The month of May 2021 will conclude with an intriguing battle between two fighters who are at differing stages in their respective careers. A crossroads fight where the winner could well be in line to challenge the winner of the upcoming Undisputed World Lightweight championship fight between undefeated world champion Teofimo Lopez and undefeated IBF number one contender George Kambosos. This observer is referring to the Lightweight encounter between undefeated top contender Devin Haney and former three-division world champion Jorge Linares.
A bout that will take place on May 29th at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV that will headline a card broadcast globally by digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN is the definition of youth versus experience. For Devin Haney, who holds one of two interim championship designations in the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) Lightweight ratings, this fight represents the second such scenario where he has been pitted against a vastly more experienced opponent that some might argue is in the twilight of a great career. Haney’s last bout took place in November of last year when he scored a dominant twelve round unanimous decision over former unified Featherweight world champion Yuriorkis Gamboa. Gamboa, once one of the top fighters in the sport has seen his career hit a bit of a decline due to both injuries as well as the grueling effects of a long career between the amateur and professional ranks.
Haney was able to use his youth, quicker reflexes, and combination punching to out box Gamboa over twelve rounds to earn the unanimous decision victory. While that fight can be described as an emerging star simply doing what he had to do against a great fighter who’s best days may be behind him, Haney also took criticism from some, who felt despite his convincing victory, did not do enough to drum up the type of demand some feel necessary to secure a title shot against Teofimo Lopez or what would also be a lucrative fight against fellow undefeated top contender Ryan Garcia, who also holds a similar interim designation as Haney in the WBC’s Lightweight ratings. To be more specific, some felt Haney needed the type of statement making performance that some may argue can come only by way of a knockout to fuel the demand for those fights to be made.
From this observer’s perspective, I don’t necessarily feel the same way. It is true that Devin Haney did not score a stoppage win over Yuriorkis Gamboa, but he was still dominant against a fighter who is not the easiest fighter to look impressive against. Although my view may not be the popular view amongst some, Haney should be given credit for what was a near perfect performance even if he did not stop Gamboa. The situation Devin Haney finds himself in one might argue is such where as a boxer/puncher who has his fair share of knockout wins having scored knockouts in fifteen of his twenty-five wins, but has also scored the type of lopsided decision victories that some might not view as the most entertaining to watch, that some fighters in and around the 135lb. Lightweight division currently may view fighting Haney as a high risk/low reward scenario due simply to his style and evolving skillset.
It is somewhat ironic that Haney’s last bout against Gamboa and the fight he is going into against Jorge Linares were and are against two opponents that the same thing was said about them in their careers. In Jorge Linares, Haney will face a veteran of fifty-two professional bouts who has won world championships from the 126lb. Featherweight division to the 135lb. Lightweight division. Much like Gamboa, Linares has the type of style that could pose a difficult challenge for Haney, but is a fighter that at thirty-five years old may be in the twilight of his career.
Linares will come into this fight having won three of his last five fights including a knockout over Carlos Morales in February of last year shortly before the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic shut down sports and many aspects of everyday life for a period of time in 2020. What some may point to as a red flag that could work against Linares, despite having twenty-nine knockouts in forty-five career wins is, in his five career losses, Linares has been stopped in every one of those bouts including a first round knockout loss in his most recent defeat against Pablo Cesar Cano in January 2019.
Although such statistics could give an impression that Linares might have a question mark over him regarding his ability to take a punch, it is important to keep in mind that these losses occurred at the highest level of competition available in the sport including against fighters like Antonio DeMarco and Vasyl Lomachenko in world championship bouts. Boxing is after all a combat sport and as such anything can happen.
It is nevertheless understandable how some might view Linares as an underdog going into this fight, despite his edge in experience both in terms of overall bouts fought in his career compared to Haney as well as experience against top level competition. What Linares does have in addition to that is a career knockout percentage of over 55 percent, which is just short of Haney’s 60%. At his best, Jorge Linares has shown he can be much like Haney, an elusive boxer/punchers who is capable of both out Boxing an opponent as well as ending a fight quickly if the opportunity presents itself.
The question here as this fight approaches is whether or not Linares will be able to find a way to nullify Haney’s movement and deal with his hand speed and power. It will also be interesting to see if Linares knowing that he has been caught and stopped early in bouts before, is a little hesitant to be aggressive from the outset and whether he will implement a more tactical approach in this fight in the hopes of trying to take advantage of any openings that Haney might leave him.
An element that also should not be overlooked going into this fight is Linares is coming into it having suffered a bout with the COVID-19 virus last year, which caused the cancellation of a scheduled bout last August against Javier Fortuna, and as much remains unknown about the virus, so too does the long-term effects of the virus on those who have been infected with COVID-19, which more than likely will vary from individual to individual. It may be logical to expect that Haney might look to pressure Linares early to see how his conditioning might be.
In terms of what might be in store for the winner of this fight, it is also logical to think that at least some thoughts will be on the Lopez-Kambosos bout, which is scheduled for June 19th in Miami, FL. While some may consider Devin Haney a significant favorite going into this fight, Jorge Linares is likely only focused on the opportunity that is in front of him as he has been in the position of having a potential lucrative fight ahead of him if he succeeds in his upcoming bout. Something that if Devin Haney is looking ahead to what might be, instead of what is in front of him, could work to Linares’ advantage as the fighter who has more experience.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Haney vs. Linares takes place on Saturday, May 29th at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV. The fight as well as it’s full undercard can be seen exclusively globally on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN beginning at 8PM ET/5PM PT. (U.S. Times) For more information about DAZN including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs, availability around the world, and to subscribe please visit: www.DAZN.com.
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