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Devin Haney Adamant That Vasyl Lomachenko Is A ‘Dirty Fighter’

Devin Haney Adamant That Vasyl Lomachenko Is A 'Dirty Fighter' featured image
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Devin Haney (L) and Vasiliy Lomachenko (R) face-off during the press conference prior to their May 20 undisputed lightweight championship fight at The Ray Dolby Ballroom on March 30, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeff Lewis/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

The official arrival of Devin Haney and Vasyl Lomachenko in Nevada saw the two fighters come face-to-face for the first time after their training camp. With both fighters set to battle against one another on May 20th, natural tension could be observed between the two as they sat side-by-side in their arrival presser, and afterwards as they made their way to their respective hotels.

In behind-the-scenes footage filmed by Top Rank, Vasyl Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KO’s) and Devin Haney (29-0, 15 KO’s) could be spotted walking close to each other after their joint interview with Max Kellerman of ESPN. During their walk, Haney briefly turned towards Lomachenko’s manager, Egis Klimas, to voice his thoughts on the Ukrainian fighter.

You know what he wants to do on the inside? He wants to make it a dirty fight.” Haney remarked to Klimas in a brief exchange between the two teams.

How do you know? How do you know?” Lomachenko immediately protested, “Where did you see me fight dirty during my career? In which fight? In which fight?

Though normally calm and poised, Vasyl Lomachenko showed glimpses of the fiery technician he has so often displayed in the ring. Seemingly amused at getting to see an uncharacteristically (mildly) angry Lomachenko, Devin Haney continued to egg on the Ukrainian former three-division world champion.

You know that that’s your best bet. You know that that’s your best bet.” The undisputed Lightweight champion said repeatedly.

My best chance (to win) is by dirty fighting?” Lomachenko responded incredulously after a brief interlude of translating Haney’s words through his manager. “Come on man…

Egis Klimas and Vasyl Lomachenko pressed Haney more for him to specifically point out in which fights he witnessed Lomachenko fight dirty and the American champion responded in kind.

All of your fights.” Haney said.

Which fights?” Lomachenko asked again.

(Richard) Commey.” Haney replied with certainty.

Vasyl Lomachenko seemed baffled at the mention of Ghanaian fighter Richard Commey (30-5-1, 27 KO’s) who he had fought at the backend of 2021 in December. “So where was (I) dirty? Where?

Punching on the inside. When they say ‘break’, (you punch). Break, punch.” Haney said, referring to the moments where fighters are clamped together in a clinch and are often told by the referee to “break” in order for their positions to be reset.

Oh man, I can’t believe it.” Vasyl Lomachenko muttered to himself in disbelief.

When a referee tells two clinching fighters to “break”, neither fighter is allowed to punch and depending on which State Athletic Commission (otherwise known as a regulatory body or Combat Sports Commission in America) regulates the fight. The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) which is responsible for regulating the fight card headlined by Haney and Lomachenko do not allow for punches to occur while fighters are in a clinch, and this is considered illegal in their case.

As is well-known, illegal punches can lead to disqualification and, in a lesser case, to warnings, point deductions or other such penalties.

Vasyl Lomachenko has so far not gained a reputation for being dirty fighter, but Devin Haney’s accusations do hold some merit. In moments through Vasyl Lomachenko’s fight with Richard Commey, the Ukrainian former world champion has been seen punching during a clinch. However, that doesn’t signify he is a dirty fighter as he has been dealing with some language barriers due to not having a strong grasp over the English language.

A fighter’s actions in the heat of the moment also differ per person and situation. In most cases, Lomachenko is usually the one being held or clinched with, which can not only lead to some frustration best expressed by punching through clinches, but excessively holding and clinching is in itself illegal depending on the State Athletic Commission that governs the fight. This is especially the case where fighters that hold or clinch punch throughout.

The label of being a “dirty fighter” are usually directed towards fighters that are accustomed to using low blows, headbutts, rabbit punches or fighters that punch while holding. While Lomachenko has clearly been seen punching during holds, it is vital to note that he is the one being grabbed in most cases, and the concept of punching during clinches seems to have softened in modern days as this can be witnessed in nearly every match that’s held, and it is not considered universally illegal.

Devin Haney himself, is a fighter that is more prone to holding or grabbing his fighter than the average top boxer, and his brief conversation with Lomachenko seemed to have evaded the irony in his comments. Interestingly, his former opponent, George Kambosos Jr. (20-2, 10 KO’s), for Haney’s last two bouts has mentioned Haney excessively holding before.

Devin Haney (L) and George Kambosos Jnr (R) hug each other after their October 16th match prior to which Kambosos had similarly accused Haney of ‘dirty tactics’ before his eventual loss. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

The exchange between Devin Haney and Vasyl Lomachenko was an interesting moment that might seem trivial in the grand scene of things, but might have revealed a couple of things that might be witnessed in the match.

In particular, Haney seems to have paid close attention during his preparation as to how Lomachenko fights on the inside. While Devin Haney is one of the more skilled fighters in his division, fighting on the inside is notably not his strong suit.

Saturday’s match might see an improved Haney that has overcome his shortcomings in the pocket, or that will be an area where he might be most affected by Vasyl Lomachenko’s offense who is known to be very good at fighting on the inside ― and in some cases might by considered his strength.

The MGM Grand Arena will surely see an exciting bout occur between the two as both fighters prepare themselves for their May 20 bout. In the days leading up to their Saturday match, the two will have plenty more exchanges during the press conference held today, and the weigh-ins that will occur either tomorrow or Friday.