Devin Haney vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko: Do You Believe The Hype?
According to Merriam-Websters dictionary, the definition of hype is “promotional publicity of an extravagant or contrived kind.” It’s also defined as a form of deception.
This weekend the undisputed lightweight championship will be on the line when Devin “The Dream” Haney (29-0, 15 KOs) puts his titles on the line against three-division champion Vasiliy (17-2, 11 KOs) Lomachenko at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The match won’t garner the same amount of attention as last month’s non-title bout between Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia.
What Are Implications of Haney-Lomachenko
Still, it has more significant implications for the future of the lightweight division.
Now, there may not be any real or manufactured personal beef between Haney and Lomachenko; there is some genuine competitive animosity that stems from the WBC.
When Lomachenko traveled to the United Kingdom in August 2019, defeating fellow Olympic gold medalist Luke Campbell for the vacant WBC lightweight just two weeks later, Haney faced Zaur Abdullaev for the interim WBC lightweight title.
Why the WBC held vacant and interim title bouts in less than a month’s span in the same weight class is perplexing but par for the course.
Then came the maligned and downright pointless franchise tag that was awarded to Lomachenko, elevating Haney to full champion status with the WBC.
Boxing Politics Is Goofy
Essentially, in some respects, Haney could have been viewed as the number one contender for Lomachenko’s title while holding the championship.
Whether Lomachenko and Haney should have immediately fought in late 2019 or early 2020 is up for debate; however, the younger fighter did have shoulder surgery in December 2019, putting any potential fight between the two on the sidelines.
The narrative being pushed by Haney that Lomachenko ducked or avoided him may only be one of self-motivation as surgeries and the COVID pandemic all factored into a fight not occurring between Haney and Lomachenko.
Should Lomachenko have instead fought Haney instead of Teofimo Lopez in 2020?
But the other narrative that must have bothered Haney was that he wasn’t viewed as a true world champion.
Devin Haney Irked By Email Champ Tag
Instead, his fellow contemporaries ranging from Gervonta Davis, Teofimo Lopez, and Javier Fortuna, referred to him as the ‘email champ.’
“When the pandemic started, Haney reclaimed his tile via email, said Javier Fortuna to Ring Magazine. “And that’s what he is – an email champion besides a coward.”
Gervonta Davis added more fuel to the fire.
“He’s an email champ,” Davis told Brian Custer on The Last Stand Podcast. “He’s fighting because somebody mailed him the belt.”
Haney would get the last laugh in 2022 when he traveled to Australia and soundly defeated George Kambosos to become the undisputed lightweight champion holding all four major titles.
But was that enough?
Did the Kambosos victory satisfy Haney sufficiently to deter any notions of him being an undeserving champion?
Or does he still have a chip on his shoulder?
“My focus comes from wanting to be one of the greats,” Haney stated on an episode of Top Rank’s Blood, Sweat and Tears.
“One of the best ever. Legacy is definitely important to me. I won’t stop until my name lives on longer than I ever will.
“Until my name is mentioned with the greats of the sport of boxing. I want my name to be remembered forever, and every fight, I’m one step closer to that.”
Haney Wants To Be ATG
At 24, Haney has set himself on a path to continued greatness, and a victory over Lomachenko will solidify him further as not just the one true lightweight champion but the best fighter at 135.
More importantly, a decisive win will go a long way in quelling any doubts about whether Haney is one of the sports’ elite practitioners.
Sometimes, being the champion and being considered the best aren’t mutually exclusive.
And with Davis and Shakur Stevenson in the same weight class and potential fights at junior welterweight, Haney will have a plethora of options whether he wins or loses against Lomachenko.
“When I set out to do this, I didn’t want to be mediocre,” Haney said to Top Rank.
“I didn’t want to be just another boxer. I want to be the best. I don’t fight for money. I fight for legacy. That’s what separates me from all the fighters today.
“I don’t see fighters that fight for legacy. I see people that fight for clout, for money, they fight for the wrong things. But I’m a different kind of fighter; I’m a throwback.”
Despite the gap in their resumes, Lomachenko will benefit the most from a victory over Haney.
Loma Legacy Would Get Massive Boost
When Lomachenko suffered his second loss to Teofimo Lopez in October 2020, a large contingent of fans and pundits expressed that the Ukrainian was always overrated. The two-time Olympic gold medalists and performances would say otherwise.
He was rated the number one fighter pound-for-found by both the BWAA and Ring Magazine in 2018 and 2019.
The year before, he was awarded Fighter of the Year honors by both publications.
With only 19 fights as a professional, he is 9-2 against former world champions and became a three-division champion in just 12 bouts.
But maybe the promotion of Lomachenko went overboard a few times.
“I would like to say this; that Vasyl Lomachenko is technically the best fighter that I have seen since the early Muhammad Ali,” said promoter Bob Arum in 2016.
“There is nobody that I have seen, and there have been a lot of great technical fighters that I have seen – Alexis Arguello was one, Floyd Mayweather certainly, Manny Pacquiao – but there has been nobody with the skills that Vasyl Lomachenko has.”
