By Jake Donovan
A formal announcement has yet to accompany the fight, but such a distinction is trivial to Zaur Abdullaev as it relates to his lightweight title eliminator versus Devin Haney.
The pair of unbeaten lightweights will meet for the right to determine the next mandatory challenger to the currently vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) lightweight title. A working date of September 13 has been offered, due to take place in Haney’s adopted hometown of Las Vegas, Nev.
When and where it takes place never mattered to Russia’s Abdullaev, just that the fight is happening at all.
“We respect the WBC for (ordering the fight),” German Titov, Abdullaev’s promoter told BoxingScene.com. “We always knew they would honor their word.”
The fight was ordered shortly after the sanctioning body greenlighted a vacant title fight between current mandatory challenger Luke Campbell and unified titlist Vasyl Lomachenko. The ruling took many by surprise, including Campbell’s promoter Eddie Hearn who has has Haney (22-0, 14KOs) and hoped to match together his two fighters for the vacant belt.
Such a fight, however, would have violated the WBC’s own rules since Abdullaev (11-0, 7KOs) was the number-two contender right behind Campbell. There was never a chance of his stepping aside, as the WBC honored his request to allow him to observe the holy season of Ramadan with the promise that he would be ready for a final eliminator.
“This is a great challenge for me, I’m very motivated,” Abdullaev told BoxingScene.com. “I’ve always wanted this fight and feel very confident. It’s a great opportunity to prove myself in a boxing city such as Las Vegas, where so many big fights have taken place.”
It’s a step up in class for the 25-year old from Russia, who scored a 10th round knockout of Humberto Martinez in his most recent start this past February. His best win to date remains a hard-fought 12-round decision over American veteran contender Hank Lundy last September, which helped him advance towards the top of the WBC lightweight rankings.
Haney’s rise to contention has captured far greater fanfare, as the 20-year old has been tabbed as a can’t-miss commodity since his pro debut less than four years ago. He made a huge splash in his first fight under Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA banner, scoring a highlight reel 7th round knockout of Antonio Moran this past May.
The bout also marked his debut on DAZN USA, which will stream this bout as well. Adding to the intrigue is that the winner will already know their next opponent ,since it comes two weeks before the August 31 clash between Campbell and Lomachenko.
It’s already prompted two unofficial predictions on the part of Team Abdullaev.
“We believe it’s a good thing that everyone will know beforehand who is next,” Titov theorizes. “A fight with Lomachenko will be far more interesting—we believe he’s the best boxer in the world pound-for-pound.
“But we think it’s better (for the September show) to know whom will meet the winner of Zaur vs. Haney in the ring next. It means more to fight a champion than just saying you’re fighting for a title.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox