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Haney defends title against Diaz Jr., makes it stick Saturday

Written By | Dec 5, 2021

December 4, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Marc Castro and Ronaldo Solis during their December 4, 2021 bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

LAS  VEGAS, Nevada, December 4, 2021 – WBC World Lightweight Champion Devin Haney of Las Vegas (27-0, 15 KOs) didn’t allow himself to become boxing’s latest upset victim Saturday,  holding off former titleholder Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. of South El Monte, California (31-3-1, 15 KOs) by unanimous decision. The scorecards were 117-111 X 2 (Dave Moretti and Max DeLuca) and 116-112 (Tim Cheatham).

Devin Haney celebrates his victory with his father and trainer Bill Haney. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom. Haney defends title

Devin Haney celebrates his victory with his father and trainer Bill Haney. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom.

As the new unified lightweight champion George Kambosos Jr. watched ringside, Haney becomes the WBC mandatory challenger, setting the pair up for a unification fight sometime in 2022.

Haney rolls up rounds with superior skills

Devin Haney used his reach to hold Joseph Diaz Jr. at distance. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom. Haney defends title

Devin Haney used his reach to hold Joseph Diaz Jr. at distance. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom.

There were few surprises in the fight narrative. Haney controlled the distance and the ring real estate, using his reach advantage to hold Diaz Jr. outside his firing range with sharp jabs and impressive body punching. Diaz Jr. can be a slow starter, and he did little to challenge Haney in the first three rounds. Diaz Jr. heated up in the fourth round but couldn’t sustain his attack as Haney adjusted and kept sticking and moving. When Diaz Jr. could maneuver Haney into the ropes, he did more damage. Judges saw Diaz Jr. winning the seventh, and he won the tenth on two cards, along with the final round on DeLuca’s card. Haney wouldn’t allow Diaz Jr. to take control, offering too much counterfire to let Diaz Jr. unload the way he wanted.

“I knew I was fighting a tough competitor. I went in there and got the job done,” said Haney. “The game plan was keeping him at bay, working the jab and combinations, and that’s what I did. I hit him with some good shots, and he picked them up as the fight went on. Like JoJo said, he was going to bring the dog out of me, and that’s what he did.”

Haney said he learned a lot from the experience.

Diaz Jr.: ‘He’s a smart fighter’

Joseph Diaz Jr. had some success pressuring Devin Haney, but he wasn’t active enough through the fight. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom.

Joseph Diaz Jr. didn’t dispute the outcome.

“I thought it was a good fight. I’m going back to the drawing board and get stronger. This is what I do. I want to challenge the best. If I come up short, I got back to the drawing board. and just get better,” said Diaz Jr.

He said Haney used his distance and range nicely.

“He had a good game plan. I tried to time my uppercut. He’s a smart fighter.”

Diaz Jr. said he had Haney stunned in the final round, but he had Vaseline in his eyes, and because his vision was blurry, he didn’t want to get caught with a clean counterpunch.

Diaz Jr. said he would talk with his team and continue to seek out challenges.

“I’m going to keep on challenging the best until my career’s over.”

Haney was the more effective and more accurate man, landing 165 of 612 punches thrown (27%) to 140 of 573 for Diaz Jr. (24%). Haney landed 154 power punches at a 38% rate, to 113 for Diaz Jr. at 28%.

Unification bout in Australia?

Does Devin Haney have what it takes to beat George Kambosos Jr. He believes he does. Photo:: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

Asked to offer his assessment of the bout, George Kambosos Jr. complimented his potential opponent but fired a polite warning shot

“Haney boxed nice, I liked the fight. I saw the holes there already. That’s me as a fighter. I see things straight away. I give him his props. We’ll see what happens next. I’m a natural 135 pounder. I’m strong and explosive. It’s something he’s never seen in his life.” Turing to Haney, he said, “Great win. Now we can talk.”

Haney acknowledged Kambosos Jr. would be the favorite since he owns all but one title.

“Styles make fights. I still think I’m the best lightweight in the division. Talk is cheap. Let’s go in and settle it.”

Kambosos Jr. said he wouldn’t outshine Haney’s moment and deferred to WBC president Mauricio Sulieman regarding the dispute over who is truly the reigning WBC champion. It’s a messy situation meriting its own discussion.

“All I can say is, let’s make it happen. It should be a very easy fight to make happen,” said Haney. Haney said he would have no hesitation fighting on Kambosos Jr.’s turf in Australia. “I’ll go to Jupiter if I’ve got to!” declared Haney.

When Kambosos Jr. needled him about fighting in front of 80,000 people all backing their national hero, Haney fired back, “Crowds don’t win fights. I do.” Consider it a deferred Christmas present if it gets made soon.

Montana Love takes a big bite out of Carlos Diaz in three rounds

Montana Love dropped Carlos Diaz three times on the way to a third round TKO win. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom.

Montana Love dropped Carlos Diaz three times on the way to a third-round TKO win. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom.

Poppy, the French bulldog, accompanied his master Montana “Too Pretty” Love of Cleveland (17-0-1, 9 KOs) on his ring walk to the ring for his bout against Carlos Diaz of Guadalajara (29-2, 14 KOs). The pup didn’t have to wait long for his master.

As Diaz pressed the action, he walked right into a perfectly timed left-hand countershot from Love a minute into the second round. With Love getting his timing down, Diaz got floored again seconds later. Round three wasn’t looking good. Love kept up the offense and blasted Diaz backward into the ropes on his backside for the third knockout. Referee Raul Caiz Jr. continued with seconds left to the bell, and Diaz made it out of the round. In the third, Love’s goal was to put on a show for the fans.

