Devin Haney and Vasiliy Lomachenko have been expected to meet on May 20, and now Mike Coppinger reports at ESPN.com that the deal is being “finalized” for that date in Las Vegas, in what will be an ESPN pay-per-view main event.
ESPN and Top Rank have generally stayed out of the boxing pay-per-view market in recent years, but this is frankly a fight that is going to be expensive to put on, and trying to make the money back on pay-per-view is likely the only way this fight happens at all. It’s simply too expensive to be a normal ESPN main event, even if Haney vs Lomachenko doesn’t shape up to be a blockbuster seller.
Haney (29-0, 15 KO) fully unified the lightweight division last year when he beat George Kambosos Jr in Australia, and returned for a contractually obligated rematch four months later, beating Kambosos clearly again.
He’d endured barks of being an “email champion” for a while, which really dates back to Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KO) opting not to face mandatory challenger Haney.
That situation arose in 2019 out of a complicated and ridiculous ordeal that saw Lomachenko — who held the WBA and WBO lightweight titles — getting the green light to face Luke Campbell with the vacant WBC belt also at stake. This was against the normal WBC guidelines, but the right people wanted it to happen.
When Lomachenko won, interim champion Haney became his mandatory, and instead Lomachenko chose to accept a bogus “franchise title” from the WBC — a designation that has never meant anything other than a star fighter did not want to fight a mandatory challenger, and the sanctioning body weren’t in any rush to make him, while also still, in some way, recognizing him.
The “franchise” titles were never even meant to be defended, but the WBC changed their tune on that in 2020, when every other sanctioning body was about to get a piece of the Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez fight and the WBC were due to be left out of the pot. This led to Lopez — and then Kambosos — claiming to be undisputed champion, when the case was absolutely disputed.
But all of that got settled last year, and we’re now at a point where the 24-year-old Haney and 35-year-old Lomachenko are both under the Top Rank banner, need a fight, and everything just makes sense for them to meet next.
It will also be a chance for the celebrated Lomachenko to do basically the one thing he’s never done, which is go undisputed. He’s won titles at 126, 130, and 135, as well as being an amateur legend, and his Hall of Fame case is pretty much set in stone as is, but it’s another hill to try to climb.
And for Haney, he faces another top contender in what will be the most attention any fight of his career has ever gotten, a chance to add a great fighter’s name to his resume.