BN Verdict: Beaten by Devin Haney in a close fight, Vasiliy Lomachenko cries for what might have been and what might be next

VASILIY LOMACHENKO said his post-fight tears, which were captured on camera in his changing room, were shed because he was thinking of the disappointment he would see on the face of his son when returning from Las Vegas with a third professional defeat on his record. And while there is no reason to doubt this explanation, nor indeed do we require any explanation at all, one can’t help but wonder whether at least some of those tears were shed for reasons unconnected to the disappointment on the face of a young boy. One wonders, for instance, if tears following such a close fight can in actual fact be attributed to the manner of Lomachenko’s loss against Devin Haney; how tight it was, how much of a tease potential victory ended up being. Moreover, one wonders if Vasiliy Lomachenko’s tears started to run tonight in Las Vegas because he realises, more than anyone, how much it took out of him to fall so agonisingly short. In other words, knowing what we know of both his past and his future, were those the tears of a 35-year-old who knew he had just given all that he had left only to still ultimately come away with nothing?

If true, there is no shame in that, of course. If true, there is perhaps, in the context of boxing, no tragedy greater than that, either. For it cannot be argued Lomachenko, even in falling short, gave every ounce of himself tonight (May 20) in Las Vegas and, in doing so, made a mockery of those who questioned whether he might be past his best. For 36 minutes, there were no signs of that whatsoever. Yet the fear now, a fear maybe shared by Lomachenko himself, is that as a result of those 36 minutes there could be an inevitability to what happens next in the great Ukrainian’s career.

That is still to be decided. For the time being, all we know is that Devin Haney remains the undisputed world lightweight champion and that Lomachenko, despite fighting out of his skin, did not do enough in the eyes of the three ringside judges to warrant leaving the MGM Grand with anything other than his own disappointment. The scorecards were close (115-113, 115-113, and 116-112), but not close enough, in much the same way Lomachenko’s effort was good, but in the end not good enough. Some will dispute this, of course, and claim it was good enough, and these people, depending on their argument, may even be right. Yet what cannot be disputed is how close the fight ended up being and what cannot be ignored is how performative outrage online changes nothing and does nobody, neither Haney nor Lomachenko, any good.

Close fights are not a crime. They happen. They do not need to be described as “robberies” or a “disgrace” just to create a talking point or offer an attention-grabbing way for you to offer your opinion. Besides, in a fight like Haney vs. Lomachenko, where technical prowess is off the charts and every round is edged by the smallest of details, only a certain kind of person will make a strong case for one fighter winning over the other and that person is not someone you should trust, be it in the context of scoring fights or in more general terms. Because nobody can with any sort of conviction or expertise call a fight as well-matched and well-fought as Haney vs. Lomachenko. It’s what, in many ways, made it such an unenviable task for the three judges responsible for doing so. It’s what, in many ways, made it such a compelling fight to observe.

What’s more, if this is what boxing should look like – competitive fights between well-matched fighters – we have to expect fights difficult to read, and fights sometimes difficult to understand. This will then be reflected in the scorecards of the judges, not one of whom, in a sense, has any right to even be judging skills as otherworldly as those possessed by the likes of Vasiliy Lomachenko, 17-3 (11), and Devin Haney, 30-0 (15). As it is, though, it’s a job somebody has to do and tonight the three men assigned to do this job decided Haney’s work to the body, as well as his consistency with the jab, trumped the more eye-catching moments produced by Lomachenko throughout the 12 rounds these two excellent lightweights shared.

Haney and Lomachenko (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

All we can do now, having received this information, is be thankful the fight turned out (a) as competitive as we all hoped and (b) far exceeded our expectations as far as entertainment goes. Because, to their credit, Haney and Lomachenko didn’t use their respective skills to make the fight an impenetrable watch or feel at any point like homework. They instead combined their skills and their perfection with an awareness that they needed to stay busy, both to sway the watching judges and also provide the kind of entertainment those in Las Vegas had shown up wanting to be served. They did this with a flourish, too, together delivering a fight with very few lulls and even fewer moments of predictability. In fact, the only predictable element tonight was that it would go 12 rounds and that it would, having gone 12 rounds, be an incredibly hard fight to score.

On reflection, perhaps the great fear going in was that these two technicians would nullify each other and that the fight would, in turn, become a difficult, painful watch, inaccessible to all but the purists and those still able to concentrate. Lomachenko’s fear, meanwhile, and a fear maybe greater even than that of showing up a shadow of his former self, was that he would produce one of the finest performances of his career yet still either not be good enough to beat Devin Haney, a man 11 years his junior, or, worse, find he was to not be rewarded for his efforts. Put enough into it and that kind of disappointment can bring even the toughest of men to tears, particularly when this man knows those tears are the only things he has left to give.

Haney celebrates (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

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