StageWorks, Shreveport, Louisiana, January 11th, 2019 (Showtime): It is almost fight week in Shreveport and Jab Hook sets the scene.
Devin Haney 20(13)-0 vs. Xolisani “Novema the Wasp” Ndongeni 25(13)-0, lightweights fighting in a 10 round prizefight. Fight will screen on “ShoBox.”
Devin had a decorated amateur career with a final record of 130 – 8. “The Dream” debuted in 2015. He was very active in 2016-17, fighting and winning 16 of his bouts, slowing down to only two in 2018. Haney's been developing nicely and has handled each step up well, i.e. a 9th rd. stoppage of Mason Menard….
.. and a dominant unanimous decision vs Juan Carlos Burgos. “The Dream” was a lightweight prospect who has become a contender.
Ranked #8 lightweight by Ring, he sits among a very talented lightweight division where he can advance. But to crack the diamond ceiling with Lomachenko and Mikey Garcia on top, Haney would need years and at least a dozen bouts to have a chance. Trained by his Papa, Haney must also deal with all the baggage such family ties can create. But back to reality, Devin Haney has great potential to develop and learn, but he'll have to live up to the hype that his hip hop social media status and promoter have created for him.
“Novema” Ndongeni has been chosen to help him do that. Undefeated, Ndongeni is a tough, successful South African club fighter who has only fought outside his home country once before. The former IBO world lightweight title-holder was stripped in October 2016 after over one year of inactivity. There is very little for a boxing analyst go on in terms of his fight videos, so when Jab has a question about South African boxing, he goes to his man in the “Rainbow Nation”, Ryno Liebenberg.
(Please allow me to briefly digress, Liebenberg is the top-ranked super middleweight in South Africa who had a victory against Vincent Feigenbutz stolen from him by a referee who suddenly decided that a cut on Ryno's forehead was too bad. The bout, which was fought on Feb 22, 2018 in Ludwigsburg, was stopped without consulting the ring doctor in the 6th round which Ryno was winning, in a bout where he was ahead on the cards, and no determination of how Liebenberg got the cut was made by the referee. Germany can be a tough venue for foreign boxers to get a fair shake.)
So Ryno Liebenberg told me that “Novema” Ndongeni has very fast hands and an awkward style, which could pose some challenges for Haney. Ryno said,“I’ve sparred many rounds with him and he handles himself very well…(he's) always ready to go. Also can fight in and outside, going forward or back…and awkward… a complete boxer, but I have seen him having off days and then he is nightingale more than ordinary…”.
Against Juan Garcia Mendez in 2016 he showed some nice footwork and balance, clear ring savvy moves and that weird Ndongeni style. But Jab Hook repeatedly noticed big holes in his defense in that bout. Though Xolisani Ndongeni has more experience in the ring, he has faced lower level opposition, and Haney is a major step up for him.
Who will have the better day under the bright lights? Who has nothing lose? Who can adapt and implement? Who is prepared to willingly taking risks? Look for Jab Hook's answers and a prediction for this main event on NYFights.com in the coming days.
“Jab Hook”, aka “Brooklyn” Joe Healy is a boxing expert commentator for DAZN.de, a professional cutman from the BOXWERK gym, and a licensed referee/judge in amateur boxing. A lifelong aficionado born in Brooklyn and living in Munich, “The Sweet Science” is his passion. Please feel free to contact him as Jab Hook on FaceBook, at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoxAficionado.