By: Hans Themistode
Both Joseph Diaz Jr. and Devin Haney claimed that they would take command of their contest in the center of the ring. As the opening bell rang to signal the start of their showdown at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, neither refused to take a step back.
Haney, 23, gladly pumped out a strong jab while attempting to walk his man down. Seemingly attempting to find his timing and navigate his way around the seven-inch reach advantage of Haney, Diaz Jr. fought cautiously.
With the first round safely in his back pocket, Haney continued to outbox his man in the second. Diaz Jr., a former world champion at 130 pounds, ate a steady diet of straight rights and jabs throughout the duration of the round.
Having spent the majority of the first two rounds playing defense, Diaz Jr. picked up the pace in the third. He relentlessly attacked the midsection of Haney and followed it up several overhand rights.
As the rounds ticked by, both fighters worked up a lather and began exchanging in the middle of the ring. While it was the sort of dog fight Diaz Jr. was hoping for, it was Haney who took full advantage. He effortlessly boxed and moved while tagging his man with numerous hard shots.
A confident Diaz Jr. was undeterred in his attack, however. And in the seventh, things began turning around. The 29-year-old highly ranked contender landed a huge right-hand square on the chin of Haney. He then followed up his best shot of the night with numerous rights and lefts to the body.
With Diaz Jr. gaining momentum, he got it going again in the eighth. A much more complacent and reserved Haney spent most of the period attempting to avoid the hard shots of his foe.
In the championship rounds, Haney regained his composure and began boxing well. He connected with his own big punches to the body in an attempt to slow Diaz Jr. down.
In the 12th and final round, Diaz Jr. fought like a man who knew that he needed a knockout to win. He started the period in a frenzy. He rushed Haney from the start of the bell and pushed the pace. To his credit, Diaz Jr. found a ton of success. At times, he appeared to buzz Haney. Still, the current WBC lightweight belt holder never seemed to be in any true trouble.
While Diaz Jr. did his best to close the show, Haney showed his resolve as he fought back in the waning seconds of the period.
In the end, though Diaz Jr. had his moments, he agreed with the judge’s scorecards. Both Dave Moretti and Max DeLuca scored it 117-111, while Tim Cheatham had it 116-112 in favor of Haney who retained his 135-pound title.