The Dream Comes True: Devin Haney dazzles in San Francisco | Boxing News

By Declan Warrington

FOR AS long as the earth continues to spin there will remain proven fighters who walk to the ring totally confident of victory – and who in turn proceed to lose so convincingly to their younger opponent that they instead quickly look equally lost.

To spend time around Regis Prograis in the days before his WBC super-lightweight title defence against Devin Haney was to detect a fighter not only relishing the test he was anticipating, but one he wholeheartedly believed he would pass. A brooding alpha male energised by the prospect of fighting the groomed-for-greatness, naturally bigger, younger, fresher athlete he believed was favoured by the promoter and broadcaster they shared – regardless of where they would fight, or when.

Inside three rounds, however, the 34-year-old Prograis started to look lost – aware, as he was, of the reality he was confronting. As he was supposed to, Haney was fighting on the back foot and attempting to remain out of harm’s way; what he wasn’t supposed to do was punish Prograis in the way he did when he dropped him.

Prograis had expected Haney to prove as vulnerable as he perceived him to be at 135lbs; he also hadn’t anticipated Haney proving capable of hurting him. In that third round when he was dropped by a straight right hand he quickly returned to his feet and nodded in acknowledgement. When he then missed the target with another punch Haney smiled; they were simultaneously realising the gulf in quality being revealed.

There remain those destined to continue to hold against Haney the perception that he didn’t deserve the decision in May over Vasyl Lomachenko. If they therefore dismiss its validity they may come to regard his victory over Prograis as the night he came of age as an elite professional – hype and promise replaced by evidence and substance; the night when against a fighter’s fighter he won every round.

Haney dominates (Ed Mulholland/Matchroom)

The 25-year-old Haney’s struggles to make the 135lbs lightweight limit may have been high-profile and long-term, but there remained many who continued to question his punch resistance and power. If the extent of those struggles made it likeliest that at 140lbs his punch resistance would improve, Prograis succeeded in landing so little that Haney’s chin remains unproven, and yet left San Francisco’s Chase Center more aware than any that in his new weight division Haney’s punches cause considerably more harm.

When Prograis returned to his corner at the end of the opening round – Haney had already landed a straight right and a counter left hand – swelling was already appearing by his right eye. When he returned to his corner at the end of the second, in which he absorbed a strong uppercut, his face had reddened further, and he was already starting to look beaten up.

If he was more effectively cutting down the ring than throughout his disappointing win over Danielito Zorrilla in June, the consistency and accuracy of “The Dream” Haney’s jab and counters regularly punished his ambition. His bottom lip started to swell up after the first knockdown; he was also occasionally being hurt to the body.

As early as the fourth he was being made to look old and one-dimensional, and largely because a pattern already existed in which Haney would throw combinations and Prograis, relying on a single shot, regularly fell short.

Haney, as a consequence of sharing the ring for 12 rounds with a great fighter like Lomachenko, had visibly improved. There was a moment in the fifth when he edged backwards towards the ropes as Prograis followed him, and he then seamlessly turned him so that he was the fighter in the centre of the ring.

When in the sixth a left-right combination buckled Prograis’ legs, Haney showed the same maturity, patience and discipline that had inspired so much of his previous success by refusing to force the knockdown that was open to him. Prograis responded by retreating; he also ended the round with a cut on the bridge of his nose.

A counter right hand and right to the body caught the eye in the seventh, and a powerful right uppercut even more so in the eighth. Before the ninth started it had become time for Prograis’ respected trainer Bobby Benton to consider pulling him out – so inevitable was the outcome because of the extent to which Haney was timing Prograis with ease.

There followed a cruel moment in the 10th when New Orlean’s exhausted Prograis, the most dignified of fighters, suffered the indignity of twice reaching and missing with his left hand and then struggling for balance and to remain upright after he did. Haney resisted pursuing the stoppage thereafter, but doing so did little to prevent Prograis swinging, missing and almost falling again in the 12th, nor preventing the three scores of 120-107 from the ringside judges Ray Danseco, Fernando Villarreal and Mike Ross. So clean and clinical was Haney’s performance in front of the vocal support of the 17,000-strong crowd in the city of his birth that the referee Jack Reiss needed to do very little. Matchroom and DAZN will already see the value in him fighting there again.

Devin Haney celebrates beating Regis Prograis (Ed Mulholland/Matchroom)

Liam Paro may yet prove Prograis’ next opponent, having been scheduled to fight him in June until an Achilles injury forced his withdrawal and having also earlier impressed in stopping Cleveland’s Montana Love in six rounds. The Australian, from Brisbane, was starting to outwork Love when in the fifth round he dropped him with a left uppercut to the chin. When Love returned to his feet a straight left sent him back to the canvas, and with him then struggling to defend himself under further pressure the referee Thomas Taylor intervened to rescue him after 109 seconds.

There was also a stoppage victory for Cuba’s exciting Andy Cruz, over Jovanni Staffron of Mexico City, Mexico. He had looked slick, fast and aggressive from the opening round, and in the second first hurt Staffron with a right to the body. When he then landed a right uppercut Staffron was struggling to survive; a further uppercut and further right hands followed, and yet the referee Edward Collantes recklessly resisted saving him. The needless punishment – Boxing News scored the second round 10-8 in Cruz’s favour – continued until 53 seconds into the third round, when Cruz, from Matanzas but based in Philadelphia, was finally awarded victory.

Ebanie Bridges had by then sacrificed the IBF bantamweight title when she lost to Miyo Yoshida of Kagoshima, Japan. She struggled throughout the course of their 10 two-minute rounds and rightly lost via unanimous decision, but the scores of 99-91, 97-93 and 99-91, respectively from Lou Moret, Pat Russell and Zachary Young, were excessively wide. Bridges, of New South Wales, Australia, has therefore lost on the two occasions – the previous was against Shannon Courtenay – she has been stepped up.

There were also victories for Beatriz Ferreira, Amari Jones and Shamar Canal, respectively in the eighth of eight rounds against Destiny Jones, in the fifth of eight against Quilisto Madera, and via unanimous decision over six rounds against Jose Antonio Meza.

The Verdict – All signs point to a bright future for Haney and, in turn, the new weight class in which he roams.

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