September 13, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Devin Haney and Zaur Abdullaev during their bout at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA

Prospect No More: Devin Haney Dominates Zaur Abdullaev

Achievement Unlocked: Contender Status Acquired

Welp, make it a hat trick for Devin Haney in 2019. Three fights, three impressive beatdowns.

After a one-sided shutout decision over outgunned Xolisani Ndongeni in January and a Knockout of the Year contender over rugged Antonio Moran in May, Haney (23-0, 15 KOs) put the finishing touches on his breakout year with an impressive bell-to-bell annihilation of previously undefeated Zaur Abdullaev on a DAZN televised card from The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.

The fight with Abdullaev (11-1, 7 KOs) was that in name only, as the textbook definition of a fight is when two people are throwing punches at each other. This was more of a protracted, 12-minute infomercial for The Devin Haney Experience.

And if Haney is what they’re selling, they’re going to move plenty of units.

From the opening bell Haney put his dizzying, cobra-strike jab on full display. This isn’t a range-finding jab or a table-setter like most fighters possess. The Haney jab is a full-force, whiplash-inducing, nose-breaker meant to do damage all on its own. To follow it up with looping, overhand rights thrown from the depths of Hades, well, that just feels like overkill.

The problem for Haney’s opponents here is that there seems to be no ceiling to his offensive acumen. When he got tired of adding zeros to Abdullaev’s chiropractor bill with punches from the outside, he simply took a step closer and introduced the poor Russian to his right uppercut.

Like his jab, Haney’s uppercut is thrown in singular fashion. Picture the back half of a bolo punch coupled with the follow through of a Big Ern’ McCracken power stroke and you’re somewhere in the neighborhood. Now picture it landing squarely on your chin and, hey, looks like you’re done picturing anything for a while because your brain has hung up a “Gone Fishin’” sign and took the rest of your neurological functions with it.

None of this is a knock on Abdullaev either. He earned his right to be there and came in fully prepared. There’s just simply no preparing for a fighter like Haney. He is, as the kids say, that dude.

The festivities officially came to an end between the 4th and 5th rounds as Abdullaev understandably stayed on his stool. A massive right hand was sighted by the DAZN production team as the fight-stopping blow but take your pick, really. Abdullaev was game but he was broken inside and bleeding outside which is the opposite of how prom night ended for my date.

But I digress.

I’m a numbers guy. I like quantifiable, empirical data and I like large sample sizes of it. I like advanced analytical statistics and proven metrics for which to compare them. Sometimes, though, you have to just shut the fuck up and believe what your eyes are telling you.

Haney is the genuine article: that astonishingly unparalleled fighter who comes along once in a generation and so vividly reminds us why this sport can oftentimes define itself as an art form.

The problems for Haney won’t come in the ring. They will approach him from all angles as his circle of influence expands. Stardom in boxing comes in small drips for many years and then all at once in a wave. It’s easy to remain humble when it’s just you, your dad and couple chief seconds fighting for gas money in Mexican bars. The games changes dramatically once the sharks of the boxing world smell blood in the water.

The challenge for Haney then will be to become the anti-Broner. Hell, that should every decent, self-respecting person’s goal. Not being like Adrien Broner is the recipe for a life well lived. And yes, that’s easy to say from behind the keyboard of my clean, quiet, non-sycophant infested home but I also don’t have a rat’s nest for a brain so it balances out.

There’s no reason to think that Haney will approach the trappings of fame with the poor decision making skills that Broner did/does. He’s already 10 times the fighter Broner could ever have dreamed of being but every 20 year old is susceptible to lapses in judgment and fanciful temptations. Here’s to hoping he stays on the right hand hand path.

A fight with pound-for-pound superstar Vasyl Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) is obviously the end game here. Haney may need just a little more time to prepare for a vortex like Loma but honestly, I don’t know. It’s a mouthwatering matchup and there’s no reason to rush it.

With the win over Abdullaev, Haney picked up some sort of interim something or other belt. If you care about the particulars of shit like that, come talk to me after your glue sniffing bender is over. No belt is needed for Haney to make the leap from prospect to full fledged contender. Hell, no belt could ever define him even if it were.

When boxing is described as artistry, it’s talent like Haney’s that we picture and he currently has a blank canvas sitting in front of him.

There’s simply nothing more exciting than that.

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