Algieri's School of Thought: Haney-Lomachenko will be determined by whether the tangibles overcome the intangibles

There’s been a lot of suggestions that, at 35, Vasyl Lomachenko isn’t the fighter he used to be, but I don’t necessarily agree – it’s too early for anyone to say that. 

Those suggestions mostly stem from his past two performances, against Richard Commey and Jamaine Ortiz. He had a tough fight with Ortiz, which was unexpected, but he’d had a period of inactivity because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and not only can Ortiz fight, he used to be one of Lomachenko’s sparring partners – which would have given him a lot of opportunities to learn from someone as tricky and savvy, stylistically, as Lomachenko.

Lomachenko’s one of the best fighters of the modern era. His willingness to take on the toughest fights is commendable. He’s a two-time Olympic champion, won a world title in his third professional fight, and has already had a tremendously virtuoso career. 

At 24 I also don’t believe we’ve yet seen the best of Devin Haney. He still has a lot to prove, and he hasn’t yet fought the same level of competition, but his talent and skills aren’t in doubt.

It’s his discipline that has separated him from his rivals at 135lbs – both outside of the ring and on fight night. Teofimo Lopez, who narrowly beat Lomachenko in 2020, is a fighter who could thrive with that same discipline. Even though on his past performance Gervonta Davis deserves to be considered the world’s best lightweight, someone with Haney’s commitment to his lifestyle and fighting style, even if he is not as physically gifted, can never be discounted. Haney’s also the fighter with all four titles.

Haney understands what he is and isn’t good at better than any of his rivals, and his willingness to focus on the outcome of his fights without worrying about the crowd or any other noise around him is equally commendable. In the earlier days of his career Floyd Mayweather would get criticised – but look where he ended up.

Saturday’s fight in Las Vegas is massive – the implications for the lightweight division can’t be underestimated – and victory would make a similarly massive statement for the eventual winner. Though I expect Haney to win – because of his momentum and development and the timing of this fight – I’ve been very surprised by how few people are backing Lomachenko.

Algieri's School of Thought: Haney-Lomachenko will be determined by whether the tangibles overcome the intangibles
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

All of the intangibles are still in Lomachenko’s favour. We’ve seen him dig deep, and that he is very up for this fight. He might be in his mid-thirties, but he’s still hungry – which when he already has the talent and skill is significant. Often, it’s a lack of desire that holds back older fighters – with Lomachenko, there’s a chip on his shoulder and a sense that he still has something to prove.

But this is also essentially a fight between a super featherweight and a super lightweight – maybe even a welterweight. The size difference between them at the first press conference to announce their fight made waves – Haney is so much bigger than Lomachenko, which is a lot to do with why he’s the favourite. 

Not only is he big, he’s also far from a come-forward puncher – he’s an intelligent fighter with a high boxing IQ who can box from range. His height, reach and overall size – he’ll easily be 10-to-12lbs heavier than Lomachenko on fight night – is complemented by an ability for him to slow down the pace of the fight, which in many ways makes this a fight between the tangibles and the intangibles. 

If Lomachenko produces the type of performance he’ll need to to secure victory I wouldn’t be hugely surprised. But based on his recent fights I think he starts too slowly, and if he makes a slow start on Saturday and Haney starts banking rounds, Lomachenko’s going to have to dig deep and come on strong like he did against Lopez and Ortiz. Haney’s savvy enough, fit enough, and defensively sound enough to resist him doing so.

It, regardless, will be a very close fight – and very strongly contested in the later rounds. Even if it starts slowly, it’ll end very entertainingly, and attract the type of positive reaction that wasn’t given to last week’s fight between Rolly Romero and Ismael Barroso.

That stoppage, from the referee Tony Weeks, was horrible. My heart bled for Barroso. I’ve been watching him for a decade – he’s very tough, and has always given as good as he’s got in return.The way that fight ended left a bad taste in my mouth – at 40 years old I don’t see how Barroso can recover what he was on course to earn.