WITH the 10th round coming to a close at the Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay, it looked as though Devin Haney, the precocious 22-year-old owner of a portion of the lightweight crown, was well on his way to pitching a shutout over Jorge Linares, the flashy but weather-beaten Venezuelan contender.

Like a flawless piece of HTML code, Haney operated as programmed, plastering Linares with a busy jab, hard hooks and shifty uppercuts as he pirouetted his way out of seemingly every incoming punch. It seemed that for all of Linares’ world class credentials, Haney would have to wait another day to be properly challenged.

But with less than three seconds left in the 10th round, the veteran would land a blistering two-punch combination on his elusive foe – a chopping right cross-left hook twofer on the chin just before the bell rang. It apparently caused a synapse or two to misfire in Haney’s head because just as he started to beat a path toward his corner, his legs gave way to the slightest totter, prompting a gasp from the crowd. With his eyes shining brighter than a child’s at Hamley’s, Linares cheekily held his arms out in the direction of Haney’s corner to usher him back to his stool. Linares may as well have added, “Welcome to the big leagues, young man.”

Haney’s response to the most adverse moment of his career, however, was somewhat mixed. Although he recovered from the parting shot in the 10th round, he would resort to holding Linares nearly every chance he got in the final two rounds. For some, this may be a concerning sign; for others, simply another ringing example of Haney’s preternatural guile. In the end, all that mattered for Haney was that he had his hands raised for the unanimous decision, even if he did not exactly win over the crowd.

All three judges apparently thought the fight was somewhat close. Judges Patricia Morse Jarman and Steve Weisfeld both had it 116-112, while Dave Moretti had it an especially tight 115-113, all for Haney. 

Up until the 10th round snafu, Haney, who won the WBC title back in 2019 against Zaur Abdullaev, had not only controlled the bout from a distance, but the usually defensive-minded fighter made it a point to exchange with Linares several times in the fight. In fact, in what was an encouraging sign for someone often criticized for coasting, Haney walked down Linares for the majority of the sixth round.

Although Linares is no plodder and does not lack for hand speed, he was no match for Haney in the foot department. Still, it seems like a minor achievement for Linares, a notoriously fragile fighter, that he was neither visibly hurt nor bleeding from the face at any point during the bout. Indeed, this is the first loss in which Linares did not suffer a technical knockout.

For someone who has complained that the other top 135-pounders are avoiding him, Haney might be encouraged to believe that his latest dalliance with disaster may coax the likes of Ryan Garcia and Teofimo Lopez to meet him inside the ring. Post-fight, Haney was adamant that he had never been hurt. Russell Mora refereed.

On the Matchroom undercard, Northampton’s Chantelle Cameron barely broke a sweat in what was a successful first defense of her WBC women’s junior-welterweight title, stopping Puerto Rico’s Melissa Hernandez at 1-38 of the fifth round after referee Celestino Ruiz decided he had seen enough. Although Hernandez was still relatively in good shape at the point of the stoppage, it was clear she was headed for a world of hurt.

With more than a decade separating the two fighters, it was no surprise that the 30-year-old Cameron dominated the older Hernandez, who once held a title at featherweight, in every conceivable category of this mismatch.

Cameron even recorded a knockdown in the fourth round when she landed a barrage of punches at Hernandez while the latter was on the ropes.

Irishman Jason Quigley made a significant step toward competing for a world championship – and putting to bed the nightmarish turmoil of his first professional loss – by outworking a game Shane Mosley Jnr in a 10-round middleweight bout.

Judge Max De Luca scored it a draw at 95-95, but he was overruled by Chris Migliore and Steve Weisfeld, who had it 97-93 and 96-94, respectively, for Quigley, who was without chief trainer Andy Lee because of visa issues; Wayne McCullough filled in for his stead.

This was the third straight win for Quigley since his devastating upset loss to trial horse Tureano Johnson back in 2019. In that fight, Quigley was battered to a pulp before getting stopped in the ninth round. A decorated amateur and once highly regarded prospect, Quigley admitted he found himself in a dark place after the loss to Johnson. So when the scorecards for the Mosley fight was announced, Quigley fell to his knees in tears. 

“I’ve been through so much to even get to Vegas,” Quigley said post-fight. You know, when I dropped to my knees, it was such a relief. I’ve been through a hell of a lot to get here…Nobody knows what goes on in training camp, what we go through, and then we put it all on the line here.”

The fight itself was a minor barnburner, with both Quigley and Mosley trading starchy blows all night. But it was Quigley who distinguished himself with the harder punches down the stretch.  

In the first half of the fight, Mosley had the clear upper hand, outpointing Quigley with the jab and mixing in hard body shots, one of which, in the fourth round, managed to hurt Quigley.

But the tenor of the fight shifted slightly in the sixth round, as Quigley began to connect with clean straight rights, his best punch of the fight.

There were plenty of fierce, momentum-shifting exchanges in the middle of the ring. In the seventh round, Quigley landed an uppercut followed by a right hand and seemed to be on the verge of doing serious damage when Mosley came back to stun Quigley with a right hand of his own. The sequence played out repeatedly in the final three rounds.                  

Afterward, Quigley expressed his desire to fight the WBO middleweight champion, Demetrius Andrade. “‘Boo Boo’ Andrade, I’m not going to say that I’m going to go in there and kick your ass but I will give you one helluva a fight,” said Quigley.

Martin Joseph Ward was no match for Azinga Fuzile of South Africa, suffering two knockdowns en route to getting stopped in the seventh round (set for 12) of a 130-pound IBF elimination bout. The official time was 2-41. With under a minute in the seventh round, the southpaw Fuzile landed a right uppercut that had Ward seeing double. Fuzile then followed up with a right hook that floored Ward. Although Ward was able to get back on his feet, his trainer, seeing no point in prolonging the beatdown, told referee Mike Ortega to halt the fight.

The first knockdown was relatively minor and occurred in the fourth round when Fuzile landed a right hook that caused Ward to touch the canvas with both gloves.