominant and relatively uninteresting. Against Linares, Haynie went for the 35-year-old Linares, who still possessed considerable power and tried to throw powerful punches at the risk of being hit hard.

That’s what the fans wanted to see – if I can get there, go through my opponent and hit him hard, Haynie said in a post-fight interview on DAZN.

Beat statistics

Punching Honey Linares
Total unloaded 215 116
Total waste 675 620
Percentage 32% 19%
Hit 79 25
Jette 309 248
Percentage 26% 10%
The power has landed 136 91
Abandoned stream 366 372
Percentage 37% 25%
— Supported by CompuBox

After the fight, Haney denied being injured, but his body language suggested otherwise. He passed at the beginning of the 11th. Round is trying to get his balance back. He kept Linares at bay and suppressed a late attack that had the crowd roaring with increasing annoyance in the final two laps. At some point in the 12th. During the fight, Haney came out of the distance and wrapped his arms around Linares, a sign that Haney was more than ready to finish the fight.

It was the kind of finish that made viewers forget the risk he took in the first nine rounds to put on a show worthy of his career. Before the fight, Haney, 22, complained that the other young stars in the division – names like Teofimo Lopez and Ryan Garcia – didn’t want to fight him.

After defeating Luke Campbell earlier this year, Garcia did not mention Haney as a potential opponent in his post-fight interview, although it makes sense. If Haney does well against Linares, it could put pressure on other fighters who want to face the WBC champion and increase the fan base in this crowded division.

Special fighters make a statement, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn told DAZN a week before Saturday’s fight. And if [Hani] can make a statement against Jorge Linares next week, that will make my job with the TV stations a lot easier, because they will start talking. We want Lopez against Hani. We want Hani versus Garcia.

For nine rounds and 170 seconds, Haney shined against a quality opponent. It was exactly the performance he was looking for. But the arrival may have undone all his work.

In a post-fight interview, Haney admitted that the cards could be against him. Unlike former champion Vasyl Lomachenko, Haynie didn’t collapse when Linares’ best punch hit him. Garcia overcame an early knockdown to defeat Campbell by technical knockout. However, the vulnerability Hani showed in his fight against Linares can be counted against him.

We’ve seen other lightweight fighters fall, Haney told DAZN. The world has praised him. I get hit hard and they act like it’s something. Nothing.

Regardless of how Haney got into this situation, he came out of the Linares fight with an undefeated record and the WBC belt. Haney said he still wants a fight with Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs), who owns three other major belts in the 135-pound division.

Haney said he thought he had made the required statement Saturday night. It could depend on what the fans take away most from his win against Linares.

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