By: Oliver McManus
Bluechip lightweight prospect Devin Haney will look to record his 22nd professional win this weekend when he takes on Antonio Moran (24-3) over ten rounds in defense of his WBC International title. The fight tops Matchroom Boxing USA’s card at MGM National Harbor in Maryland that features Jessica McCaskill vs Anahi Esther Sanchez (WBC and WBA world title fight), Michael Hunter vs Fabio Maldonado (WBA International) and Filip Hrgovic vs Gregory Corbin (WBC International) in support.
Haney tops the bill for his first career fight in Maryland and his first bout since linking up with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom. The talented 20 year old has been making waves Stateside for a while now thanks to the maturity he’s shown in spite of his youth: debuting when he was just 17. In the four following years he has notched up 21 victories, 13 inside the distance, and really made a statement last May with a victory over Mason Menard.
Showcasing his full arsenal of tricks, the youngster immediately hit his stride with his rear right leg keeping Haney on top from distance – circumnavigating the ring in compass-like fashion which he complimented with a flash jab to the midriff and occasional switch-hitting. This was, arguably, the first occasion in which Haney was able to produce a peerless performance in which everything seemed to flow with him previously being quite predictable once hitting any sort of rhythm.
Moran will be hoping that habits of old creep back into the technique of Haney in order for the Mexican to impose a gameplan of his own. The 26 year old goes into the contest having fallen short on three previous occasions – twice in contentious circumstances back in Mexico – and will best be remembered for a gritty contest with Jose Pedraza last June. A perennial Latino champion with varying governing bodies, this is an opportunity for Moran to push past those regional fizzy belts and gain a meaningful scalp to his CV.
The Mexico City resident leads with a pawing jab from a sturdily straight posture and takes a while to warm up into contests but has found success when loosening up and letting the left hand throw wildly towards the body. Despite rattling seventeen victories by way of knockout, I’d say Moran is not your typical ‘Mexican’ fighter in terms of throwing the kitchen sink into a contest with constant aggression with his knockout power countered, really, with a methodical start to proceedings.
Victory is firmly expected for his Californian adversary but we’ve seen from recent fights that you can never rule out a Mexican fighter – it should be a rite of passage for any prospect to face a Mexican through the developmental phase of their career. Haney could be in a real learning fight, he could be dictating traffic from the off and cruise to victory but it’ll certainly be a good measure of how the young man can adapt to those in front of him. Predictability won’t wash come Saturday night.
Jessica McCaskill (6-2) and Anahi Esther Sanchez (19-3) provide the world title action on the Maryland bill with the two fighters seeking to unify their super lightweight belts. McCaskill enters the contest having claimed the WBC version in October with a routine points victory over Erica Anabella Farias whilst Sanchez is the WBA ruler after knocking out Diana Ayala inside a round last April.
Despite her inactivity Sanchez edges this contest, going in, thanks to her wealth of experience that has seen her win or challenge for world titles in three different weight divisions. The South American hits hard and is one of those fighters that is routinely getting the business done within the shorter two-minute rounds. A rough fighter who loves ‘getting involved’ – she can fall into a rhythm of clinching after landing a flurry of punches – Sanchez rolls with her shots and lands with consistent pressure. McCaskill, seven years the older fighter, is not a big underdog by any stretch of the imagination and has developed plenty since her debut in August 2015. She’s been blighted by a lack of regular action but has looked comfortable in her career to date. A real trope of her style is that she leads with her head when throwing her jab, not in a dangerous manner but, dropping it a good six inches which in turn takes her eye off the target.
Michael Hunter (16-1) and Filip Hrgovic (7-0) are the bruising heavyweights looking to add the knockout gloss to the card. Hunter looks to continue his momentum from the back end of 2018 – a year in which he knocked out Iago Kiladze, Martin Bakole and Alexander Ustinov – by defending his WBA International strap against Fabio Maldonado. The explosive 30 year old established himself as a surprise heavyweight contender and victory over Maldonado should be routine; the main question is whether Hunter can get rid of the former UFC fighter before the ten rounds are up. Maldonado (26-2) has proven himself to be incredulously negative in his two previous ‘step-ups’ with a reluctance to engage so it could be a long old night as far as Hunter is concerned.
Hrgovic faces an equally drab and dour competitor in the former of Gregory Corbin (15-1): the Dallas fighter being best known for repeatedly punching ‘King’ Charles Martin in the crown jewels. Hrgovic has strolled his way to an unbeaten seven fight career, even dropping the notably durable Kevin Johnson in his last fight. The 26 year old has been signed to a co-promotional agreement with Matchroom and Team Sauerland that guarantees him exposure on both sides of the Atlantic and he’s already proving to be one of the star-signings from the 2016 Olympians. Between the heavyweight contests this is most likely to end prematurely; Hrgovic knockout or Corbin disqualification, that’s still up for debate.
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