Tuesday, May 30, 2023  |


Battle Plan: Devin Haney vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko

Devin Haney and Vasiliy Lomachenko face off just days ahead of their May 20 lightweight championship fight. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
Fighters Network

The following article was originally part of the May 2023 issue of The Ring, available now to subscribers


This is a fight that will answer many questions about both Devin Haney, the world’s current undisputed lightweight champion, and Vasiliy Lomachenko, who not so long ago was considered the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter.

Lomachenko has fought and won three times since his unanimous decision loss to Teofimo Lopez Jr. in the 2020 Upset of the Year. It’s a modest winning streak, but those performances suggested that the Ukrainian’s otherworldly talents are still very much alive somewhere within his 35-year-old body.

The 24-year-old Haney will be facing his toughest test on May 20 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but he has youth and some jaw-dropping skills of his own on his side. Haney unified the Ring, IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO titles when he defeated George Kambosos Jr. (who had taken the championship from Lopez in his first defense) in June 2022, then easily defeated the Australian in a rematch four months later.

There’s no question that Lomachenko will not be as easy to hit as Kambosos was. On the other hand, Haney may possess the fastest fists and highest ring IQ Lomachenko has ever faced as a pro.

Is this the fight to prove Haney is a star? Is this the fight to prove Lomachenko is still a pound-for-pound-class lightweight, or that his peak is quickly receding in the rear-view mirror?

The Ring went to two world-renowned trainers for their valued input. First, the highly respected Kevin Cunningham, who is currently working with Adrien Broner and once trained former titlists Cory Spinks, Devon Alexander and Sakio Bika, was asked how he’d handle Haney’s preparation for the fight. Robert Garcia, former IBF junior lightweight titlist and two-time Ring Magazine Trainer of the Year, applied his knowledge to a strategy for Lomachenko.

Here are their battle plans:



“This is a huge fight, so I would want Devin to have between an eight-to-10-week training camp. I would like to get in at least seven weeks of sparring, going Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Devin is an undisputed champion who has built muscle memory over time, so I would start him out at eight rounds of sparring the first couple of weeks. The last five weeks it would be 10 rounds, mixed in with a couple of 12-round sparring sessions before the camp ends.

“Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we would do our five-mile runs, and Tuesday we would do our beach drills I like to do in camp in Florida. We would get in 10 60-yard dashes and a good one-mile run after that.

“Thursday would be sprinting drills, starting with a one-mile run and 10 50-yard dashes on the track and exercise out with different calisthenics.

“Devin is very disciplined, so weight will not be a problem. It is one of the things I really like about Devin. You do not hear about him partying in the clubs. We would have Devin around 155 (pounds) the first week, and I would like to have him within 10 pounds two weeks prior to the fight.

“I would have two or three sparring partners, looking for guys who were extremely slick with a high boxing IQ and good footwork. Lomachenko has a high boxing IQ and great footwork. The sparring partners would be around 140 (pounds).

Devin Haney (left) keeps George Kambosos Jr. at the end of his jab. Photo by Mikey Williams/ Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Haney (left) made good use of his jab against George Kambosos Jr. (Photo by Mikey Williams/ Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

“Fight week, we would want to be within four or five pounds. That way, each day we would do light work to make the weight. I’m a big pads guy – mix that in with some shadowboxing and jump rope.

“We would break down footage together and build a game plan, look for weakness we can expose and look for strengths that we would have to eliminate. After we work the footage down, then we would come up with a game plan.

“Going in, I would want to stress Devin’s strengths, not Loma’s weaknesses. Loma can do a little of everything. Devin would have to use his natural attributes. We would stress using his height, his length, his reach, his footwork. Devin will need to control the real estate and the distance, keeping Loma away where we can get to him. Devin will need to keep Loma always resetting. We know in order for Loma to be successful, he’s going to have to get close to Devin and get inside Devin’s reach. We’re going to force Loma to continue to guess and guess and guess, make it hard for him to find out where he needs to be to be effective. That is the chief priority.

“Going in, I would want to stress Devin’s strengths, not Loma’s weaknesses.”

“In a fight like this, we would take our time, figure him out, and the onus is going to be on Lomachenko. He’s the challenger. He is the one trying to take the title away from Devin. We are not going to give away anything. But we are going to be patient in doing what we would have to do to win rounds. The rhythm and the pace will be dictated by the flow of the fight.

“I would stress to Devin this: Lomachenko got off to a slow start against Teofimo Lopez, and look what happened to him there. He had to fight his way out of an early hole, and he couldn’t do it. That tells me Loma will not want to make the same mistake again. That tells me he will come at Devin and try to bank rounds early. We’re dealing with a high-IQ opponent who we can’t make mistakes against. Loma will look for any opening he sees, and he could capitalize on any mistake Devin could make. We would work a good jab, then open with sharp, short right hands, short uppercuts and left hooks. We would want to step around him when he comes forward and make him reset to get back within his range again.

