Dreams or Nightmares: Zaur Abdullaev Looks to Upset Undefeated Contender Devin Haney

On Friday, September 13, Devin “The Dream” Haney (22-0, 14KOs) will battle Zaur Abdullaev (11-0, 7KOs) for the WBC Interim Lightweight title at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The winner of this bout between the #2 and #3 ranked opponents, will become the WBC mandatory for (WBC,WBA,WBO) Unified Lightweight champion, Vasiliy “Hi-Tek” Lomachenko (14-1, 10KOs). Lomachenko just defeated Luke Campbell (20-3, 16KOs) for the vacant WBC title, which was vacated by Mikey Garcia (39-1, 30KOs).

Highlights from Haney’s last fight, against Antonio Moran.

Devin Haney is one of the top, young, rising stars in boxing. He’s only 20 years old but has already shown great promise as he carves out a path in this game. He looks to be on the fast track for real glory. Haney is coming off a 7th round KO victory over Antonio Moran (24-4, 17KOs). He showcased his slick boxing skills to go along with his undeniable killer instinct, finishing the fight in seven rounds. Some think he’s ready for Lomachenko, assuming he beats Abdullaev, who’s a tough boxer and no easy out. I personally don’t think he’s ready. I also don’t think he will get an immediate fight against Loma. Loma should be fighting the winner of Teofimo “El Brooklyn” Lopez (14-0, 11KOs) and IBF Champion Richard Commey (29-2, 26KOs) which should take place later this year. We may not even see Lomachenko fight again this year.

Zaur Abdullaev KO Highlights

Zaur Abdullaev will be Haney’s toughest test to date. The 25 year old from Russia hasn’t really beaten anyone of note, other than Hank Lundy who at the time held a record of (29-7-1, 14KOs). By now Lundy is far past his prime and I should not be considered a great win or anything to brag about. It went the distance though and Abdullaev surely learned some things against the experienced journeyman. Abdullaev is also a very fundamentally sound boxer; some would call him basic. Sometimes it works, and proves to be tougher for some guys. But lets be clear, there’s levels in this game. Abdullaev may have some good experience but not enough natural talent or skills to defeat someone like Haney. Abdullaev will struggle most with Haney’s slick skills and great footwork. It’s going to cause a lot of frustration.

Keys to Victory for Zaur Abdullaev:

  • Control the range. Abdullaev has shown that he’s very good from long range. He throws a beautiful jab, and he likes to combine it with a right hand. He will need to use timing and counter punching to keep Haney off balance and away from him. I noticed in a couple of his fights, that Abdullaev likes to throw his counter left when guys try to close in. If he can get down Haney’s timing he can disrupt any early rhythm or momentum by his opponent.
  • Work the body. I noticed Abdullaev likes to throw the jab to the body a lot. This will pay dividends for him late in this fight if he can land it consistently early in the fight. He needs to walk Haney down, while maintaining the range he’s comfortable with behind that jab. Land it to the body, then again and again, then work his way upstairs with his counters and that powerful right hand.
  • Be Patient. Normally I would say to beat a slick guy like Haney, one would want to rough house with him or push the pace and try to swarm him. Abdullaev is good at mid-range and on the outside. He’s not that impressive on the inside, so for him, he has to try to be the boxer-puncher. He needs to chip away at him until either Haney looks tired or looks like his legs are going or if he falls behind and has to go for broke. He needs to pick his spots, chip away with that jab, follow up with combos to the body and head, and then in the 2nd half of the fight start throwing those heavier punches.
  • Be Mobile. Abdullaev will need to use his movement to match Haney’s movement. Haney is known for his footwork and slick style. Abdullaev cannot be a stationary target. He needs to use head movement, feints, and his footwork (which is pretty good, but not as good as Haney). He needs to constantly throw that jab while moving, even if he is missing, or pawing to judge the range and timing. If there’s pop on it, it should make Haney think a little bit, make him more cautious.

Keys to Victory for Devin Haney:

  • Use feints to close the distance. Abdullaev wants to keep this fight at mid and long range. Haney needs to force him to fight inside, which takes Abdullaev out of his comfort zone. He’s not incapable of fighting on the inside. It just doesn’t favor him. Haney should work the body with the jab, feint, jab again, and move in, land power shots.
  • Use superior footwork. Usually a guy who likes to counter punch like Abdullaev is the faster of the two. In this case, Haney is definitely faster. He has faster hands and more importantly, faster feet. Haney should use short/quick movement instead of wide pivots. He wants to close the gap fast; he wants to create different angles fast. Move in, and move out quickly. He can use this technique to methodically break down Abdullaev, and frustrate him to the point where maybe he throws caution to the wind and makes a big mistake.
  • If fight goes past 6th round, Use entire toolbox. I’m not sure if this fight goes the distance or if Haney is able to beat Abdullaev into submission. If it goes past six, then Haney needs to switch it up, dig deep into his toolbox. He can swarm, he can fight off the back foot and lure his opponent in. If he chooses to lure him in and set a trap, he can force Abdullaev to fight off his back foot. He can slip the jab, jab to the body, work the uppercut, work the right hand either to the body or to the head and force Abdullaev into a retreat. Maybe he decides to swarm him, walking him down, throwing fierce power shots, mixing up combos, while eating a few counters himself. Haney may want to throw caution to the wind himself,; he may get a little impatient and go for fireworks. I wouldn’t recommend it, but I do think he would survive anything Abdullaev throw at him off of his back foot. There’s many different scenarios and ways for Haney to defeat Abdullaev, especially if it goes beyond 6 or 7 rounds.

This should be a good test for Haney. I’m not sure how good Abdullaev is but I am convinced he’s a tough out. This is the perfect fight to see just how good Haney is. Yes, Abdullaev is a prospect, but he’s a good technical fighter. He will make Haney think at times and there will be adjustments made during the fight. It’s good experience for both guys. I favor Devin Haney big time, as do most boxing fans. Prediction: Haney by TKO mid to late rounds.

This is a pretty stacked card, especially for a Friday night. You can see all the action on the DAZN app on Friday night. The main card will begin at 9:00pm ET. The undercard will begin at 7:00pm ET. The other fights on the main card are good ones:

  • Heather Hardy (18-0, 4KOs) vs Amanda Serrano (30-1-1, 23KOs) – 10 rounds, for Hardy’s WBO women’s featherweight title.
  • Michael Hunter (17-1, 12KOs) vs. Sergey Kuzmin (15-0, 11KOs) – 10 rounds, Heavyweight

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