No offense is taken on the side of Zaur Abdullaev in the long odds against him ahead of his interim title fight versus Devin Haney.
The pair of unbeaten lightweights square off Friday evening at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City, with Las Vegas’ Haney (22-0, 14KOs) installed as a heavy favorite. The bout marks the first pro fight in the United States for Russia’s Abdullaev (11-0, 7KOs), along with a step up in class. His best win to date is a 12-round nod over veteran Hank Lundy last September and is just 30 months into his pro career.
Meanwhile, Haney has quickly emerged as one of the hottest-rising young stars in the sport today. The 20-year old has ascended from prospect to contender in the blink of an eye and has been touted by many as having the best shot to unseat unified titlist and pound-for-pound talent Vasiliy Lomachenko. That very train of thought exists in Abduallev’s own backyard—as did another time when an unproven Russian faced a perceived can’t miss unbeaten American star in the making.
“Even the bookmakers in Russia don’t give us a chance, they have Devin Haney as a 12-1 favorite,” notes Alex Titov Jr. of RCC Boxing Promotions, Abdullaev’s promoter. “It reminds me of years ago when everyone thought Daniel Jacobs was going to win the middleweight title when he fought (Russia’s) Dmitriy Pirog.
“The end result came out completely different. Pirog scored the upset and knocked out Daniel Jacobs in the 5th round to win the title.”
Pirog and Jacobs were both unbeaten heading into their July 2010 vacant title fight in Las Vegas. Pirog trekked to the U.S. for the first time in his career, though a little deeper into the pro ranks than is Abdullaev.
Still, the 25-year old contender is nothing if not eager to prove his own worth on the title stage.
“We had a very good preparation. We’ve worked hard for this fight and are 100% ready to go,” Abdullaev said of Friday’s headliner, which streams live on DAZN. “Many people are underestimating me as a fighter.
“We look forward to proving everybody wrong.”
The winner will claim World Boxing Council (WBC) interim title status along with being named the mandatory challenger for the WBC “Full” title currently held by Lomachenko.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox