Jorge Linares is motivated to disprove pessimists that think he isn’t the same elite lightweight who gave Vasiliy Lomachenko everything he could handle for nine-plus rounds in May 2018.
The three-division champion will get that opportunity May 29 in Las Vegas, where he’ll challenge Devin Haney for Haney’s WBC world lightweight title. DAZN will stream their 12-round, 135-pound title fight worldwide from Michelob ULTRA Arena, the venue once known as Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Venezuela’s Linares, though 35 and the victim of five technical-knockout losses, is widely viewed as Haney’s most imposing opponent to date.
“This is my moment to show the world that I still have a lot more to give at 135 pounds,” Linares said in a press release issued by Matchroom Boxing on Wednesday to officially announce the Haney-Linares fight. “Devin Haney is a talented and quick-handed young man. But when I was his age, I had already become a world champion by snatching the [WBC featherweight] title from a real world champion like Oscar Larios. And now you can imagine how much more experience I have now at an age where I feel stronger and better than ever.”
The 22-year-old Haney has called out more formidable fighters than Linares (47-5, 29 KOs) over the past year – unbeaten champions in their physical primes. Nevertheless, Linares is intent to show that Las Vegas’ Haney (25-0, 15 KOs) isn’t ready to beat someone as experienced and skilled offensively as him.
“Without a doubt it will be a tremendous fight,” Linares said, “but I will demonstrate that Haney made a big mistake by accepting a challenge that he is still not ready to overcome.”
Linares was ahead on one scorecard and even on another (86-84, 85-85, 84-86) when Lomachenko snuck a temporarily paralyzing, left-handed body shot beneath Linares’ guard in the 10th round of their lightweight title unification fight almost three years ago at Madison Square Garden in New York. Two fights after Lomachenko knocked him out, Mexico’s Pablo Cesar Cano (33-7-1, 23 KOs, 1 NC) dropped Linares three times and stopped him in the first round of Linares’ 140-pound debut in January 2019 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater.
Linares moved back down to lightweight after Cano annihilated him and is 2-0 since suffering his fifth professional defeat.
“I’m very excited to be making my third world title defense against a great fighter like Jorge Linares,” Haney said, “who will be the best fighter I will have ever faced in my career. He’s a three-division world champion who has fought at the championship level for the past 13 years. I grew up watching Linares, and the fact that this fight is happening in Las Vegas is incredible.
“Boxing fans around the world are eager to see me step up in competition, which is great, and I know Linares is coming to fight. I’m ready to give the fans a spectacular performance. The better competition brings the best out of me. Against Linares, I’m going to show the world why I’m the king of the lightweight division.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.