Generational superstars collide in a much-needed battle for the undisputed title in one of boxing’s most competitive weight classes, but will the old master win back his titles or can the young sharp-shooter remain top dog?
May 20th pits two different generations of superstars against one another in a clash for the ages. Three-weight world champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist Vasiliy Lomachenko aims to become undisputed lightweight world champion by beating the current, and youngest ever, undisputed champion Devin Haney in a battle which will go down in history.
The road to undisputed
The road to producing an undisputed king in the lightweight division has been long and complex. In 2019, it looked to be rather straight-forward when Lomachenko had collected three of the four belts and a fight was agreed with Teofimo Lopez for the fourth.
But then Lomachenko was made franchise champion by the WBC, which in turn promoted Haney to WBC champion, Lomachenko then lost his other belts to Lopez, giving Lopez three belts. Lopez then lost to George Kambosos and all of a sudden three different unified champions had been made in three fights. Confusing I know…
As the chaos continued, Haney stayed active with his WBC belt, beating all who tried to take it from him, patiently waiting for his time in the spotlight. When in June 2022, a fight was made with Kambosos for undisputed, Haney grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Clearly a different level to his opponent, Haney beat Kambosos via wide decision in both their first bout and the rematch to become the first undisputed lightweight champion in the four-belt era. But still it felt like there was an asterisk next to his title.
He still hadn’t beaten the man who first collected the belts.
It all feels as though it has come full circle. Lomachenko finally has the chance to become undisputed champion and Haney has the chance to add another legend to his resume and remove any doubts surrounding his status as lightweight king once and for all.
But who will win this mega-fight? Here is a run-down of the key things to look out for…
Rounds in the bank
The likelihood is that this will be a fight of two halves. Lomachenko is a notoriously slow starter, while Haney tends to start fast. Expect Haney to have the better of the early rounds and for Lomachenko to come into his own around the midway point of the fight.
These early rounds that Haney might bank could be crucial if he is to beat Lomachenko via a decision.
As Lomachenko is a Southpaw and Haney an Orthodox fighter, the battle of the front foot will be crucial. A boxer will use their lead foot to control distance and bring themselves into and out of range. Haney likes to lead the momentum and keep the fight at long range, while Lomachenko likes to use his feet to get into a closer position and counterpunch.
To maximise this, Lomachenko will look to keep his lead right foot on the outside of Haney’s lead left foot. This will allow Lomachenko to counter Haney’s jab by throwing a straight left hand down the pipe.
Lomachenko has made a career out of making his opponents look very silly. His exceptional footwork, learnt through years of traditional Ukrainian dance, is his best weapon against Haney. It allows him to move into the pocket and land a flurry of blows before moving back out of range.
So how does Haney solve the puzzle that is Lomachenko?
One of the keys for Haney in this fight will be his ability to recognise when Lomachenko is about to dip to his right, throw his left hand, and aim to remove that angle.
Teofimo Lopez had success with this against Lomachenko by continuously pivoting to his right to nullify the angles Lomachenko tried to create. Haney will also have to try and keep his left foot on the outside of Lomachenko’s lead foot.
Another key weapon for Haney will be his jab. Naturally the bigger man, Haney, should look to keep Lomachenko out of the pocket and keep him at range by using his exceptional jab. When Lomachenko is able to slip past it, Haney should use his uppercut to nullify Lomachenko’s angles.
Will weight drain be a problem?
It is no secret that Haney has had trouble with weight in his last few fights, often looking very drained at weigh-ins. When a fighter is struggling to make weight, it often reduces their punch resistance and makes them more susceptible to being knocked out.
Lomachenko is a devastating body puncher and may look to use this to capitalise on Haney’s potential weight problems to stop the young champion in the later rounds.
We have already touched on how crucial footwork will be for both fighters in this bout, but if we look a little bit more into the fighter’s resumes, we can see that his left-handed stance could greatly benefit Lomachenko.
While the majority of Lomachenko’s bouts have occurred against right-handed fighters, Haney has only ever fought a southpaw twice, his most recent being JoJo Diaz. Haney was able to beat Diaz with relative ease, but was susceptible to a straight left hand on the angle, which Lomachenko will be able to enact with far more skill and precision than Diaz.
A lack of Power?
Of his 29 wins, Haney only has 15 stoppages, without a knockout since 2019. Many have criticised his power and believe that that could be his undoing against Lomachenko.
Against Lopez, Lomachenko seemed a little gun-shy and cautious of coming into range, perhaps due to Lopez’s power (13 KOs from 18 wins). Perhaps Lomachenko will be more likely to come into range against Haney as he is less concerned with his power.
Who will come out on top?
It is difficult to say. Lomachenko’s last fight against Ortiz suggests that he may struggle with Haney’s reach and speed, but that was a Lomachenko coming off the back of a long layoff. This version of Loma will shed the ring rust.
Haney’s struggles with weight and his lack of experience against southpaws could be his undoing. If he is unable to counter Lomachenko’s manoeuvres and cut off the angles he utilises so well, it could be a long night for the champion.
If Haney is to win, it will be via a decision, but I believe that an upset could be on the cards and that Lomachenko will stop Haney in the later rounds.