LAS VEGAS – Bill Haney hopes his son swayed some of his naysayers Saturday night.
Among the questions skeptics had about the talented, 22-year-old lightweight champion was how he’d respond to real adversity during a fight. His father and head trainer believes Devin Haney affirmatively answered all those questions during the 11th and 12th rounds against Jorge Linares on Saturday night at Mandalay Bay’s Michelob Ultra Arena.
The younger Haney held at times, but also fought after Venezuela’s Linares hurt him with a right-left combination just before the bell sounded to end the 10th round. Haney took a misstep after absorbing that combination as he walked toward his corner.
Devin Haney (26-0, 15 KOs) wouldn’t admit that he was “hurt” during post-fight interviews, but the WBC world 135-pound champion clearly was buzzed. Bill Haney acknowledged after his unanimous-decision victory versus Linares (47-6, 29 KOs) that they were willing to take flush shots from a powerful puncher in order to perform in a more fan-friendly way.
Fans booed when Haney held excessively during the last two rounds of the bout, but he mostly fought from the pocket during the first 10 rounds and traded much more than usual. Haney had taken Linares’ best punches well before the end of the 10th round.
“Of course, Devin is a pure boxer,” Bill Haney said during a post-fight press conference. “But we also know that, you know, we want him to be a fan-friendly fighter as well. So, going into it we knew that it was gonna be a time when we were going to, you know, man up and fight in that pocket against, you know, a clever, very experienced fighter in Jorge Linares. And what we wanted to do was back him up, and I think that we did a great job in the fight backing him up. But being that Devin did get hit with a shot, everyone would ask before, they would say, ‘Well, we wonder what would happen if he gets hit with a shot?’ And we never gave you guys a chance to see what would happen. So, I hope that you guys are happy now.
“You seen him get hit with a big shot and you see him show the maturity that he shows, right? And what he told me in the back was, I said, ‘Was it a big shot?’ He says, ‘Well, dad, sometimes you think that it’s not a big shot, but it was really a big shot.’ He said, ‘So, you have to react different to the shot than if you didn’t get hit.’ So, you know what I mean? He showed his professionalism, right, and did what he needed to do. He gathered his senses and came back out in the 11th round and got back to working him over.”
Las Vegas’ Haney had built a big lead on the scorecards before Linares rallied in the final four rounds. The unbeaten champion won eight rounds apiece on the scorecards of judges Patricia Morse Jarman (116-112) and Steve Weisfeld (116-112), and seven rounds according to judge Dave Moretti (115-113).
Fans booed after the decision was announced as well, although Haney obviously had won on points. Eddie Hearn, Haney’s promoter, was impressed with how Haney responded to getting “buzzed” late in the 10th round.
“What he actually showed was he can get hit,” Hearn said, “he can take big shots, and he can recover.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.