Who Got An A? Who Got An F? Grading Fighters On The Haney-Diaz Jr Card
On Saturday night, DAZN provided fight fans a fantastic night of boxing. Every fight of the scheduled five-bout cards ended in a knockout except for the main event. DAZN's main event featured Devin Haney (2-0, 15 KOs) defending his WBC lightweight title against former world champion Joseph “JoJo” Diaz (321-1, 15 KOs), a tough-nosed boxer who many say is Haney's most significant test to date. So, how did the young champion fare? After analyzing last night's fights, I’ve compiled my report card and letter grade assessments. School is in session; here we go!
Devin Haney: A-, “Jojo” Diaz Jr. B-
In his last outing against Jorge Linares, I gave Devin Haney a B- minus for his performance against the aging veteran. If you saw the fight, you may remember Haney allowed Linares to hurt him and was unable to knock out Linares, whose previous losses were all by knockouts.
That wasn’t the case last night. Haney's performance improved significantly against Diaz Jr. For the first three rounds of the fight, Haney was fast, sharp, and controlled the distance. After that, Jojo pressed the champion and found nothing but “air” every time he lunged towards Haney.
It seemed the tide was about change. In the 4th round, “JoJo” came alive and let the champ know he came to fight. He seemed to have timed Haney’s jab and started landing a series of powerful straight lefts and combinations that caught Haney’s attention.
In the 5th round, Haney regained control of the fight and started unleashing a body attack of his own, hoping to slow down Diaz. Haney regained control and he didn't relinquish it until the final round. At times “JoJo” would jump in and bully Haney in a failed attempt to disrupt his timing, but the champ stayed composed and showcased exceptional footwork to avoid the onslaught.
Diaz Jr. had mild success in the 7th and 9th rounds, but Haney, surprisingly, didn’t retreat and fought through the challenger’s onslaught.
In the final round, probably sensing that he needed a knockout to win, Diaz relentlessly attacked the champion and consistently landed straight lefts that stunned Haney. However, the champ warded off the attack by trading punches with Diaz.
Haney rightfully wins a unanimous decision. He earns an A- in my grade book. Haney put on an exceptional performance against a top-tier fighter. The champ and his team executed the best plan to beat the smaller Diaz by keeping the challenger at the end of his reach. He didn’t get bullied to fighting the smaller man’s fight and displayed exceptional footwork and head movement to get out of trouble when “JoJo” breached his defense. Additionally, he showed a willingness to fight and stand his ground when he couldn’t escape Diaz’s attack.
Still yet, Haney let “JoJo” hit him with too many clean “telegraphed” punches that sometimes seemed to have stunned the champion. While “JoJo” is a great fighter, he is not a heavy puncher. Which left me questioning how Haney’s chin will hold up against the more powerful punchers in the division.
As for “Jojo” Diaz Jr., he gets a B- in the grade book. He is a better boxer than what he displayed last night. It was apparent that his plan was to get within Haney's reach, but he poorly executed that game plan. Rather than jab his way in, he often lunged at Haney, and the champion made him miss and countered effectively. Diaz found some success when he attacked Haney’s body and followed up with powerful lefts to the head. If he would’ve kept attacking the body, he probably would’ve slowed Haney down enough and kept him stationary. But inexplicably, he would forgo the body attack for a futile head-hunting tactic.
Montana “Too Pretty” Love (17-0, 9 Kos) Grade: A-
Montana Love's Alias is “Too Pretty.” And that's exactly what he displayed as Montana made the very best of his promotional debut. To quote the late ESPN anchor Stuart Scott, Montana Love was “as cool as the other side of the pillow.” He relished the moment as he made his ring entrance wearing regalia symbolizing Mexican culture and had his French bulldog in hand (see below, he gets extra points for the pup.)
All that “swag” translated into the fight as Montana outclassed his opponent. He was fast, slick, and diversified his attack by alternating combinations between the body and the head. Love dropped his opponent three times before the referee stopped the fight in the second round.
