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Haney survives late scare to trump Linares

Devin Haney came through a late scare to see off three-weight champion Jorge Linares on the cards at the Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay on Saturday night. Scores were 116-112 (twice) and 115-113.

WBC lightweight title holder Haney appeared on course for a decisive points win with something to spare when the narrative changed at the end of the 10th as he was wobbled by a stiff right-left combination from the Venezuelan veteran.

After returning to his corner on unsteady legs, Haney went into survival mode for the rest of the contest as Linares tore away in search of a dramatic late finish. But the 22-year-old Haney came through the gut-check in his toughest test to date.

“It was a good shot, but I wasn’t hurt, sometimes when you get hit by a good shot, you have to be smart, continue the game plan, and I did that and got the win,” said Haney (26-0, 15 KOs) afterwards.

“I knew he was going to come here and give it everything, it was a huge opportunity for him, he would be willing to get knocked out to go for the win, take my biggest shots to get this title.

“I just kept smart, used the jabs, feinted and landed shots in the 12th round. You are going to get hit with big shots in boxing. I didn’t get dropped; I didn’t get hurt. You see fighters get dropped and get up from big shots and people praise them, I didn’t get dropped, I stayed on my feet, kept throwing shots and closed it out.

“I want to fight the best, I stayed focused on Jorge this week, I knew he was a tough competitor, and I got the job done with the game plan. If Teofimo Lopez wants to do it next, let’s do it for all the belts, the real undisputed.”

Few could have foreseen the late drama early on with the quicksilver Haney illustrating his fast hands and flashy skills in the initial skirmishes. A dazzling four-punch combination snapped back Linares’ head in the second.

Haney’s stellar jab was controlling the fight, but from the fourth Linares crept into the contest, readily engaging with the younger man and causing problems with a stout left hook to the body.

The speed and industry of Haney was apparently winning the fight by midway, but Linares’ sublime timing was clicking into gear. In the sixth, Haney backed Linares (47-6, 29 KOs) to the ropes before the Venezuelan blasted back with a scything left hook that drew a grin from the American title holder.

Haney reverted to his jab to keep the surging Linares at bay, but the challenger underlined his increasing threat level with a heavy left hook in the ninth.

In the closing stages of the 10th, Haney was wobbled by the same shot and any willingness to engage was abandoned after he staggered back to his corner. The young Las Vegan unashamedly held in the 11th to the frustration of the fans and saw out the final session to seal the all-important ‘W’.

Main image: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA.