Unbeaten Devin Haney successfully defended his WBC lightweight title for the first time with a unanimous decision over Alfredo Santiago on Saturday night. American Haney, who turns 21 on November 17, knocked Santiago down in the fifth round of a surprisingly close fight at Staples Center Arena in Los Angeles. This was Haney's first defence of the 135-pound title which was given to him after it was vacated by top-ranked Vasiliy Lomachenko who was then awarded new title of WBC "franchise champion".
Haney won every round on the judges' scorecards but Santiago made him work for the victory. All three judges scored it 120-107 for Haney, who was the heavy favourite going into the bout but couldn't give the American boxing crowd the knockout they were craving. Haney said after the fight that he thought he dislocated his right shoulder in the fight but couldn't remember in which round.
"It was bad the whole fight," he said of the shoulder. "I am not sure what round but he was on the ropes and I threw a right hand. "He was very crafty. I went in there and got the win. We received this opponent on a week notice."
Santiago was knocked down by a right uppercut late in the fifth round but got up at the count of eight and survived the final 13 seconds of the round. Haney was unable to carry that momentum over into the sixth round as Santiago recovered and kept most of the rounds close by using his reach advantage to keep Haney at a distance. Santiago, who was making his US debut, suffered his first defeat and is now 12-1, with four knockouts.
Santiago is from the Dominican Republic but fights out of Puerto Rico. He was coming off a technical knockout of Diego Contreras in June. Despite struggling against an unknown late replacement, Haney hopes he did enough to strengthen his case for a shot at unified lightweight champ Lomachenko. Haney and Santiago had to fight on the undercard of a main event novelty fight between a pair of YouTube entertainers, American Logan Paul and Olajide William Olatunji, also known as KSI. England's KSI won the battle to see who is the king of social media with a split decision six-round victory over Paul.