Devin Haney successfully defended his undisputed lightweight championship with a unanimous-decision victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko in a fast-paced fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The sold-out crowd witnessed Haney (30-0, 15 KOs) take control of the first half of the fight with his excellent body work and one of boxing’s best jabs, triumphing by scores of 116-112, 115-113, and 115-113. However, Lomachenko closed the fight strong with his trademark flurries from uncanny angles, leading to boisterous boos after the verdict was rendered.
Lomachenko (17-3, 11 KOs), who has accomplished so much in his illustrious career, including two Olympic gold medals, titles in three divisions, and recognition as the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, never achieved his long-held dream of capturing an undisputed championship, and he felt it was stolen from him. He refused to talk about the decision and said that everyone who watched the fight knew what happened. He cried in his locker room afterward before a towel was thrown over his head.
It has been an emotional journey for Lomachenko, who remained in war-torn Ukraine last year rather than proceed with a deal in place to challenge George Kambosos for the undisputed lightweight championship in Australia. That opened the door for Haney, who quickly accepted the same terms and defeated Kambosos in June to gain all four 135-pound titles.
Haney, 24, defeated Kambosos in Australia in the October rematch, too, and then quickly called out the man he wanted to fight all along: Lomachenko. At Friday’s ceremonial weigh-in, Haney launched Lomachenko with a shove, an act for which he’ll be fined from his $4 million guaranteed purse, sources told ESPN. The shove injected plenty of bad blood into a promotion that lacked animosity.
Lomachenko vowed to make Haney pay, and he was able to stun Haney on several occasions with stinging shots delivered from varying angles. But Lomachenko, a typically slow starter, was in a hole after Haney won four of the first six rounds on two scorecards. Lomachenko was able to close strong and won two of the final four rounds on two cards, but what puzzled him was how judge Dave Moretti scored Round 10.
Lomachenko, who earned $3 million, blasted Haney with swarming combinations in the 10th, but Moretti scored it for the champ. Haney closed stronger, using his rangy jab and right hands to the body to sweep the final round. It proved to be the difference between a draw and a victory.
Haney, now a free agent after his three-fight deal with Top Rank expired, referred to Lomachenko as a future Hall of Famer and his toughest opponent by far. He plans to go back to the lab and figure out what’s next, possibly a move to 140 pounds and a potential bout against the winner of the June 10 title fight between Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez.
Stevenson was ringside and said afterward that he believed the judges delivered the wrong decision. “Lomachenko should be undisputed champion — he won that fight,” said Stevenson, ESPN’s No. 9 pound-for-pound boxer. “He landed the cleaner punches. He pushed the pace.”
Despite the controversial decision, the bout between boxing’s two best lightweights and two of the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters was competed at the highest level, entertained the fans, and left them clamoring for more. A rematch seems like a natural, but it’s far from a formality.
Lomachenko, too, was a winner in many ways. An underdog heading into the fight after his flat performance against Jamaine Ortiz in October, Lomachenko reminded everyone of his greatness and proved that he’s still an elite fighter. There are still plenty of great matchups for Lomachenko in the star-studded lightweight division, even if a rematch with Haney doesn’t materialize.