The lightweight division is one of boxing's deepest and most exciting weight classes. Devin Haney won the undisputed championship by defeating George Kambosos Jr. on the road in Australia, but his title defense Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas against former pound-for-pound No. 1 Vasiliy Lomachenko will be the first true test of his career.
Haney is 29-0 with 15 knockouts, but has yet to face anyone nearly as talented, as experienced and simply as good as Lomachenko.
Oddsmakers instilled Haney as a little better than a 2-to-1 favorite when the fight was originally announced, and it hasn't changed much since. Haney is at -260 while Lomachenko will double your money wagered on him if he wins, at +200.
The over-under is 10.5 rounds, with over a massive favorite at -600. Under is +370.
In their 46 combined fights, they have a total of 26 knockouts, with Lomachenko at 17-2 with 11 finishes. And their styles dictate that this will be a long fight. It's shaping up as a thinking man's fight and probably one that goes the distance. I'm not laying 6-1, though, especially since Lomachenko has shown some signs of slowing down.
As Haney noted — correctly — Lomachenko's so-so performance in a win over Jamaine Ortiz in October has to be taken with a grain of salt because Lomachenko was fighting for his country before the bout was made. He got permission from the Ukraine government to box and so his performance may not have been indicative of the fighter he still is.
Lomachenko is 35, though, and that's a dangerous age for a fighter who relies on his reflexes so much. Even though he's had only 19 pro fights, he's had about 397 amateur bouts (winning 396!) and so he has a lot more wear and tear on his body than one might think.
Lomachenko has been a wizard throughout his career, though, and he's a surefire Hall of Famer when he retires. But he'll also be giving up size to Haney, who dwarfed him when they met in the ring at Madison Square Garden in New York after Lomachenko had slipped past Ortiz. Haney's an inch taller but has a six-inch reach advantage.
Haney's extraordinarily quick and has a good jab, but Lomachenko knows how to negate the jab. For Haney, he'll need to double the jab, preferably going up and down with it, and throw some lead right hands at Lomachenko's body. If he works the body effectively, he can slow Lomachenko down and make him an easier target to find.
Haney should use his size when possible, making the smaller man carry his weight and force referee Harvey Dock to break them.
Lomachenko's going to need to create angles and alter the rhythm of the fight. When Haney wants to go and trade, Lomachenko should look to stall the pace, and push it when Haney seems to want a breather.
This is a distance fight to me and I'm going to go with the guy with not only the younger, fresher legs but also the faster hands. Haney was extraordinarily focused in his rematch with Kambosos, knowing that Kambosos' only shot to win was to land something big and hurt him. Lomachenko is light years better than Kambosos, but Haney still needs to be vigilant and avoid being caught by a punch he doesn't see.
I like Haney to win and I strongly believe it will go the distance. But I won't lay -600 to bet that, so my only play will be on Haney to win at -260.
Other boxing bets for Saturday, May 20
I'll lay -175 and bet Katie Taylor to defeat Chantelle Cameron.
I'll lay -230 on Ray Muratalla to defeat Jeremiah Nakathila.