By: Robert Aaron Contreras
Devin Haney’s leaping hooks slammed into Zaul Abdullaev with such regularity—landing in such a gruesome thudding manner—it was only a matter of time before the victim’s body gave way. And it did, in the form of Abdullaev’s mangled nose and broken cheekbone, ahead of the fifth round when the doctor pulled him from the fight.
Photo Credit: Matchroom Boxing Twitter Account
The stoppage gave the 20-year-old Haney the victory and the interim WBC championship in the main event of DAZN’s broadcast from the Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City.
“I wasn’t nearly done beating him—I was just warming up,” Haney said after the fight, victoriously. Before being asked by DAZN correspondent Chris Mannix about the prospects of matching up with one Vasyl Lomachenko.
“I think you said his name wrong,” Haney responded. “It’s ‘No-Machenko’, cause he doesn’t want to fight me… If I’m so easy, he should fight me and get out of the way.”
Haney (23-0, 15 KO) pulled out all the stops in the first round. Showing off an explosive repertoire, closing immense amounts of distance with stepping and leaping jabs. Despite moving forward, Abdullaev (11-1, 7 KO) was quickly on the receiving end of punishment when Haney zipped in and out with bolting jabs and complimented them with murderous lead hooks.
In Round 3, the center of the ring was still Abdullaev’s. If only because Haney in split seconds could go from circling his man to reappearing in Abdullaev’s vicinity with popping jabs, before quickly rolling out of the way of returning fire.
When the Russian did stray to close—crowding Haney—the American had short, piercing right hands for him.
The third and fourth rounds were made up of more eye-catching left hooks from Haney: consecutively ricocheting off of Abdullaev’s ribcage and face. Somehow Abdullaev continued moving forward but his combinations were far too basic to keep Haney honest.
Between rounds, the ringside physician, having paid special attention to the Russian’s nose, didn’t need long to conclude that the fight couldn’t continue. Abdullaev quickly followed the doctor out of the ring, long gone by the time the result became official.
A champion now, of sorts, Haney’s interim belt really represents a ticket to a showdown with Lomachenko, the star child of boxing intelligentsia and currently the lightweight ruler.
Still not old enough to drink, upending a talent like Lomachenko at Haney’s age would be unprecedented in today’s day and age. But it should be mentioned so too is his eagerness to take that very risk.
Amanda Serrano (37-1-1, 27 KO) def. Heather Hardy (22-0, 4 KO)
Photo Credit: Matchroom Boxing Twitter Account
Having won more world titles in more weight classes than any female boxer in history, Serrano is used to lifting championship gold and looked every bit as comfortable outclassing her Brooklyn rival, Hardy en route to a unanimous decision, to claim the WBC featherweight crown.
Judge Julie Lederman had it 98-92, and judges Waleska Roldan and Robin Taylor both had it 98-91 for Serrano.
Serrano was never in danger of snapping her win steak, now sitting nicely at 22 consecutive victories. In that seven-year stretch, she padded her oeuvre with an incredible seven divisional championships. Specifically, the featherweight belt she picked up from Hardy now makes her a two-time champ in the class.
“Heather is as tough as they come,” Serrano said in the ring following her dominant performance. “She came to fight—but I was just the better girl tonight. There’s levels to boxing and she’s just not at my level tonight.”
Friday night, Serrano’s southpaw stance took the center of the ring from the onset. The multi-divisional champion sliced apart Hardy’s guard in the first frame. Hardy was pinned the ropes for the entire two minutes.
Serrano’s hands never stopped moving: two or three shots upstairs, changing levels downstairs, and returning to target Hardy’s chin with interchanging crosses.
Hardy, biting on her gumshield, offered back winging hooks. But they were too wild to keep Serrano off her for even a second.
If not for a low blow and referee Mike Ortega jumping in with seconds on the clock, a TKO seemed imminent. Nonetheless the period ended with Hardy on the ropes—her face pink, the commentary team sure the night would be over soon.
That seemed spot on with Hardy back along the ropes for Round 2. Her punches had little steam on them. But she began to rely on her feet to survive the remaining stages, dancing along the canvas in the third period.
A steady flow of offense continued from Serrano. Fencing with each other in the fourth round, Hardy offered up a lead hook but was either met with a left cross or a returning hook from Serrano after the legendary champion avoided Hardy’s initial blow.
Hardy’s exhaustion settled in, her elbows were visibly loose, as were her flailing punches. In sharp contrast with Serrano, her elbows tight, weaving, dodging punches with ease.
Serrano paced herself in Round 5—really taking the inning off. As so, Hardy took the round with her activity and even outlanded Serrano in the sixth period too.
Hardy had some life again to open the seventh stanza. But Serrano got back to pressuring her opponent along the ropes: mixing up levels, throwing overhand lefts consecutively to the belly and then the chin.
Hardy withstood further abuse in the final three rounds with Serrano still sawing rights and left across her chin, drawing blood from Hardy’s face.
Unsurprisingly, Serrano landed at a higher rate and with more precision, connecting on 222 of 578 total punches (38 percent) while Hardy landed 131 of 498 total punches (26 percent).
Seemingly out of challenges at the weight, attention in the post-fight interview turned to standout titlist Katie Taylor.
“I say let’s go,” Serrano said with a bright smile. “No matter where it’s at or what weight, I’m going to win.”