Devin Haney didn’t have the performance he promised tonight against Yuriorkis Gamboa, but he remained unbeaten and retained the WBC lightweight title with a virtual shutout victory over 12 rounds in the DAZN main event.
Haney (25-0, 15 KO) won on scores of 118-109, 120-107, and 120-107, with BLH also scoring the fight 120-107 for the 21-year-old titleholder.
The 38-year-old Gamboa (30-4, 18 KO) was really never in this fight, but he not only didn’t get stopped by Haney, he didn’t wind up adding to his career total of 14 trips to the canvas, either. Haney had barked about wanting to dominate Gamboa more than anyone ever has, about wanting to drop him four times before finishing the Cuban veteran, but Gamboa was never in any serious trouble.
Haney, frankly, was rather dull in this fight, and it’s just a thing that has to be discussed for a guy looking to become a superstar in the sport. He didn’t press the action a whole lot on Gamboa, who was coming in off of a torn Achilles, and despite what the DAZN team said or didn’t say, it was clear the older fighter, who also is under-sized at 135 and always has been, no longer has near the mobility he did even five years ago, let alone in his prime a decade ago.
Gamboa survived largely by holding a lot and also simply not fighting in his old aggressive style, the thing that used to get him clipped and dropped fairly frequently for as good as he was. And Haney just sort of cruised with that; it’s smart boxing, because if Gamboa didn’t try to force a fire fight and land something big, he had no chance of winning. But it didn’t meet the expectations Haney tried to set for himself and for this fight, particularly considering he argued with critics who said it wasn’t a good fight. And in the end, it wasn’t.
These Devin Haney punches in slow-motion pic.twitter.com/GUrGVNQAvP— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) November 8, 2020
“I thought I put in a workmanlike performance. I wanted the knockout, but he was a crafty veteran, doing a lot of holding, so it is what it is,” Haney said. “I knew he was gonna come in and be scrappy and do anything to survive, and that’s what he did.”
Haney said his surgically repaired shoulder “felt great, 100 percent,” and that he didn’t think there was any ring rust on him. He then turned his attention to what’s next.
“There’s a lot of big fights out there. I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. I want to make these big fights,” he said. “Fighting someone like Gamboa was a stepping stone, but I’m here for the big fights to bring the best out of me.”
As for a specific target, he called out the biggest dog at 135.
“Teofimo Lopez is the one with the rest of the belts, so that’s the main fight I want to make happen.”
Filip Hrgovic TKO-5 Rydell Booker
Pretty easy night for Hrgovic (12-0, 9 KO), the former Olympic bronze medalist and a top heavyweight prospect. The 28-year-old Croatian put the 39-year-old Booker (26-4, 13 KO) on the canvas in the second, and referee Samuel Burgos called it in the fifth round. Booker wasn’t really doing much or trying to win; this looked like Good Sparring, which isn’t what anyone wants to see.
Booker is a crafty veteran fighter, but he’s not remotely competitive against guys this good. There’s definitely a spot for him against young heavyweights, but not guys as advanced as Hrgovic.
Hrgovic did make some open challenges after the fight:
Zhang Zhilei TKO-4 Devin Vargas
Zhang (22-0, 17 KO) recently signed with Matchroom Boxing, as Eddie Hearn has at least the thought of taking Anthony Joshua to China for a fight with the 2008 Olympic silver medalist. But Zhang is 37 and may have to actually get a more credible win before then, and that’s no guarantee. He’s big and strong and throws nice punches, but he’s also old and a little slow with his feet and, frankly, he hasn’t fought anyone very good since going pro in 2014.
But he did the job here. Vargas (22-7, 9 KO) is a crafty, annoying (in a good way) veteran fighter, a 38-year-old from Ohio and a former U.S. Olympian, but his pro run has never amounted to much because he’s just not big enough and doesn’t have big power. He usually can give rounds, but when he got rocked and went down in the fourth here, his knee seemed to give out on him, and the fight was over. It’s a decent win for Zhang taken just as what it is, he was winning the fight clearly and looked OK. But a suggested step up against even a Derek Chisora will tell us way more about Zhang and whether he can even get to what most would see as a cash-out with AJ.
- Arthur Biyarslanov TKO-1 Juan Jose Martinez: Biyarslanov was the swing bout, this was set for eight rounds, and it was over in 59 seconds. Biyarslanov (7-0, 6 KO) landed a good hook and all, but Martinez (28-10, 20 KO) pretty clearly didn’t want anything to do with this fight and had no intention of continuing. It is what it is, it happens. Biyarslanov is a 25-year-old Russian-Canadian junior welterweight, good prospect if not super young. Can crack for sure, was a good amateur. But nothing new to learn here.
- Reshat Mati TKO-2 Marcos Mojia: Mati goes to 8-0 (6 KO) with a bulldozer win over Mojica (17-6-2, 13 KO), a 35-year-old Nicaraguan who usually gets trounced in fights like these, and did again. The 22-year-old Mati, nicknamed “The Albanian Bear,” is a Staten Island welterweight who might find himself at 140 when he starts getting really serious, or at least it seems worth exploring if he can do it comfortably. He said after the fight he’s willing to try it. So far, so good for him. He put Mojica down in the first and again in the second, and referee Samuel Burgos saw enough there. Mati wasn’t overly high on his win here, and felt he could have done better and has things to work on.
- Raymond Ford TKO-3 Rafael Reyes: An easy win for the 21-year-old Ford, a southpaw featherweight from Camden, NJ, who has been featured on several Matchroom undercards now. Jury remains out on his upside, but there are things to like. Fast hands, a lot of confidence, Eddie Hearn believes in him. Power is a question, even though he flashed some here with knockdowns in the first and third rounds, but this is the seventh stoppage loss for Reyes (18-11, 14 KO), too, he’s not exactly Mr. Durability. That said the guys who have stopped him are pretty much all pretty good fighters or were at the time he fought them, anyway. Ford is a legitimate prospect. How good of one? That remains to be seen. Ford gave himself an A or A- for this performance. “I showed a little bit more than I usually show. I showed the power, the speed, the body shots. I did everything I said I was going to do.”