If Yuriorkis Gamboa was the toughest test to date for Devin Haney, the rising boxing star passed it with flying colors.
After a yearlong layoff, which included recovery from shoulder surgery, boxing's youngest champion successfully defended his WBC lightweight title for the second time with a unanimous decision win Saturday over Gamboa -- a former two-division champion.
The 21-year-old entered the bout in Hollywood, Florida, eager to prove he belonged among the lightweight elites, on the heels of star-making wins by Gervonta "Tank" Davis and Teofimo Lopez in the division.
Although Haney didn't get the knockout victory, he backed Gamboa up all night with crisp shots, taking away any momentum.
As a result, two of the three judges scored the fight a shutout, 120-107, while the other judge scored it 118-109 in favor of Haney. Gamboa was deducted a point in the 11th round for holding.
"I thought I put in a world-class performance," said Haney, currently the No. 5-ranked lightweight, according to ESPN. "Of course I wanted the knockout, but he was a crafty veteran, he was doing a lot of holding, trying to survive, so it is what it is."
Haney (25-0, 15 KOs) outlanded Gamboa in every round of the fight, but after coming into the fight averaging 17 punches landed per round over his previous five fights, he failed to land 17 punches in any round Saturday night against Gamboa, 38.
Gamboa could never get in rhythm from the opening bell against Haney's stiff right jabs and heavy hooks. Haney snapped Gamboa's head back with strong left hook in the seventh round and still attempted to get the knockout in the championship rounds, but couldn't put him down.
"No, I wasn't surprised at all," Haney said of Gamboa's game plan. "I knew that he was gonna come in, was gonna be scrappy and he was gonna do anything to survive, and that's what he did."
Gamboa actually threw 71 more total punches (472) than Haney (401), according to CompuBox data, but Haney held a 49-punch advantage over Gamboa in total connects (133-84).
Out of all 12 rounds, Gamboa landed double-digits shots in only three.
Gamboa (30-4) has now dropped back-to-back fights, versus Haney and Davis.
With the latest victory under his belt, Haney is now looking to continue to step up in competition -- notably against Lopez, the newly crowned undisputed lightweight champion. Only time will tell what happens, but the lightweight class looks to be one of the most exciting in the sport with young stars such as Haney on the horizon.
"It's a lot of big fights out there. I showed that I'm here and not going anywhere," Haney said. "I want the big fights. I want to make these big fights. Fighting someone like Gamboa was a steppingstone, but I'm here for the big fights. I want to make the biggest fights happen to bring the best out of me.
"There's a lot of big fights in the lightweight division," he continued. "Teofimo Lopez is the one with the rest of the belts so that's the main fight that I want to make happen."