Precocious young talent Devin Haney gets the opportunity to become the mandatory contender to new WBC lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko when he squares off against Russian Zaur Abdullaev in New York on Friday, September 13th at the Hulu Theatre in Madison Square Garden. Promoter Matchroom USA has the fight listed as an official WBC final eliminator. The Haney Abdullaev card will be shown live on DAZN in the USA and by Sky Sports in the UK.
Recent talk from Team Haney is that Devin is ready to take on the Ukrainian as soon as the match can be made. At 20 years of age, it would seem like a bad move to put someone with so much potential into a fight with the man currently residing as most people's P4P No1. Haney has time on his side and a fight with Lomachenko would be more in Devin's favour if it were to occur in 2-3 years time. Lomachenko, at 31-years-old, is in his prime and looking pretty much untouchable at present, so Haney fighting him before he matures and gains the necessary experience seems ill-advised at least. Saul "Canelo" Alvarez took the same path when he fought a prime Floyd Mayweather in September 2014, if he had pulled it off then he would have been hailed as a P4P fighter there and then instead of having to wait a further four years. Was the risk/reward worth it?
The 135lb lightweight division is looking special at this moment in its history, as well as Lomachenko and Haney, we have 21-year-old Teofimo Lopez waiting in the wings. Lopez is due to challenge IBF titleholder Richard Commey later in the year, and if successful, talk is that he will challenge the Ukrainian in a four tile unification bout in 2020.
So, the stakes are high for Haney and Abdullaev. Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing outfit has recently worked alongside Bob Arum of Top Rank to bring Lomachenko to London to face Luke Campbell for the vacant WBC title, so it seems possible that the two promotional giants can work alongside one another to make Lomachenko vs Haney in the future, yes?
It actually looks unlikely that Lomachenko vs Haney will ever happen. "High Tech", as Lomachenko is known, has no plans on staying at lightweight. His plan is to win all four belts and then move back down to super-featherweight or featherweight. So that would potentially leave Haney in place to fight for the vacant WBC title.
Zaur Abdullaev has some decent wins on his 11-0, 7 Ko's resume. The 26-year-old from Ekaterinburg, Russia outpointed Hank Lundy in defence of his WBC silver lightweight title in September 2018 and looks like a very solid box-fighter. At 5ft 9In he will have a height advantage over Haney and will need to use it effectively to keep his younger opponent at arm's length.
Abdullaev's problem will be the variety that Haney brings into the ring. It may be way too early to be saying it, but Haney reminds me more of Sugar Ray Leonard than any other fighter I have seen since. His talent is multi-faceted.
Abdullaev has done well to get to this stage and he is capable of winning a European title or challenging at a later time for a world title, but he will find out quickly that he is in too deep against Haney.
Prediction: Devin Haney to win by stoppage in the first 4 rounds.