It’s official: Devin Haney will defend his undisputed lightweight championship against Vasiliy Lomachenko on Saturday, May 20, headlining a Top Rank pay-per-view on ESPN+.
Haney (29-0, 15 KO) and Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KO) have some history, and it’s stuff that makes this fight a little spicier than it just being the two best fighters currently operating at 135 lbs.
Back in 2019, Top Rank campaigned for Lomachenko, then the WBA and WBO lightweight titlist, to face Luke Campbell for the vacant WBC title. This was against WBC rules, but boxing has no rules unless it actually wants to, and sanctioning bodies are especially guilty of this. Because Lomachenko is a star fighter, he was allowed to fight for the vacant WBC title despite holding belts with other sanctioning bodies.
After he won, Lomachenko was supposed to face Haney, who beat Zaur Abdullaev for the WBC’s interim title all of two weeks after Lomachenko vs Campbell. Instead, Lomachenko opted to be named “franchise champion,” a WBC distinction that has only been doled out twice, once to Canelo Alvarez at middleweight, and then to Lomachenko at lightweight. In both cases, it was so the star fighter would not actually have to deal with a mandatory order they just didn’t want, for one reason or another.
Canelo never returned to middleweight after a May 2019 win over Daniel Jacobs. Lomachenko, of course, continued to fight at lightweight, and the WBC — which never intended for “franchise” titles to be defended — allowed Lomachenko to “defend” that title against Teofimo Lopez, making for their 2020 fight to be marketed as “undisputed.”
Meanwhile, Haney had been elevated to full titleholder status in the lineage of the actual WBC lightweight title, the same as Jermall Charlo had been at middleweight when Canelo was named “franchise champion.”
Lopez and Haney, of course, had their social media disputes about which belt was most valid, and both sides have their arguments. Lopez will forever claim he was undisputed champion, as will George Kambosos Jr, the man Haney beat twice last year to, however you look at it, fully unify the division without any other questions.
Shut up about the IBO. I get it.
Now, three-and-a-half years later, Haney and Lomachenko will finally meet, but while most would have picked Lomachenko over Haney in 2019 or early 2020, that won’t be the case this time.
Now 24, Haney has matured into one of the sport’s top young fighters, while Lomachenko, now 35, is into the back stretch of his career. He’s won three straight since losing to Lopez in 2020, but there were some questions from his Oct. 2022 win over Jamaine Ortiz, too. While Lomachenko is still a clear contender and deserves to be called the No. 2 man at 135 right now, does he still have enough to beat a naturally bigger, younger man with top-level talent?
Haney, again, pretty well dominated Kambosos twice in 2022, but this will definitely be the biggest fight of his career in terms of spotlight and marketing and all that. It’s a chance for him to pretty fully put a stamp on this division, and if he wins, potentially move up to 140, where the field is crowded, talented, and exciting, and he’d be an immediate player.
Two fights reported for the undercard so far are Junto Nakatani vs Andrew Moloney for the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title, and Raymond Muratalla stepping it up a bit against Jeremiah Nakathila.