He said to Diaz in the ring, “Here it comes, here it comes. No talking!” said Love in the ring to Diaz, following up with a straight left down the middle. Referee Caiz Jr. waved off the fight. Diaz was irate while Love celebrated with a victory dance at 1;22 of round three.

Poppy the French bulldog accompanied Montana Love into the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom.

Poppy, the French bulldog, accompanied Montana Love into the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom.

Love said he thought Caiz Jr. would call the fight earlier.

“I thought he was going to stop it the round before. I expected him to be out then. He was falling in. We knew what type of fighter he was, wild and aggressive. We just had to find the timing. I started breaking him down. My coach said keep boxing, breaking him down … he was taking some very big shots.”

Love hasn’t been known as a power puncher. He explained he’s only now making the complete shift from his accomplished amateur career. “Now I’m learning to sit down on my shots. 2022 will be a very big year. We just woke up the world this year.” Love, who missed weight by four pounds and admitted to a vicious, sweet tooth, said he would continue to fight in the super lightweight division. “It was just a little hiccup. I learned a lesson; we’re locked in,” said Love. It was Love’s first fight signed with Matchroom Boxing. He said he signed with Matchroom because he wants promoter Eddie Hearn to keep him busy.

Jessica McCaskill crushes Kandi Wyatt in seven

Jessica McCaskill had little trouble with late replacement Kandi Wyatt. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom. Haney Defends title

Jessica McCaskill had little trouble with late replacement Kandi Wyatt. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom.

Nineteen seconds into round seven, referee Celestino Ruiz had to save Kandi “Candy Crush” Wyatt from her own bravery after undisputed welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill of Chicago battered her round a5fter round. The relentless power punching of McCaskill broke Wyatt down round by round. After both the fifth and sixth, Ruiz warned Wyatt to show him something. In the seventh, he pulled the plus. McCaskill landed 198 of 468 punches thrown (42%) against just 70 of 251 (28%) for Wyatt.

“I said you’re tough as balls, man,” McCaskill said she told Wyatt after the fight. “She kept coming with good punches, too. Throwing punches with every step forward she took. She can definitely take some shots. After a certain point, you get concerned because you know what this sport does,” and McCaskill said she was grateful for the stoppage. “You just have to keep going until they stop it.”

McCaskill, who no longer has to work full-time as an investment banker, said nevertheless she’ll be back “at work” Monday in the gym and is anxious to get right back in action, hoping her originally scheduled opponent Victoria Bustos can straighten out her travel issues and be available to reschedule early in 2022. “Fighters hate waiting!” said McCaskill.

Filip Hrgovic hungry for more formidable opponents

Filip Hrgovic took out Emir Ahmatovic in two rounds and asked for more challenging opposition. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom.

Heavyweight Filip Hrgovic of Croatia (14-0, 12 KOs) shut down his game but outmatched late replacement opponent Emir Ahmatovic of Germany (10-1, 7 KOs) with a second-round TKO win. The Serbian native Ahmatovic gave a solid effort, aggressively blasting punches at Hrgovic to take advantage of a porous defense. No matter, though, Hrgovic has fast hands for a heavyweight and delivers his chopping left hook in combination. The taller Hrgovic took advantage of his stature to deliver blows at Ahmatoic to both sides of the temple. He scored two knockdowns in round one and one more 30 seconds into the second round. Referee Alan Huggins was quick to wave it off.

We say bring on countryman Alen Babic for an epic Croatian trash-talking showdown.

Super featherweight Marc Castro of Fresno (5-0, 5 KOs) is backing up the buzz about himself as a rising star.

He came right at Ronaldo Solis of Cancun, Mexico (4-2-1, 3 KOs) aggressively from the opening bell and scored a knockdown with a right to the head at the end of a combination halfway through round one. Solis carried on while taking power shots from Castro. Castro made it stick in round two with a snapping right cross, sending Solis into the ropes. Referee Robert Hoyle swooped in to save Solis at 43 seconds of the round.

Austin “Ammo” Williams of Dallas (9-0, 7 KOs) unleashed a hard left hand and rocked Quatavious Cash of Atlanta (14-3, 8 KOs) in round two of their middleweight bout. The bout was waved off with Cash in bad shape, giving Williams another stoppage win. Williams is being developed to perfection by the first-class team of trainer Dwight Pratchett, manager team Peter Berg, and Sam Katkovski, with the backing of promoter  Eddie Hearn.

Super middleweight Alexis Espino of Las Vegas (9-0-1. 6 KOs) battled Rodolfo Gomez Jr. (14-5-2, 10 KOs) of Laredo, Texas, to a majority draw in their eight-round bout.

Scores were 76-76 X 2, and the third card 77-75 for Gomez Jr. It was competitive and exciting throughout. Espino will benefit from the work down the road as he faces more skilled opponents.

Middleweight Amari Jones of Las Vegas (5-0, 5 KOs) made it five knockouts in a row, stopping Timothy Lee of Las Vegas (5-2, 4 KOs) in the sixth and final round. Jones, who dropped Jones in round one, was well ahead on the scorecards when he pinned Lee to the ropes. The referee didn’t give Lee much rope, stopping the fight quickly before Lee took any unnecessary punishment at 2:38 of the round.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.  

Copyright © 2021 by Falcon Valley Group

Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award-winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.