Updated May 20, 2023 - 11:37 pm
The boos that filled the MGM Grand Garden on Saturday night didn’t seem to bother undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney, who basked in the displeasure of a sellout crowd that watched him fight Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Never mind what 14,436 spectators thought.
The judges scoring ringside had a different opinion.
Haney (30-0, 15 knockouts) defended his IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO 135-pound titles with a 116-112, 115-113, 115-113 unanimous decision over the former three-division champion and modern pound-for-pound great.
Lomachenko (17-3, 11 KOs) made a compelling case for himself by maneuvering his way inside Haney’s signature jab and unloading combinations that brought the crowd to a frenzy and flustered his opponent.
But Haney maintained his composure and won the 12th round on the scorecards of Tim Cheatham, Dave Moretti and David Sutherland, scoring a signature victory that cements him as one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters.
“Lomachenko is a future Hall of Famer,” Haney said in the ring amid an orchestra of boos. “It was a blessing. He was my toughest opponent by far. He is very crafty, and we put on a great fight for the fans.”
Indeed, the bout brought together two of boxing’s best technicians. Haney, a 24-year-old Las Vegan by way of the Bay Area, builds his attack around an educated jab. Lomachenko is a 35-year-old Ukranian who utilizes fleet feet, feints and fast hands to create and exploit openings for his offense.
It was all on display throughout the course of 12 rounds that brought the very best out of both men.
Haney first worked behind his jab and peppered Lomachenko’s body with right hands, changing levels as Lomachenko adapted to his size and length. But when Lomachenko did, he found a home for his left hand — peppering Haney with counters and picturesque combinations that disrupted the champion and rallied the crowd.
Haney, however, stood his ground in exchanges.
CompuBox counted 124 connections for Lomachenko compared to 110 for Haney, who landed 50 body shots compared to nine for Lomachenko.
A 10th-round flurry for Lomachenko preceded an 11th-round flurry that momentarily stunned Haney. An equally exciting 12th round triggered a standing ovation — and celebratory responses from both fighters atop the turnbuckles.
“All the people saw what happened today,” Lomachenko said, prompting cheers from the same spectators who booed Haney moments prior.
“I can’t talk about this right now. It’s not a comfortable moment for me,” he added. “Right now I want to go back home and support my country and support my Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”
ESPN’s cameras captured footage of Lomachenko crying in his dressing room. That raw emotion, he explained, derived from several phone calls with his son, Anatoly, who greeted his father during each and every conversation with “and new” — as in “and new undisputed champion.”
Even in defeat, Lomachenko showcased his greatness against an emerging opponent nearly 11 years his junior. His manager, Egis Klimas, said he plans to appeal the decision with the Nevada Athletic Commission.
“Being robbed like that is unacceptable,” Klimas said. “I guarantee we’re not going to let that go.”
But Haney is still the undisputed champion — and now a promotional free agent as of Saturday night.
The victory over Lomachenko concludes his three-fight contract with Top Rank, which promoted his undisputed title victory over George Kambosos Jr. in June and his subsequent defense in the October rematch. Two-division champion turned 135-pound standout Shakur Stevenson entered the ring afterward, telling ESPN he believed Lomachenko won the fight — and that he wants to fight Haney next.
Fellow lightweight standout Gervonta Davis also looms for Haney, who could contemplate a foray into the 140-pound division.
Lomachenko expects him to leave the lightweight division, anyway, and indicated he doesn’t expect a rematch with Haney.
Haney said he is looking to the future.
“This is all experience. Me and my team are going to go back to the house, watch the fight and reflect on it,” he said. “I’ve been at 135 for a long, long time. This is my 30th fight. I’ve been here at 135 since I was 16 years old. We’re going to go back to the lab and figure out what’s next.”
On the undercard
In the co-feature, former two-division champion Oscar Valdez (31-1, 23 KOs) ended a 13-month layoff with a 98-91 98-92, 97-93 decision over Adam Lopez (16-5, six KOs).
Valdez, 32, from Nogales, Mexico, had previously faced the 27-year-old Californian in 2019, rising from a second-round knockdown to stop Lopez in the seventh.
But Lopez matched Valdez’s aggression and forced the former featherweight and junior lightweight titlist to go the distance.
To begin the pay-per-view, lightweight prospect and West Covina, California, native Raymond Muratalla (18-0, 15 KOs) preserved his unbeaten record with a second-round stoppage of Jeremia Nakathila (23-3, 19 KOs). Murtalla stunned the 33-year-old Namibian with a straight right and swarmed him in the corner to trigger an intervention from referee Robert Hoyle.
In the final fight before the pay-per-view began, Japanese junior bantamweight Junto Nakatani (25-0, 19 KOs) dropped Australian contender Andrew M0loney (25-3, 16 KO) twice before knocking him unconscious with a picturesque left hand in the 12th round to take the vacant WBO title.
Nakatani was dominating all three scorecards at the time of the knockout. Moloney was taken to University Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with perforated eardrums, per a Top Rank spokesperson.
Additionally, Las Vegas native, UNLV graduate and Bishop Gorman alum Nico Ali Walsh (8-0-1, five KOs) fought journeyman middleweight Danny Rosenberger (13-9-5, four KOs) to a 77-75, 75-77, 76-76 split draw.
Fellow Las Vegas native and lightweight prospect Emiliano Vargas (5-0, four KOs) stopped Rafael Jasso (3-1, one KO) 1:41 into the second round with a body shot.
Sam Gordon Las Vegas Review-Journal