The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood hosts Matchroom USA’s latest show as a WBC Lightweight title fight tops the bill in Florida.
The champion is Las Vegas-based Devin Haney (24-0, KO15), but his position as belt holder has been muddied by the politics within the WBC.
‘The Dream’ had a spell as Interim Champion, before the powers that be at the WBC decided to make Vasyl Lomachenko their “Franchise” champion, upgrading his status, and then allowing Haney to become full champion as a result.
After turning professional in December 2015, Haney mainly boxed between Mexico and the USA, and then linked up with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom in April 2019 after thrashing the previously unbeaten Xolisani Ndongeni over ten rounds in January of the same year.
His debut under the Matchroom banner in May of 2019, and delivered a vicious seventh round knockout to Antonio Moran, which gave him a high ranking with various governing bodies.
Four months later, Haney picked up the Interim WBC strap, retiring Zaur Abdullaev at the end of four rounds, and he was upgraded to full champion shortly after, with a first defence negotiated in December 2019, winning every round and dropping Alfredo Santiago in a landslide points win.
That was Devin’s last contest, having then been made a “Champion in Recess” by the WBC as a result of a shoulder injury he sustained during the Santiago fight.
Thankfully, there have been no further WBC Lightweight champions crowned, and it will be Cuban, Yuriorkis Gamboa (30-3, KO18) that will oppose Haney in his latest defence.
At 38, Miami-based Gamboa is at the tail end of his career, and this is certainly a fight that Haney can potentially look good in.
Much was expected of the gifted 2004 Olympic Gold Medallist when he defected from his homeland in 2007, and he began his pro career by making serene progress, unifying WBA (Super) and IBF belts at Featherweight in 2010 with a clear win over Orlando Salido.
A 2013 move up to Lightweight would prove a slow decline for Gamboa, as he defeated Darleys Perez on his debut at the weight, but then took a year off through brushes with the law before losing his unbeaten record in June 2014, dropped four times en route to a ninth round stoppage defeat to Terence Crawford for the WBO title.
Three comeback wins looked to have got Gamboa back on track, but he was then upset by the then 23-12 Robinson Castellanos, dropped twice before retiring in seven.
The rebuild again was encouraging, as ‘El Ciclon de Guantanemo’ defeated the likes of Jason Sosa and Miguel Beltran, and then he knocked out Roman ‘Rocky’ Martinez in two in July 2019 to earn another shot at the world title.
This time, in his last outing, he found Gervonta Davis too much to handle, as he was dropped a hat trick of times before being stopped in the 12th and final frame.
Prediction: Haney will want to better Gervonta Davis’ showing against Gamboa in a bid to keep hot on Teofimo Lopez’s tail, with the two already exchanging verbals.
Haney is a big puncher, and Gamboa is well known for being on the canvas multiple times through his career. I feel he will be down a few more times on the way to a late stoppage defeat in this one.
The Heavyweights head the undercard, with two hot prospects in action. Croatia’s 2016 Olympic Bronze Medallist, Filip Hrgovic (11-0, KO9) against 39-year-old gatekeeper, Rydell Booker (26-3, KO13) over ten rounds.
Hrgovic is looking to be fast tracked, and already holds wins former world title challengers, Kevin Johnson (UD8) and Eric Molina (KO3).
Booker returned to the sport in 2018 having not fought since 2004 due to a lengthy prison sentence. Since his return, he’s gone 4-2 in his six contests, outscored by Jermaine Franklin, and in his last fight, by Kubrat Pulev. Booker has never been stopped, but Hrgovic can put the heat on here and score an inside the distance victory.
The other Heavyweight attraction features China’s Zhilei Zhang (21-0, KO16), but time isn’t on the 37-year-old’s side, and he meets Ohio’s Devin Vargas (22-6, KO9), also over ten.
Las Vegas-based Zhang won the WBO Oriental belt in his last fight with a clear win over Andriy Rudenko, and Vargas shouldn’t cause too many problems, having been stopped five times in his six defeats.
He has been in with contenders such as Andy Ruiz Junior, Kevin Johnson, Daniel Breazeale and Junior Fa, and Zhang should add to his list of defeats with an inside the distance win here before halfway.
There are four six-rounders on the card: At Featherweight, Raymond Ford (6-0, KO2) meets Rafael Reyes (18-10, KO14), while at Welterweight, Reshat Mati (7-0, KO5) takes on Marcos Mojica (17-5-2, KO13).
At Super-Lightweight, Movladdin Biyarslanov (6-0, KO5) and Juan Jose Martinez Alvarez (28-9, KO20) collide, and at Super Bantamweight, Darren Cunningham (11-0, KO6) squares off with Juan Gabriel Medina (11-4, KO10).
There is also an appearance for Souleymane Cissokho (11-0, KO7).