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Haney-Abdullaev headlines card with 2 title bouts

Lightweight sensation Devin Haney's world title elimination fight against Zaur Abdullaev will headline a card that will also include two world title bouts on Sept. 13 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Tuesday.

The card (on DAZN) will also include unified junior featherweight word titleholder Daniel Roman facing mandatory challenger Murodjon Akhmadaliev and women's featherweight world titlist Heather Hardy defending her belt in an all-Brooklyn showdown against Amanda Serrano, who has won titles in seven divisions.

"It always feels good when I get the official date," Haney said. "I stay in the gym because I'm a dog and I love to fight. I want the world to see me rise to my competition. The better they are, the better I am. I'm fighting an undefeated fighter."

Haney (22-0, 14 KOs), 20, of Las Vegas, will be in the second fight of his contract with Matchroom Boxing and is coming off a brutal fifth-round knockout of Antonio Moran on May 25 in the leading knockout of the year candidate.

Hearn called the fight "a big chance for Devin to take NYC by storm."

"Abdullaev is a dangerous undefeated fighter, but Devin is ready for all comers," Hearn said. "It's crazy to believe he is just 20 years of age. I think it's fair to say he is the most exciting young fighter in the world right now."

Haney will be making his New York debut against Abdullaev in a fight whose winner will become the mandatory challenger for the winner of the Aug. 31 fight between unified world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, the pound-for-pound king, and Luke Campbell.

"New York fans are some of the most loyal fans in sports, and I'm looking forward to really putting on a show for them," Haney said. "Abdullaev likes to apply pressure, and I expect nothing less on Sept. 13. I've seen him fight, and he's a hungry fighter. There's no doubt he is my toughest opponent to date. This fight is one step away from a world title fight, so we both have a lot on the line."

Abdullaev (11-0, 7 KOs), 25, of Russia, will be fighting outside of his home country for the first time and said he is eager for the battle.

"I'm delighted that the fight is happening," Abdullaev said. "I was panicking when I saw some posts from Haney on social media that nobody wants to fight him at 135 pounds and he might have to move up in weight. I kept biting my nails. Allah the gracious has delivered this fight, and now it's reality."

The fight was originally penciled in to take place in Las Vegas but was moved to New York.

"I am a bit disappointed that the fight won't be at Haney's Las Vegas backyard, as it would have been great to dethrone him in front of his home crowed, but New York is a great boxing city," Abdullaev said. "I'm not silly and I do understand that I'm coming as an underdog, but on Sept. 13, I'm coming to crash the hype against all odds."

Roman (27-2-1, 10 KOs), 29, of Los Angeles, will be making his fifth 122-pound title defense and fighting for the first since unifying two belts by majority decision in a hometown fight against TJ Doheny in a brawl on April 26.

Roman's camp talked about the possibility of vacating one of the belts and looking for a bigger name to face than Akhmadaliev, but ultimately Roman didn't want to relinquish a title.

"Anyone that knows me understands that I'm a real fighter," Roman said. "I'll fight anyone they put in front of me. Akhmadaliev is hungry, but so am I. It wasn't that long ago [2017] when I challenged for the WBA title, so we're not going to give it up. I'm here to fight and defend the WBA belt once more. I have two belts, but I want more. My goal is to get all of them so by no means am I overlooking Akhmadaliev. He has that amateur pedigree, can punch with power and likes to come forward. The second you underestimate someone, that's when bad things happen. I'll be ready for whatever he brings."

Akhmadaliev (6-0 5 KOs), 24, of Uzbekistan, was a decorated amateur and didn't need much pro seasoning to land a title shot.

"I am very glad that Daniel Roman took this fight," Akhmadaliev said. "I know that we are both warriors and this will be a real war."

Hearn commended Roman for deciding to keep the belt and agreeing to the fight.

"Danny refused to vacate the belt and like a true champion will face a young, fearless, hard-hitting mandatory challenger who is taking a giant leap after just six fights," Hearn said.

Hardy (22-0, 4 KOs), 37, won a vacant title by unanimous decision over Shelly Vincent in their rematch in October and will be making her first defense against Serrano, one of the biggest names in women's boxing.

Serrano (36-1-1, 27 KOs), 30, a former featherweight titlist, won a junior bantamweight title at the Hulu Theater on Jan. 18 via first-round knockout of Eva Voraberger. Serrano is the only woman to win titles in seven divisions and will return to featherweight to challenge Hardy for her old belt.

A Serrano win would likely propel her into a fight with undisputed women's lightweight champion Katie Taylor, but Hardy intends to wreck those plans.

"I didn't get this far in the boxing game to not know how it works," Hardy said. "They're hyping up a big fight between her and Katie Taylor, and this is the second of Amanda's three-fight deal [with Hearn]. It will be my first time competing as an underdog even as the current world champion, but I'm excited as hell. ... Trust me -- nobody scares me."

Said Serrano: "Heather is 22-0 for a reason. She always finds a way to win. We've sparred in the past, and I've never had an easy day with her. So many of the other champions vacated their belts to avoid fighting me but Heather is a true world champion who will not give up her belt. We know each other well, and I'm honored to fight her for her world title. It's nothing personal, just business for two girls from Brooklyn."

Also on the card, heavyweights Michael Hunter (17-1, 12 KOs), 31, a 2012 U.S. Olympian from Las Vegas, will face Sergey Kuzmin (15-0, 11 KOs), 32, of Russia for a regional title.

Hunter has won five fights in a row since losing a decision to Oleksandr Usyk in a 2017 cruiserweight world title fight and then moving up to heavyweight.

Kuzmin's biggest win was a knockout of Davis Price in September, and he also outpointed tough Joey Dawejko in March.