A week after the unified lightweight championship changed hands, the spotlight was on Devin Haney to see if he would be successful in defending his WBC title or if there would be another instance of a champion losing his belt. After 12 rounds, the young fighter from Las Vegas held on even with a good effort from his opponent.
Haney (27-0, 15 KOs) worked behind the jab for the majority of the fight against Joseph Diaz Jr. to earn a unanimous decision win with two scores of 117-111 and one score of 116-112. It was the fourth defense of the WBC title by Haney. Diaz fell short of becoming a champion in a second weight class, and is now 32-2-1.
The buzz around the MGM Grand Garden Arena stemmed from George Kambosos Jr. defeating Teofimo Lopez last week, and Kambosos was in attendance to watch Haney and Diaz go at it. In the first round, Haney used his reach advantage to keep Diaz away from him by using the jab and following it with a right hand to the body. Diaz had a high guard but did not throw many punches for the first few rounds. In the fourth round Diaz was able to land punches to the body and left hands upstairs to get back in the fight. Haney responded by catching Diaz with counter right hooks and uppercuts, then used the jab to slow the pace of Diaz.
In the midway point of the fight, Diaz attempted to press the action more by working the body of Haney then land more left hands, particularly in the seventh round. In the following round, Diaz threw the jab more to get to the inside then threw more body shots to slow Haney down. Haney re-established his reach advantage in the ninth by throwing his jab again, and also caught Diaz off-guard a couple times with counters.
Diaz continued to walk forward to get Haney to the ropes, then threw combinations while Haney was on the ropes in that round, but got caught with an uppercut that halted Diaz’s pursuit temporarily. Before the end of that round Diaz threw a three punch combination followed by two left hands to get back in it. The tenth round was nearly a copy of the first couple of rounds as Haney stuck the jab out and landed big shots to the body of Diaz. Haney continued to pick off Diaz in the last couple of rounds, with his accurate punching being the difference.
The performance by Haney showed his skillset to those in attendance, and he felt like he did what he needed in order to get the win.
“I went in there and I got the job done,” Haney said after his victory. “I knew I was fighting a tough competitor…JoJo Diaz makes it hard for any fighter he’s been in the ring with. My gameplan was to keep him at by with my jab and work my combinations with it.”
One question leading into the fight was if Haney could take big punches as some felt that he was buzzed in the last fight against Jorge Linares. After taking a few left hands over the course of the fight against Diaz, Haney hoped that he removed the doubt about his toughness.
“Diaz hit me with some good shots…(the critics) say that I have no chin but I guess I showed one in this fight.”
Now with this title defense out of the way, Haney is looking to do big things in the lightweight division. Kambosos watched Haney at ringside, and the topic of those two potentially facing each other for the undisputed lightweight championship came up. Haney believes that he is ready for that challenge and wants it as soon as possible.
“Come on Kambosos let’s do it for all the belts. Let’s do it next.”
Cover photo by Ed Mulholland of Matchroom