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Devin Haney decisions Joseph Diaz Jr., defends WBC lightweight title

December 4, 2021, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Devin Haney (center) celebrates his win over Joseph Diaz Jr. during their December 4, 2021 bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing
Fighters Network

After Teofimo Lopez lost in an upset to George Kambosos Jr. last week, Devin Haney called the previously undefeated champion a fraud. He backed up his trash talk with an impressive performance against a premier opponent.

Haney defeated Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. by unanimous decision in an impressive outing, successfully defending his WBC lightweight title for the fourth time, Saturday evening, in the main event of a Matchroom Boxing, DAZN-streamed card, at MGM Grand Garden Arena, in Las Vegas. However Diaz tested him to his wits’ end.

Judges Dave Moretti and Max DeLuca scored the fight 117-111 and Tim Cheatham had it 116-112, all for Haney, who remains undefeated.

When Haney, The Ring’s No. 4-ranked lightweight was 22 years of age, he was elevated from interim WBC champion to full titlist in October 2019, when Vasiliy Lomachenko was awarded “Franchise Champion” status.

Diaz (32-2-1, 15 knockouts), a former 130-pound titlist who was The Ring’s sixth-best 135-pounder coming into fight, has suffered both of his defeats in championship fights. This summer, the 29-year-old southpaw moved up to lightweight and outpointed Javier Fortuna on July 9. His first loss came at the hands of undefeated WBC featherweight beltholder Gary Russell Jr., who rallied to win a unanimous decision in their May 2018 encounter.

Haney (27-0, 15 KOs), originally from San Francisco, was fighting for the second time in 2021 following an impressive performance against Jorge Linares, on May 29, that saw the 23-year-old fight through adversity for the first time in his career when a right-left combination left him stumbling to his corner in the 10th round.

December 4, 2021, Las Vegas, Nevada, Devin Haney (right) and Joseph Diaz Jr. during their December 4, 2021 bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Melina Pizano/Matchroom.

Devin Haney exchanges with Joseph Diaz Jr. during their WBC lightweight title bout on December 4 in Las Vegas. Photo by Melina Pizano/Matchroom.

The Las Vegas-based boxer faced no such turmoil this time as he picked up another win and his second with head trainer Ben Davison, who also trains undisputed junior welterweight and The Ring Magazine world champion Josh Taylor.

According to CompuBox, Haney landed 164 of 614 punches (37 percent) and Diaz connected on 140 of 573 (24 percent).

Both fighters began the fight by stepping toward the middle of the ring. After some posturing, Haney’s speed and reach made their arrival as the titlist landed with a quick jab.

For the rest of the round, it was all Haney, as he connected with a slew of right hands that knocked Diaz back. He also connected downstairs with a pair of jabs and nailed him with beautiful counter shots to the body.

December 4, 2021, Las Vegas, Nevada, Devin Haney (right) and Joseph Diaz Jr. during their December 4, 2021 bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Melina Pizano/Matchroom.

Haney scored with jabs and well-timed right hands from the outside during the competitive 12-round bout. Photo by Melina Pizano/Matchroom.

With nearly a minute remaining in Round 3, Diaz, who has a reach of 65 inches compared to Haney’s 71, tried to make it a brawl on the inside. However Haney pushed him off and connected with a left hook to the head.

Diaz found his stride in Round 4, as he connected with a right-left body combination and outmuscled Haney against the ropes before pushing him to the canvas. The tactic only earned him a warning from referee Russell Mora. After the action resumed, Diaz connected with a solid left hand that got Haney’s attention. The arena came alive as Diaz tried to rough him up on the inside.

The tug-of-war battle continued into Round 5. However the action was subdued by the end of the frame as Diaz began to tire and Haney used the extra space and pristine footwork to land a duo of straight rights to the body.

Diaz’s most significant moment of the fight came in Round 7 when he sat down on a straight left hand and drilled Haney but he only managed to draw a smile from his adversary. Unable to capitalize, Diaz ran into a left hook in the waning seconds of the round as Haney continued to cruise.

December 4, 2021, Las Vegas, Nevada, Devin Haney (left) and Joseph Diaz Jr. during their December 4, 2021 bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Melina Pizano/Matchroom.

Haney and Diaz landed their best power shots but no knockdowns were scored. Photo by Melina Pizano/Matchroom.

After both fighters exchanged big power shots to close the ninth round in an exciting scene, Haney and Diaz engaged in yet another close frame. The champion was the cleaner puncher and Diaz landed the harder shots. That said, in the final 30 seconds, Haney adjusted and found a home for a straight right hand and a follow-up left hook that knocked Diaz back on his feet.

Haney’s sizzling hand speed was on display in Round 11. Diaz looked for openings but didn’t find any until the 12th, when he caught Haney with a shot upstairs that appeared to catch him off guard. Haney responded with a pair of straight rights before he got clipped himself with a left hand to the chin. Haney seemed to be hurt but he regained composure and used his superior hand speed to keep Diaz at a distance to end the fight.

“I knew I was facing a tough competitor. JoJo Diaz makes it hard for anybody he’s been in the ring with. He only had one loss,” Haney stated to DAZN’s Chris Mannix. “He has a lot of experience but I went in there and got the job done.

“The game plan was to keep him at bay with my jab, my probes, work my combinations off of it. That’s what I did.

“From the very beginning [I knew he wasn’t going to back down], I knew I hit him with some good shots. He was picking up as the fight went on. He’s a true champion, a two-time world champion, so he went in there and gave me a good fight.”

December 4, 2021, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Devin Haney (right) and Joseph Diaz Jr. embrace after their December 4, 2021 bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

Nothing but respect was shown after the fight. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

Diaz did not protest the decision.

“I thought it was a good fight,” he stated. “I’m living my dream. I want to thank everybody for coming out and watching me do what I love to do. Dreams come true as long as you guys put your mind to it.

“I thought it was a closer fight than what it was. I thought I was dictating the pace and I landed some good body shots but it is what it is. I’m just going to go back to the drawing board and get stronger. This is what I do. I want to challenge the best.”

Haney called out unified and Ring Magazine 135-pound champion “Ferocious” George Kambosos (20-0, 10 KOs), 28, of Australia, who stunned and handed Teofimo Lopez his first loss last week in a major upset in New York.

“Come on, Kambosos; let’s do it for all the belts, the real undisputed. Let’s do it next.”

When Mannix asked Haney if he was willing to travel to Australia, he didn’t hesitate.

“I’ll go to Jupiter if I got to. I think it’s a great fight. It’s for all the belts. He put on a great performance against Teofimo Lopez,” Haney continued. “I think the fans would love to see it. [There’ll be] no more dispute who is [the undisputed] champion, so let’s do it next.”

In the chief support bout, Montana Love ended his 2021 campaign with a series of thuds but his opponent kept making trips to the canvas.

The unbeaten Love (17-0-1, 9 KOs), fighting for the first time under the Matchroom Boxing banner, had quite the debut with the company, as he destroyed Carlos Diaz inside three rounds to officially launch his multi-fight deal.

The Cleveland native scored three knockdowns in Round 2 and secured the stoppage in the following frame when referee Raul Caiz Jr. stopped the action to the chagrin of many ringside observers and those watching on DAZN.

The 26-year-old southpaw was coming off his career-best win on August 29 when he stopped former 140-pound titlist Ivan Baranchyk. He kept up that momentum with his fourth win of the year and he couldn’t have capped it off any better as he tattooed Diaz (29-2, 14 KOs).

After surviving three knockdowns, Love closed the curtain on Diaz and 2021 with an unanswered salvo that left Caiz Jr. no choice but to rescue Diaz from further punishment.