The reason why Devin Haney needed to get hurt against Jorge Linares
For nine rounds, Devin Haney showcased his phenomenal technical prowess against crafty veteran Jorge Linares and appeared destined to yet another successful, but not necessarily spectacular, victory. However, a short right hand to close out the tenth round hurt Haney and the fans in attendance at the Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas shifted their support away from the 22-year-old fighter.
For the first time, Haney had to deal with something that he hadn’t faced during his 25-fight career: adversity. Not only from his opponent, but from the fans in attendance that jeered him as he intelligently held Linares while he shook the cobwebs from the previous round.
Despite the brief stint of adversity, Haney went on to win a unanimous decision and retain his WBC lightweight title. While some may have criticized his performance and inability to put away an opponent that had only lost by knockout up until that point, Haney earned valuable experience necessary for a fighter of his caliber to take the next step in his career.
Fans may not have been treated to a spectacular knockout from the young fighter who calls Las Vegas his home, but what Haney gained in that short sequence from being hurt, taking instructions from his corner while being buzzed and applying them in the following round are what separates champions from challengers.
These are the moments that young undefeated fighters need in their career to figure out whether or not they have the mettle to be successful in the long-term. It’s easy to rollover a series of opponents. But it’s not until a fighters gets punched in the mouth one good time and forced to react that we know whether or not they are going to be here long term or just a flash in the pan.
It’s a baptism by fire. Some survive, many don’t.
Ryan Garcia recently had his moment when he was dropped by Luke Campbell in the second round of their January showdown that we realized that he was made of sterner stuff. The 22-year-old peeled himself off the canvas, rebounded and stopped Campbell with a brutal body shot in the 7th round to pass his toughest test. Haney may not have hit the canvas, but his wobbly walk back to his corner told a story that would either end with his survival or a embarrassing collapse. With trainer Ben Davison in his ear, Haney flashed the smile that suggested that he was hurt but didn’t want to show it while digesting the directions from his cornermen.
He applied them, survived the final six minutes and lived to fight another day.
History tells us that not all fighters are able to survive these moments and it’s something that haunts them for the rest of their career. Mike Tyson was clueless when Buster Douglass dropped him in the 10th round of their infamous 1990 clash. To that point, he torched the opposition and rarely faced anything remotely close to adversity. By the time he tasted the canvas, he had no clue how to get up and the veil of invincibility was shattered.
Juan Manuel Lopez, Amir Khan, Victor Ortiz, Tommy Morrison, Zab Judah, Jeff Lacy and even Linares are just a few boxers who were thought to be the next big thing but crumbled when the going got tough. For Haney to achieve the next level of greatness, he needed to find out how he’d react when he was hurt in a fight.
Haney didn’t crumble. In fact, Haney became a sponge following the fight and went as far as to question Linares about his boxing prowess. Rather than putting his ego on display, Haney humbly inquired about how to improve and accepted the criticism of his work off the jab from his opponent.
As Haney moves on to bigger and better fights that could potentially include Garcia, unified champion Teofimo Lopez and Gervonta Davis, this valuable lesson will go further than pleasing the fans with a rout. He needed the adversity to learn more about himself. These teachable moments against seasoned veterans certainly aren’t over but the fact he passed his first one proves that Haney is much more than a young star who will fizzle when pressured.
And pressure either busts pipes or makes diamonds. Thus far, Haney appears well on his way to becoming a diamond.
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