“Loma is going to be the one working here. He’s the smaller guy, he’s the shorter guy; he will need to get inside, and we have to make him do that over and over again. Devin has long arms, he has good footwork. He knows how to get in and get out. Loma is a smart guy who knows how to slip and slide and get on the inside, and Devin has to disrupt that.

“In the later rounds, if Devin fights at his range, you don’t know what can happen if you hit Loma with the right shot or a shot he doesn’t see. That’s where knockouts come from, especially with a sharp, defensive fighter like Loma, you’re going to have run him into something or trick him into something. If we’re winning rounds, and the opportunity presents itself, you take advantage of it. This is going to be an interesting fight. We would be confident.”



“Since I know Lomachenko is a very dedicated person and fighter, we would have an eight-week training camp.

“What I like to do with most of my fighters is go five weeks of sparring, and the first couple of weeks, we would start with six and eight rounds. Then we would start picking it up. The last two weeks of sparring, I like to go a hard 12 to 15 rounds. But in those last weeks, we would do that once, maybe twice only, and that would be it.

“I want my fighters to get in condition, and we would spar three days a week. With a fighter over 30, like Lomachenko is, we would spar twice a week. With a veteran fighter over 30, his body is already familiar with the routine and you want to make sure that they are fresh when the time comes to fight for real. I am also very big on rest. The last week, we would not spar. The last week, we’re working on resting and getting some little runs in, maybe some shadowboxing here and there.

Vasiliy Lomachenko’s (left) fierce fighting spirit (versus Richard Commey) goes beyond the ring. Photo by Sarah Stier/ Getty Images

Lomachenko (left) was on point in his decision victory over Richard Commey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

“With Lomachenko, his body is conditioned; we would not have to worry about making weight. Our biggest priority in the closing weeks, [with] much of the work already done, is rest.

“As for sparring partners, that will not be easy. I would look for three to four sparring partners who were fast, move around and are good boxers. I would want to get guys [who are] 130-, 135-pounders. Loma is already small, so I would not want to get anyone too big. I believe sparring is very important, and conditioning after sparring three times a week. I would leave it up to Loma whether he wants to run in the evenings. I would be OK with little runs to break a sweat. After sparring, I like my fighters on the cycle and jumping rope to get the heart going. I am also a big believer in pad work, so we would work the pads and get the heart going more.

“Loma cannot use a slow pace at first and give away a few rounds. He already made that mistake against Teofimo Lopez.”

“As for a fight plan, we know Haney is a bigger guy, he is a longer guy, and he’s fast. He is going to try and win a decision. He is going to try and box from the outside and keep Loma on the outside with his jab. I would get Loma to fight smarter than he already is. Devin Haney is a big lightweight with speed. Loma is going to need to use his head, and I would want him using his feet, because he has the best footwork.

“The biggest thing I would stress for Loma is [to] fight smarter. I would want him moving and trying to come at Haney and attack using as many angles as he could. We are going to need to be in great shape, which Loma usually is, because we’re going to have to constantly move. Loma cannot give Haney a target at all. He will do that by staying low and working the angles. I also would want Loma to go at Haney’s body.

“Loma will need to create a fast pace and try and maintain that. Loma cannot use a slow pace at first and give away a few rounds. He already made that mistake against Teofimo Lopez and got himself behind early. It is what led to him losing. Against Haney, he will not make that same mistake again – and that was a big mistake. He needs to start quick in the beginning. We will break down the body early, and by the middle rounds, my advice would be to go harder and keep attacking the body.

“We would need to be patient. We need to stay low, use the angles, use the angles, use the angles and frustrate Haney with the angles. Haney is the bigger, stronger and younger fighter. I know he is the favorite, but I do not think anyone should look past Lomachenko in this fight. He can win this fight. I have always liked Loma’s style. I go back to Lomachenko and I want Lomachenko to win. He can win this fight, because he’s going to be in great shape. If he stays low, if he keeps coming at Haney at angles and if he frustrates Haney, which he is very capable of doing, Lomachenko has a good chance of winning this fight. He has a great amateur background and has seen every style that there is. Haney’s people are going to come into this confident, as they should, but they may be underestimating Lomachenko a little bit. That may be exactly what Lomachenko needs.

“This will be a very difficult fight for Lomachenko. Devin Haney is a great fighter. But I believe Lomachenko’s discipline and his style puts him in a great position to win.”



Record: 29-0 (15 KOs)
Age: 24
Height: 5-foot-8
Reach: 71 inches
Home country: U.S.
Trainer: Bill Haney
Titles held: Ring/IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO
Last fight: UD 12 George Kambosos Jr.

Record: 17-2 (11 KOs)
Age: 35
Height: 5-foot-6
Reach: 65½ inches
Home country: Ukraine
Trainer: Anatoly Lomachenko
Titles held: None
Last fight: UD 12 Jamaine Ortiz

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.


The May 2023 issue of The Ring is available to subscribers. Click here for an annual subscription, or subscribe here to purchase the current month (and access to 10 years of back issues).