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Devin Haney Beats Jo Jo Diaz In Semi Snoozer; Maybe Kambosos Could Force Haney Into Spirited Battle?

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Sometimes you watch a fight, and you don’t seem to have seen the same fight as the majority of people online or calling the show. Tonight, the Devin Haney-Jo Jo Diaz bout didn’t impress me, not at all, and I was tripping a bit as the 12 rounds played out because the crew at DAZN were so much kinder in their assessment of a snoozer main event screened on DAZN.

To me, it was sub barn burner in the feature tango at the MGM Grand Saturday evening. Like, Roberto Duran back in the day maybe would have wandered away from ringside and found a horse to punch, to stir things up because so many minutes of so many rounds were not filled with punching. The crowd actually needs to own it, too, because in Brooklyn, there would have been hooting here and there, and that would have at least sent notice to Devin and Jo Jo that this pairing wasn’t doing too much to entertain patrons.

The 23 year old Haney, who turned pro six years ago, got the nod, by scores of 117-111 (Dave Moretti), 117-111 (Max DeLuca), 116-112 (Tim Cheatham). And because I’m covering this and want to be professional and thorough, I kept watching after Haney and then the loser talked to Chris Mannix.

Everyone, Todd Grisham, Chris Mannix and Sergio Mora, Adnan Virk along with Shawn Porter, now a “full-time” DAZN analyst, it was announced during the streamcast, all spoke glowingly of Haney’s performance.

Kambosos at least hinted at the fact that Haney has to be forced into making drama in a bout, the other guys were all really uniformly positive, and to the writer it did feel overboard at times.

Yes, styles make fights and to a degree state of psyche can affect interpretation of the event. Or maybe a hard holiday party punch got guzzled over there, they did a run through and then ran through the punch bowl which had Molly in it? Or Porter’s upbeat nature is incredibly infectious? Or there is a subconscious desire to boost the profile of fighters being featured, because that’s the smart route politically? I don’t know.

Anyway, Diaz came in 32-1-1 with 18 KOs, from S. El Monte, CA, and was 134.4 Friday. Haney, hearing a decent amount of boos as his name was introduced, was 135 on Friday. The true boxing lifer entered at 26-0, with 15 KOs. This was the fourth defense of his crown, the WBC regular version.

Yep, when David Diamante said, “The dreammmmmm” there was a pop of boos. Haney didn’t seem to be bothered, as he looked into the soul of Diaz while the ref shared instructions for the Matchroom/Eddie Hearn promotion, funded by DAZN.

This one really didn’t achieve liftoff, let’s be honest.

In the first and in round two, Haney looked on message, focused, this a man who has drilled consistently with his dad all the moves basic and more complex for two decades. He used his lead hand as a viewfinder and blinder, and the crowd pretty quick let him know they didn’t dig this technique.

Haney, if you didn’t know before the show, is quite a deliberate fighter, much more “pugilist” than “fighter,” though detractors would maybe argue that yeah, he’s a boxer, but he’s not so fancy, or fabulous enough to be dubbed a “pugilist.”

Haney has fought three times in two years, and receives maybe more flak than he’s due because him, Ryan Garcia, Teofimo and Gervonta are new era boxers, and fight rarely, so that can be frustrating for old guard fans who want them to shut up, and fight in the ring, not on social.

In the third, Haney the Las Vegan fought the same, he’s not ever overly busy, his main aim is to win rounds, but in as risk-less manner as possible.

There were almost no decibel surges in the crowd to this point, for the record. But in round four maybe Diaz would decide fuck it, and just go for broke? Indeed, at 2:41, he started getting feisty, he must have heard it from the corner after the third. There was a sharp one from Diaz, the lefty underdog started stabbing with the jab. Yeah, in this round it started becoming a fight, and my interest perked. But then dipped.

Haney scored with a couple shots, then Diaz came back with a jab that almost fully pierced the guard of Haney. Diaz got love from the crowd when he made Devin miss obviously. Bill Haney told his son to keep “working the stick,” and to switch directions, left then right for variety sake, when shuffling.

In the fifth, Diaz walked to center ring five seconds early, showing good body language. But his output didn’t match his apparent eagerness to begin the frame. Haney ripped rights to the gut, the belly then the sides. His pop Joe Sr told Diaz to back Haney up, really, make a fight of it, during the minute break.

But Diaz did, his left hand in the seventh landed sharp, clean, but I can’t say it looked like Haney got buzzed. Diaz wasn’t fighting, pressing, testing Haney’s will, not enough, though.