What should've been an A+ grade for Montana, I had to drop his grade to an A- for missing the 140 lbs. weight limit. Instead, Love was a grotesque 3lbs over the weight limit. To me, that signals a lack of discipline outside the ring.
And if he wants to win a world title in the very competitive 140lbs. division, he needs to be more disciplined moving forward.
Jessica McCaskill (10-2, 3 KOs) Grade: A
Complete domination is the only way to describe McCaskill’s performance. From the opening bell, the undisputed welterweight champion “pushed the pedal to metal” against Kandi Wyatt and didn't let off the gas until the referee mercifully stopped the fight in the 7th round. Wyatt had her moments in the fight and landed some clean punches on the champion, but it was to no avail. It seemed like Wyatt got hit with six more for every punch she hit McCaskill with.
Jessica McCaskill earns a solid A in what should've been graded an A+ performance. Instead, the champion traded defense for offense in an attempt to make her prefight prediction come to true and knockout Wyatt in the first round. As a result, McCaskill got hit with punches she should've seen coming and should've been able to avoid. Hopefully, this is not the start of an ugly trend for the undisputed champion.
Filip Hrgovic (13-0, 11 KOs) Grade: C
Heavyweight Flip Hrgovic has a heavy right hand; nothing more, nothing less. In his unimpressive third-round stoppage of Emir Ahmatovic, Flip Hrgovic displayed a limited boxing skill set and only looked to end things with a right hand during the first round. In the second round of the fight, Hrgovic was comfortable and landed more combinations. But that was after he landed a right hand that left Ahmatovic wary of getting hit with another one. As a result, he dropped Ahmtovic twice in the second and third rounds, which led the referee to stop the fight. Ahmatovic displayed some decent boxing skills that gave Hrgovic trouble for a little while. Hrgovic keeps his guard low, and his only defense is to drop or raise his hands in the direction of incoming punches.
In my opinion, Hrgovic is a “one-trick pony” who looks to end fights early by landing a right hand. His defense is atrocious. He's slow and moves as graceful as a snail. I give him a C for his performance, and I'm being generous. Hrgovic says he is ready for the top guys in the heavyweight division right now, a comment that ringside boxing analyst Sergio Mora ludicrously endorsed. The only thing Hrgovic is prepared for now is getting put to sleep if he faces the likes of Fury, Joshua, or Usyk.
Marc Castro (4-0, 4 Kos), Grade: B+
There wasn’t much to grade as the “Fresno Kid” Marc Castro knocked out Ronaldo Solis in the second round of their fight. Castro found his comfort zone quickly when he knocked Solis down in the first round. After that knockdown, Solis was on borrowed time. Castro displayed some excellent boxing skills while stalking Solis. However, the young pugilist tends to move straight back, and at times, needlessly got caught with some right hands. Overall, Castro displayed solid boxing skills that included quick feet, decent head movements, and a diverse offensive arsenal.
For a solid performance, Castro gets a B+ in the grade book. However, he is still developing, and I'm sure he will improve.
JAKE TAKE: DAZN sports put together an explosive card that provided us with thrilling performances and knockouts. While I believe Devin Haney had a solid performance against a great fighter in “JoJo Diaz Jr., Haney is still subject to a lot of criticism. While he had a brilliant performance, there are still many questioning how his chin will hold up against the harder hitters in the division.
In addition, his marketability and popularity come into question. Haney was booed during his ring entrance, introduction, and post-fight interview. This is baffling to me because he has been a resident of Las Vegas for quite some time now. He did nothing to market himself during the post-fight interview to add insult to injury. Haney has been a world champion for three years and has successfully defended his title three times.
And when asked about a potential fight against George Kambosos, who just recently won his first world title, he was answering questions as a “B-side” fighter.
Haney improves with each outing and seems to fix his flaws from fight to fight, but therein lies the problem. Until he stops improving and starts dominating, that cloud of criticism will continue to hover over his career.