Monday, May 31, 2021

Haney-Linares Thoughts


In previewing the Lightweight encounter between undefeated top contender Devin Haney and former three-division world champion Jorge Linares, this observer referred to the bout as a “Crossroads Fight.” The very term in most cases is used to describe a fight between two fighters at differing stages of their careers. Although the term can also be used in describing two boxers at a similar stage, this was a scenario where the first example was almost an exact description for what took place on May 29th at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV.


Often when the scenario of a bout between two fighters at differing stages is seen, it is not uncommon for a fighter who is thought to be on the way up to have their share of questions and criticism that surrounds them. For Devin Haney, the questions that surround him are essentially the same as any and all hot rising contenders. What happens when they are faced with adversity for the first time? Can they take a punch? Due largely to his evolving skillset and talent, the twenty-two year old Haney has been able to avoid both while showcasing a mix of polished Boxing skills as well as also showing the ability to score head-turning knockouts if the opportunity arises. Despite this, Haney has also faced criticism for perhaps not being as aggressive in recent fights as some Boxing fans might prefer.


It is indeed true that Boxing fans that range from the casual observer to the enthusiast can at times be a tough crowd for a fighter to win over regardless of what they do. The silver-lining for Haney however, is many of the questions and criticisms that have been pointed in his direction are not uncommon for a fighter in his position as he looks to position himself for an opportunity at a world championship. 


At thirty-five years old, this fight represented an opportunity for the former three-division world champion Jorge Linares, a fighter thought by some to be on the decline, to defy the odds. Linares however, did go into this fight after suffering from the COVID-19 virus in 2020 and it was logical given that much regarding the long-term effects of COVID-19 remains unknown, to question what Linares condition would be.


This question was answered as Linares was able to hold his own in the fight with Haney. The first six rounds of this bout were relatively simple to describe. Haney had no issue engaging Linares in the pocket meaning he was willing to stand in positions that left opportunities for the two fighters to exchange offense. A subtle difference that worked in Haney’s favor however, was his ability to use angles, head movement, and a consistent jab to dictate the tempo of the combat. In some ways, what Haney was able to accomplish was the basic elements of Boxing, not just by the act of throwing his jab, but knowing how to throw it and when to time it in addition to mixing in short combinations.


It was this approach that carried Haney to win most of the first half of the fight in addition to how sound he was defensively. Although Jorge Linares was able to have his moments throughout this portion of the fight including landing some solid left hooks to the head as well as periodic success in landing his right hand, those moments were sporadic. This was due largely to the strategy that Devin Haney was able to execute more than possibly the effects of both age as well as the potential of any COVID-19-related effects, in this observer’s view. Linares did seem to be a step behind Haney and this in addition to Haney being able to limit the opportunities he had to let his hands go seemed to be what was making the difference in the fight.


As the bout progressed into the second half, the exchanges between the two fighters increased, but with Haney still generally getting the better of the action. In the closing seconds of round ten however, Linares would become the first fighter to stagger Haney with a short combination highlighted by a left hook to the head.


Despite being cleared stunned, this allowed Haney the opportunity to answer the question of how he would deal with adversity. Although he was still hurt in the eleventh round, Haney responded by continuing to fight and was able to box his way to a convincing twelve round unanimous decision victory. Ultimately, the fight was one that was lopsided in Haney’s favor, but also allowed him to showcase not only his evolving skillset, but also begin to answer some of the questions that have been asked about him.


With the win, Haney also maintained his interim championship designation in the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) Lightweight ratings. Although fellow undefeated contender Ryan Garcia also holds a similar designation by the same organization, Haney would appear to be in line to face the winner of the upcoming world championship bout between undefeated Undisputed Lightweight champion of the world Teofimo Lopez and undefeated IBF/WBO number one Lightweight contender George Kambosos on June 19th. Whether or not the politics that be in the sport of Boxing will allow that to happen for Haney remains to be seen. After beating two former world champions in his last two fights and doing so in convincing fashion, Haney has earned his opportunity.


As for Jorge Linares, he has nothing to be ashamed of and put forth a performance that some nay not have expected in defeat. It will nevertheless be interesting to see where Linares goes from here. Despite the loss to Haney, Linares remains a threat to anyone in the talent deep 135lb. Lightweight division.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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