Certainly, Lomachenko has displayed immense technical acumen at a high level throughout his career.
But, anytime something is overly praised, including movies and music, a bit of hyperbole comes into play.
Lomachenko’s rise to the top of the sport had its share of overselling.
Boxing history is vast, with over a century of fighters stepping through the ropes. What is considered new can be old, and what is forgotten can be new again.
Lomachenko, 35, whose blend of speed, punch variety, and footwork has, at times, exceeded expectations. Yet it isn’t the first time we’ve seen this skill set displayed in the sport.
Loma Like Orlando Canizales
Looking back at the 1990s in the bantamweight division, there was Orlando Canizales, who exhibited a similar skillset.
Although he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009 and made 16 defenses of his bantamweight title over his six-year reign Canizales is often left out of conversations as one of the best technicians in the history of the sport.
Looking at film of Canizales, you’ll see a style similar to Lomachenko’s almost three decades before the two-time Olympic gold medalist turned professional.
When Lomachenko lost to Lopez, it was treated as the first legitimate loss of his career.
In his second bout, he lost a decision to Orlando Salido; however, that defeat was chalked up to being a learning lesson and a welcoming for an amateur to the professional ranks.
Lomachenko was unable to get started early enough to secure rounds against Lopez. Both losses were competitive, tightly contested bouts, and Lomachenko underwent right shoulder surgery following the Lopez match.
Haney’s father, Bill Haney, believes these losses came with excuses without Lomachenko having to take any accountability.
“He’s only had two losses, and with both of his two losses, he has an excuse. We want to put an end to his excuses. Put a nail in the coffin of Mr. Lomachenko and send him on his way.”
Regardless of the circumstances, Lomachenko’s loss to Lopez may have somewhat humbled the southpaw Olympic champion.
Following his defeat, Lomaechenko has scored three victories – two dominant wins over Masayoshi Nakatani and Richard Commey- and a close call with Jamaine Ortiz.
For a fighter who nearly won all of his amateur bouts and has primarily been dominant as a pro, putting a loss into perspective may have put his ego in check.
Loma Assesses The Present
“What happened in my life?” Lomachenko said on Top Rank’s Blood, Sweat, and Tears.
“I lose three belts; I lose this fight. But I win much bigger than these three belts. For me, it was very good, and I understand it now. Now I have started to live a second life like a different man.
“Before, I was a man that wanted to take the world. Inside, my ego was very big. A lot of people didn’t see this, but after this loss, I saw myself. I stopped changing after this moment. Maybe it was not my time.”
At the same time, there doesn’t seem to be any lack of confidence from the Ukrainian.
The goal for him is still to become the undisputed champion, as the move to lightweight came more out of his necessity for opponents and challenges rather than a need to move up in weight.
“When Loma started his professional career, he was the one who was always pushing that any division has to have one champion, which means undisputed,” said Lomachenko’s longtime manager, Egis Klima, to Top Rank.
“If you recall, 10 years ago, nobody was an undisputed champion. He went from 126, and we couldn’t get unified fights. 130, we couldn’t get unified fights. He went to 135 for the bigger guys to go into undisputed.”
Haney-Lomachenko is unlikely to be a fight-of-the-year candidate; however, it should be filled with tension, especially in the first few rounds. The hype behind the fight itself isn’t huge, but both fighters will have plenty to prove.
A win for Haney will be a true launching point that could catapult him as one of the best in the world and, with the number of names for potential matchups around him, could make him a mainstream star.
“I’m number one pound-for-pound,” stated Haney. “I’m the best. I’m going to prove it. This is only the beginning. I’m 24 years old, and I’ve got a long career ahead of me. Loma is looking to retire soon; he’s looking for his escape route. I’m ending him. I’m putting a stop to his career. I’m going to embarrass him, and he just won’t be the same after. We’re closing the chapter on Loma after this.”
Lomachenko, at times, has been compared to Manny Pacquiao.
Four years ago, Pacquiao fought Keith Thurman, who was 10 years younger than him, in a fight that was set up for his opponent to win.
The Olympian finds himself in a similar situation, although not nearly as removed from his prime or the same amount of tread on his tires.
Like the fighting Senator, Lomachenko has an opportunity against Haney to add another accomplishment that will only raise his stature from a historical viewpoint should he achieve his goal with his hands raised.
We Shall Soon See
“I still have my speed, my power, my conditioning,” stated Lomachenko. “I was very close to this goal. Now I have a second chance. But I have a second chance to take this goal as a different man.”
In a media world where everyone gives their takes on a daily basis, we usually don’t have the luxury or, more realistically, the patience to let things play out.
In a sport as unpredictable as boxing, pundits can be guilty of anointing a fighter as great too early or waiting too long to give someone their flowers. It’s a balancing act.
So do you believe that Haney is as good as he says he is?
Is Lomachenko the all-time great that he has been ordained as? The answer could be both, neither, or one of the above.
Whether you believe the hype behind either man, the only measurement that will matter in the end will be the results.