Diaz indeed did land some clean shots, but this fight featured two men without scary power. Pic by Ed Mulholland

Really, at this juncture Diaz, age 29, needed to go into pit bull mode and press nastily. But instead he stayed smart, he’d get tagged now and again but Haney is not even half a sniper. Haney flashed offense in round nine, teasing fury, splitting the guard, and then Jo Jo answered with authority. Maybe now he’d jam the gas pedal, look to close the show hard? Jo Jo’s dad told his son, now old enough to look into his soul some to help him choose his direction, to rough him up, put hands on him, slow him down, bruise him up. Didn’t happen.

In the tenth, Diaz stayed more than a bit too measured, but then he’d fire a lead left.. and then both would fall into a lull. And yes, plenty of blame for that falls on Jo Jo, he fought a heckuva lot like he wanted to make going the distance job one, and half of job two.

For some, watching this might have been the most connected you were during the whole show.

Haney would paw, slide to his right, in no hurry, and Diaz wasn’t solving that Haney is a bit of a snake charmer. (I will confess, I was grumpy on Twitter and posted a crack about “Paw Patrol” aka the Haney jab)…But to be fair, Devin had good luck with snappy right counters, and leads, and his body shot in the tenth had all impressed.

No, Diaz is not getting an A for effort.. I’ve been to and watched too many fights where people throw twice as many punches. Lotta risk aversion going on in that ring, though that’s not what anyone calling these fights said

Haney’s footwork is I think under-rated, while people snipe/focus on his lack of power, which is significant, as it’s both and physical and mental constraints which lessen his power to really change things. And also plenty marvel at the strong technical foundation and focus Haney has put into form under the direction of a very sharp, committed father Bill, who isn’t close to well known in the at large community.

In the 11th, Diaz still didn’t go balls to the wall. Strange, I thought at the time, and more so when I finished writing this an hour after the decision was announced, much more so. I get a sense that in the next few days, a couple people, especially maybe an old timer or two, will subtly convey to Joseph that working to get that far, and receiving the type of shot no one is guaranteed to get again, without having properly exercised your trigger  finger.. Why? He would have to answer that, though sometimes I wonder how many of these guys are more so fighting not to win, but not lose too bad, to ensure that they are still in the mix for these very lucrative scraps.

This vibe was in play DURING the fight, I think, and it’s hard to understand why.

“You’re waiting, you’re waiting,” Diaz Sr told the kid after 11 closed. A kid who, looks to me, doesn’t have a natural born mean streak in him.

In the 12th, Diaz did press, and Devin had to clinch. Then he was fine, and Diaz, who really didn’t press HARD very long, needed a break. “This is what you want a 12th round to look like,” one of the guys in the booth said, as if it was Gatti-Ward. It was nothing in the vicinity. I felt groggy, the gap between stated perception and my interpretation got solidified too much by now.

I left some of the tree in, to signal “gifting,” because I’m dispensing honestly here: the numbers sorta tell the story of the fight, which featured no knockdowns, as they used to say, but no longer do, because maybe it’s almost assumed.

Haney prowled around the ring after going up on the ropes and posing to milk for cheers. He did not get much, so he stepped down, and turned away. He knew he won, pretty easy work and his smile probably popped back to peak happy really quick.

In his in the ring interview with Chris Mannix, Haney spoke of wanting to do battle with Cowboy George Kambosos. Haney repeated his contention that fans are craving this one a couple times, a bit uncomfortably, though I will point out it’s likely he will be three times better with that in a couple years.

Kambosos, come to think of it, did some of the deftest work on the whole card, when on three or more occasions he gave a smooth answer when offered the chance to dissect Haney. Him being politically savvy, I get, he’s trying to lure Haney into a fight. That’s acceptable, I think, because I feel assured that Kambosos would try fairly often to do damage to Haney, and give most all of himself in his effort to WIN.  And, Kambosos seemed like he TRULY believed he had seen enough of Haney to find copious weak points. And I feel like Kambosos would not have acted anything close Jo Jo, who talked post-fight to Mannix about drawing boards and wanting more meaningful fights like this one.

Diaz didn’t seem too bummed about losing, and I’ve watched way too many fights in which hungry underdogs threw twice as many punches as Diaz did over the course of twelve rounds. That’s why this writeup has more of a “negative” tone than I like to offer. Bottom line, I have to be consistent in what I ask/expect of fighters: all of us viewers should give the athletes due respect when they are doing their very best to win. No, I didn’t feel that from Diaz for anything close to 36 minutes, while Haney continues to get lots of free passes for consistently being involved in fights that lack entertainment value.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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