Haney Battles Abdullaev for Championship; Heather Hardy Back in the Ring to Reclaim Crown
By: Robert Aaron Contreras
On Friday, Devin Haney has a chance to pair his shining charisma with a gold-plated belt, fighting for the WBC interim title. The 10-fight bill originally featured two other championship bouts until Danny Roman was forced to drop out. Fortunately it takes more than a scheduling change to dim the lights at Madison Square. The main card is set to kick off at 6 p.m. ET, exclusively on DAZN.
Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA
Devin Haney (22-0, 14 KO) vs. Zaur Abdullaev (11-0, 7 KO), lightweight title
With a menacing, undefeated Russian in front of him, Haney and his team remain so confident, the American super-prospect is already scheduled to fight again in November. These are the kind of expectations and expedient scheduling that meet an ambitious talent like Haney, who turning professional at 17 and soon thereinafter was named 2018’s Prospect of the Year.
Already 2-0 on the year, Haney pulled himself up the WBC rankings with back-to-back dominant efforts.
In May, all of 20 years old, he headlined another Eddie Hearn endeavor. There he cracked open the rangy puncher Antonio Moran inside of seven rounds: the Mexican slumped from an overhand right. The knockout quickly made the rounds on social media—eventually dubbed a frontrunner for Knockout of the Year.
That win earned Haney a bevy of minor belts from the WBC, WBA and WBO. The sort of secondary “international” titles that name mandatory challengers. He decided to take the WBA route, opening up a possible showdown with Vasyl Lomachenko. Hearn expects the fight to go down between March or May of 2020.
Before then, Haney can continue to capitalize off the momentum he gain last year when he bested two former title challengers.
He started off the year as the main attraction on ShoBox in January. He took on the standout South African Xolisani Ndgondgeni and was too much for the previously-undefeated counterpuncher, overwhelming Ndgondgeni, scoring an early knockdown before stirring his foe’s insides with body blows, en route to a wide points win.
That next month, in February, was when Abdullaev, 25, fronted his own bill in his beloved Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Backed by German Titov, a Russian super-promoter with one of the best eyes for talent in the world, Abdullaev sparked the lethal-hitting Columbian Humberto Martinez. The visiting slugger was continually pressed along the ropes, outgunned, eventually in the tenth and final round succumbing to successions of right and left crosses.
The victory completed Abdullaev’s career performance opposite former champion Hank Lundy. Always a nightmare matchup, Lundy began to gain momentum in the middle stages of their 12-round encounter in September 2018. The Russian, though, showed resolve, picking up his pace to secure a unanimous decision verdict.
Friday night will be Abdullaev’s first time fighting stateside. In fact, it will be his first start outside of Russia.
Heather Hardy (22-0, 4 KO) vs. Amanda Serrano (36-1-1, 27 KO), featherweight title
This weekend will mark Hardy’s first ring appearance in nearly a full calendar year. But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been busy. An ambassador for woman’s combat sports, three months ago, she was wearing fingerless gloves at Bellator 222, competing as a professional mixed martial artist for the fourth time. She was quickly taken out in the first round as a result of ground-and-pound.
But Hardy, 37, is still undefeated in the boxing ring. And she defends her WBO featherweight world title for the first time. She lifted the vacant strap in a rematch with Shelly Vincent, giving her two wins over the brawling Vincent and extending her perfect pugilistic ledger.
Serrano, the 30-year-old challenger, has established her own crossover, also spending time in the MMA cage. In 2018, she twice competed for the promotion Combate Americas, founded by one Campbell McLaren who also helped get the UFC onto its feet.
By way of Puerto Rico, Serrano makes up a supremely talented family, training alongside her older sister, Cindy, another claimed prizefighter.
Amanda, for one, is a southpaw and has competed nearly 40 times over the last decade. Still 30, she has become a mainstay in the New York scene since winning the city’s Golden Gloves as an amateur. Professionally, Serrano has won an astonishing seven divisional titles. As heavy as 140 pounds to most recently boiling herself down to the 115-pound mark to crush Eva Voraberger in about 30 seconds for the super flyweight crown.
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (6-0, 5 KO) vs. Wilner Soto (22-6, 12 KO)
Akhmadaliev, 24, is undefeated and supremely touted in his young career. In May, he competed for the first time under Hearn and Matchroom Boxing, celebrating the new partnership with a third-round knockout over Carlos Carlson. The Uzbekistan-born prospect is still looking for a trademark win in the paid ranks after Danny Roman was forced out with a shoulder injury.
It was at the Rio Olympics where Akhmadaliev rose to prominence, representing his country well—a powerhouse in the ammy scene—earning a Bronze medal.
Not even a swift finish of Soto will much, giving how unheralded the late-replacement Columbian is. Nothing more than a 28-year-old journeyman, he has fought in the United States once before, when he gave Stephon Young some rounds (losing widely) before Young challenged Nonito Donaire. Soto did pick up a win over a countryman of his by the name of Omny Padilla (with an ugly record), winning on points over six rounds. He remains an afterthought this weekend, just 2-3 over his last five bouts.