Preview: Haney vs Linares puts spotlight on lightweight division Saturday
SAN DIEGO, Calif., May 28, 2021 – WBC World Lightweight champion Devin “The Dream” Haney of Las Vegas (25-0, 15 KOs) will either show he’s an elite boxing talent – or not — when he faces veteran Jorge Linares of Venezuela (47-5, 29 KOs) Saturday in front of his hometown fans in Las Vegas.
Haney vs Linares heads up the first Matchroom Boxing card held in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Michelob Ultra Arena, broadcast on DAZN with an 8 pm ET/5 pm PT start.
In a division of flashy fighters with big personalities, 22-year-old Haney is low-key and respectful. He’s a smart fighter in the ring, which means he doesn’t take any unnecessary chances in the ring. It’s good for the record, but perhaps not so good for the box office. In Haney’s last bout pre-pandemic, he got a shutout victory by decision over Yuriorkis Gamboa.
“This is a huge opportunity for me. This is time to show everything I’m made of,” admitted Haney. “This is a whole new level, but I’m ready for it. It’ll be a very dominant performance. I think the world will be surprised at what kind of performance it is. I think even Jorge will be surprised at what type of fighter I am.”
Haney: ‘It will show that I am elite’
Haney needed to put more of a hurt on the veteran Gamboa to leave a positive impression. He needs one even more on Saturday in another veteran test against 35-year-old Linares, a former three-division champion who’s never in a dull fight. Linares either sets the ring on fire or goes out in a blaze of glory. All five of his losses were by knockout or TKO. Linares put up a solid performance, including the only knockdown of Vasiliy Lomachenko’s career, a fight that’s aged well. He suffered a brutal knockout loss to Pablo Cesar Cano in 2019 when he moved up to junior welterweight, but he’s won two fights since then.
“He knows who he is fighting, a four-time world champion,” said Linares. “I have a lot of experience, and that’s the most important thing in this fight to win the fight. He doesn’t have that. He has talent, he has youth and hunger, and the belt.
“A fight with me is a different level. I can show so many styles. I’m naturally fast and strong, I don’t have a lot of KOs, but he knows I can punch. I think he will run all night, but I will be waiting for him. I will follow him. If he wants to fight inside, I am ready for him. He’s going to have big problems on Saturday night, he knows I can do everything, and he knows I have the timing to put him down,” declared Linares.
“People think he will have success, some think he will even win the fight, and that’s why it will show that I am elite and one of the best, if not the best, in the world,” with a win, said Haney.
“You can’t train for me because you don’t know what style I am going to bring. I’ve learned so many different styles, and I can adjust, and that’s the difference between me and a lot of other fighters.”
Prediction: Haney by late round stoppage
Deep down, Devin Haney knows he needs more than a win on Saturday. He needs a statement win. He can’t put in another solid but uninspiring 12 rounds for a decision no matter how dominating it is. Fortunately, Haney has the perfect dance partner in Jorge Linares, who’s willing to throw caution to the wind and trust his speed, power, and ring IQ to see his way to a win. It means he isn’t always defensively responsible, but this is music to a fight fan’s ears.
Both Haney and Linares say all the right things about being ready and proving themselves elite talents, viewed from opposite career perspectives: the rising star versus the veteran looking to extend an excellent career.
Linares performs better at 135 pounds, and if he’s going to win, he needs to go for broke and pressure Haney. If he can throw Haney’s game off early in the fight, he can use everything he’s learned to stay busy and win, perhaps enough to find an opening to land power punches and shake Haney up. But even Linares expressed his doubts in stopping Haney.
If Haney feels the heat, he might retreat to what he knows will win him the fight if not the fans, using movement and smart punch selection to win on the cards. Let’s hope not. If he takes a little more risk and engages with Linares, he has the skills to wear the veteran down in a firefight. Our prediction is more hopeful than insightful: we’d like to see the winner get a stoppage, and we can’t pick against the talented Haney in a breakout, late-round TKO win.
Undercard fights: Women’s championship on the line in Cameron vs Hernandez
Chantelle Cameron (13-0, 7 KOs) of Great Britain defends her WBC World Super-Lightweight title against Melissa Hernandez of Puerto Rico (23-7-3, 7 KOs). Cameron is at the top of the division and top of her game, with plenty of power and the ability to entertain the crowd. “I’m a natural fighter. I do what I do. I don’t talk much. I just let my hands do the talking,” said Cameron.
Hernandez is a women’s pro boxing pioneer at age 41. This is just her third fight since 2016, but she’s faced many well-known names in the sport, going 1 and 2 in a trilogy of fights again Jelena Mrdjenovich, and four fights with one victory against Layla McCarter.
“Women’s boxing is back to stay,” said Hernandez. “I was one of the pioneers, and I’m here to prove that I still have it and pay homage to all the women that came before me. We busted out asses for so long to finally be on these huge cards and to be getting paid more than we used to. When I was fighting, our purses weren’t even enough to pay our rent. Now we have women building empires.”
Ireland’s Jason Quigley (18-1, 14 KOs) hopes to rebound from a loss against Shane Mosley Jr. (17-3, 10 KOs) in a bout for a minor WBO middleweight belt.
Britain’s Martin J. Ward (24-1-2 11 KOs) – faces Azinga Fuzile of South Africa (14-1 8 KOs) in an IBF super featherweight title elimination fight.
Promising welterweight Reshat “Albanian Bear” Mati of Staten Island (9-0, 7 KOs) hopes to add another win against Ryan Pino of Puerto Rico (8-6-2, 4 KOs).
Also worth noting: London-based Ramla Ali (2-0), the first women’s professional boxer from Somalia, hopes to make it three wins against local Las Vegas pro Mikayla Nebel (4-8, 1 KO). “I’m going to show why I’ve been given this opportunity Saturday,” said Ali. Ali has a promising future, especially out of the UK, where women’s boxing is coming on strong. She shares a management team with Anthony Joshua. Ali hopes to compete in the Tokyo Olympics, where she could gain more attention with a strong performance.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning sportswriter and a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on social media: @PRProSanDiego.
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