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Matchroom Boxing

For most of unbeaten Devin Haney's title defense in May, a step-up bout against former two-division champion Jorge Linares, the WBC lightweight champion looked to be nothing short of the future of the 135-pound division.  

Then, adversity struck. Haney was rocked in Round 10 and spent the rest of the contest in full damage control as he held gratuitously and circled away from contact en route to a unanimous decision win.  

As Haney (26-0, 15 KOs), the 23-year-old phenom from Las Vegas, enters his return on Saturday at the nearby MGM Grand Garden Arena, the stakes couldn't be higher given the recent events within the division (8 p.m. ET, DAZN -- subscribe now). Should Haney defend his WBC belt against interim titleholder and former two-division champion Joseph Diaz Jr. (32-1-1, 15 KOs), a shot at undisputed lightweight glory could be next against newly crowned unified king George Kambosos Jr.  

Kambosos, fresh off a thrilling upset of Teofimo Lopez Jr. last weekend to claim the WBA, WBO and IBF titles, has named Haney as the leading candidate for his next fight and is hoping to stage the event in front of 80,000 fans at a stadium in his native Australia.  

Before any contracts can be worked up, of course, Haney will need to handle the business at hand. And lucky for fans, the 29-year-old Diaz, an aggressive southpaw from California, is going to try and find out firsthand whether Haney's hiccup against Linares was merely an aberration or a preview of something to come. 

"I'm just going to go out there and do what I've got to do to become victorious, not matter what it takes," Diaz said. "If he wants to try and box, I'm just going to hunt his ass down. If he wants to come and bang, I'm just going to bang it out as well. Whatever he wants to bring to the table, I'm going to bring it."

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Haney will have advantages of two inches in height and seven inches in reach when the two touch gloves but he's also expecting to be the faster, smarter and stronger fighter of the two. That's why Haney has been installed as high as a 7-1 betting favorite despite Diaz's strong resume.   

"I just can't wait to show JoJo Diaz that he can be a dog, but at the end of the day skills pay the bills," Haney said. "If that's his only approach that he's going to dog me, come on, I've been seeing that my whole career. If that's his Plan A and I'm going to let him dog me, it's going to be a long night." 

Diaz has spent much of the promotion attempting to get inside the head of Haney by questioning his opponent's confidence. He has also worked hard to let anyone who is listening know that he's a far more accomplished boxer than his reputation for being aggressive might indicate.  

The aftermath of Diaz's lone pro defeat, a decision loss to Gary Russell Jr. in their 2018 featherweight title bout, kicked off an unbeaten streak that has reached eight fights. Diaz went 4-0 after moving up to 130 pounds, including a 2020 win over Tevin Farmer to capture the IBF junior lightweight belt.  

But it was a move one division higher to lightweight that has Diaz feeling the best he has ever felt from a physical standpoint, which has only raised his confidence as a well-rounded fighter.  

"I just feel like at 135 pounds I am someone to be reckoned with.  I'm very, very dangerous at this weight," Diaz said. "Devin Haney is one hell of a fighter, don't get me wrong, he has great tools and he has a great boxing skills, but so do I. I'm a 2012 Olympian, I'm a two-weight division champion, I've fought multiple, multiple guys that have had experience inside the professional ranks." 

Despite the adversity he survived against Linares, Haney has had a difficult time getting any of his fellow young lightweight stars inside the ring against him, including unbeaten Ryan Garcia, whom he faced off against six different times as an amateur.  

Haney has shown Diaz respect for taking the fight against him but believes it's a fight that will be anything but competitive.  

"I do feel like his style will be tailor made for me, there's nothing that he can do to win," Haney said. "He can't outbox me, I'll show him he can't out bang me. I have the size advantage, all the tools to win."

This card also marks the return of undisputed women's welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill. The 37-year-old Missouri native is looking to continue her impressive run when she takes on late replacement Kandi Wyatt. McCaskill was expected to take on Victoria Bustos in this spot, but Bustos had issues getting her visa to the U.S. and was forced to withdraw. McCaskill achieved undisputed status when she stunned then champ Cecila Braekus in 2020 by majority decision then beat her by unanimous decision in the 2021 rematch.

Plus, super lightweight Montana Love looks to cap off a tremendous 2021 when he takes on Carlos Diaz. Love is 2-0 with a pair of stoppages so far this year, including an impressive win over former champion Ivan Baranchyk in August. Another win on Saturday could move him closer to a potential title opportunity, especially over someone like Diaz. The Mexican enters with a 29-1 record and 14 knockouts on his resume. He's won three in a row since his lone pro defeat at the hands of Jose Zepeda.

Below is the complete fight card for Saturday night along with a prediction for the main event.

Fight card, odds

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

  • Devin Haney (c) -700 vs. Joseph "JoJo" Diaz Jr. +500, WBC lightweight title
  • Montana Love -1500 vs. Carlos Diaz +850, super lightweights
  • Jessica McCaskill (c) -2000 vs. Kandi Wyatt +1000, undisputed women's welterweight titles
  • Filip Hrgovic -8000 vs. Emir Ahmatovic +2200, heavyweights

Prediction  

For all of the talk about Haney's chin, he might be too long and skilled for Diaz to have a shot at finding out.  

Diaz has proven over multiple divisions that he's a dual-threat fighter who can mix it up and box when necessary. But Haney's sublime skill appears to be at another level.  

Expect Diaz to try and vary his attack early from the outside. But eventually, he will need to come forward and that's when Haney will be at his most dangerous to catch him coming in.  

For as comfortable as Diaz feels from a physical standpoint at 135 pounds, he's not a huge puncher and he'll need to be to have a shot at pulling the upset.

Pick: Haney via UD12