Devin Haney can no longer be called an email champion, a titleholder or anything but the undisputed lightweight champion of the world.
The 23-year-old traveled from Las Vegas to Melbourne, Australia, and delivered a dominant performance to collect all four 135-pound belts in a unanimous-decision victory Sunday over George Kambosos before 41,129 at Marvel Stadium on ESPN.
Haney (28-0, 15 KOs) used his excellent jab to dictate the pace en route to the lopsided victory via scores of 116-112, 118-110 and 116-112.
"The game plan was to go there and hit and not get hit, and I did that for the majority of the fight," said Haney, who entered the ring rated No. 4 by ESPN at lightweight. "I took the last round off just because I knew I was comfortably ahead, but I fought a good, smart fight.
"I handicapped him of his best things. He wanted to land the overhand right, and he wanted to land the big left hook. ... I was fighting both ways. When I would go to the left, I would fight his right hand. When I would go to the right, I would fight his left hook. And he couldn't hit me with neither one of them."
Indeed, it was a virtuoso defensive performance from the rising star. He used the lead weapon to disrupt Kambosos' rhythm and often changed levels with the jab, shooting it to the body and head.
Anytime Kambosos (20-1, 10 KOs) closed the distance, Haney stepped back and fired a jab. On the rare occasion Kambosos connected with a solid shot, Haney tied up the Australian before he could follow up his attack.
Despite the clear gap in skill level, there will likely be a rematch between Haney and Kambosos later this year in Australia. The 28-year-old, who was rated No. 1 by ESPN at lightweight, is contractually guaranteed another fight with Haney in his home country if he chooses to exercise the rematch clause.
"Yes, 100 percent ... we'll do it again," Kambosos said when asked if he would exercise the rematch clause. "Look, I gave him the shot. If I hadn't given him this shot, he wouldn't have had his moment right now.
"He grabbed and held a lot and did what he had to do to win. That's what it's about. You do what you have to do to win, and today they gave him the decision, but I'm sure it will change when we get it on again. ... This is going to make me hungrier."
Said Haney: "I'm not ducking or dodging nobody. If it makes sense, if the network wants it, I'll do it again. But it has to make sense."
As the rounds ticked by, it became increasingly clear Kambosos had no answers for Haney's ring smarts, jab and educated footwork. He pressed harder during the late stages of the fight, when he needed at least a knockdown to win, but never came close to landing the sort of fight-altering punch that materialized in November when he shocked Teofimo Lopez to collect four lightweight titles.
"As the fight was going on I felt him giving up more and more," Haney said. " ... I said you know what? I'm going to pitch a shutout."
"His timing was just a little bit shaper than my timing," Kambosos admitted. " ... I gotta go back to the drawing board with my team."
When Kambosos dethroned Lopez in ESPN's Upset of the Year, he started fast with a knockdown in the opening round, and survived a knockdown in Round 10 to earn the split-decision victory.
Afterward, Kambosos called for the biggest fights possible in the star-laden lightweight division rather than the usual victory lap many new champions enjoy. He was ringside for not only Haney's decision win over Joseph Diaz Jr., the following week, but also Gervonta Davis' victory over Isaac Cruz.
"This is what it's all about, f--- protecting records," Kambosos said. "I've always been about fighting the best."
Ultimately, Kambosos engaged in negotiations with Vasiliy Lomachenko, the former pound-for-pound king, and there was a deal in place. But when Russia invaded Ukraine, Lomachenko decided to remain in the war-torn country with his family and passed on the fight.
Enter Haney, who was embroiled in a dispute with Kambosos and much of the boxing world over the legitimacy of his title. Haney was elevated from interim champion to WBC titleholder in October 2019, while Lomachenko, who held the WBC's lightweight belt, was designated the franchise champion. "It's a title to basically duck your mandatory," Haney told ESPN in May.
Finally, Haney grabbed his chance to "put a stop to the confusion: the email champion or the franchise and all that," with his fight against Kambosos, who entered the bout with the WBA, WBO, IBF and WBC franchise title.
However, it initially appeared he would have to do so without his father and trainer, Bill Haney. Due to a 1992 drug conviction, the elder Haney initially wasn't approved for a travel visa, but on Thursday, he received clearance and arrived in Melbourne approximately 15 hours before the bell rang.
"I was going through it without my dad being here because I knew it was a big moment for us; we both dreamed of this," Haney said. "Since we started out, we said we wanted to be the best. It would have hurt me to accomplish this without him. I'm so thankful that we were able to accomplish this together."