By Alexey Sukachev
Arena Nürnberger Versicherung, Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Bayern, Germany - It wasn't a walk in the park, as a majority of experts had predicted beforehand, but at the end of the day it wasn't the fight of Arthur Abraham's life either. It was his first title defense, and the WBO super middleweight champion did what everyone expected him to do, stopping hard-nosed Frenchman Mehdi Bouadla within nine rounds of action.
The 30-year old voluntary challenger from France wasn't an obscure figure, coming into his first ever title shot. WBO #13 Bouadla has previously fought against 9-0 Gennady Golovkin (and impressively went the distance with the extremely hard-ounching opponent) and at least held his own. He was also stopped by multi-time world champion Mikkel Kessler in Kessler's comeback fight in June 2011, but produced a very gutsy effort, showing remarkable ability to take huge punches. Five more victories in 2011 and 2012 helped him to get a soft spot on the Sauerland's card in Nuremberg.
Interetingly, Bouadla started the fight aggressively, stalking the defending champion to the ropes. Abraham, 32, making the first defense of the title, he had taken from Robert Stieglitz in August, was content to meet Bouadla's efforts and establiched his trademark shell-like defense to avoid serious damage. He began to open up later in the first, and his multi-punch combinations were well felt by the Frenchman. Bravely, Bouadla decided to go the harm's way and went toe-to-toe with the champion in the second round. He landed some clean shots, including a hard left hook to the head, which has momentarily stunned the champion in the second. However, the power of his punches was insufficient to keep Abraham on the defensive for longer than usual. In round three and four the German champion started to break his opponent in his usual fashion. Abraham was sitting quietly behind his block, then got nuts in short but dangerous combinations.
Despite going into rough exchanges with the murderously punching champion, the Frenchman has never been seriously hurt - at least, till the midpoint. However, his face suffered some damage: his nose had been bleeding since the third round. In the seventh stanza, Abraham went in and landed several wide left hooks and also uppercuts, which was new of him but predictable, since Boudla ducked rather low from Arthurs punches. Bouadla's right eye got cut badly. He was able to survive the round but the end was close. In the eighth, he was eating much more punishment and failed to fire back because of his damaged eye, which also impaired his vision. He was taken to the ringside physician by the American referee Mark Nelson but was allowed to go on with the fight. Abraham, literally smelling the taste of French blood, started to tee off. Soon thereafter Bouadla turned his back on Abraham, took a knee and was waved off by the referee, as he was hurt and couldn't see well out of his right eye.
Bouadla, suffering his fifth career defeat, drops down to 26-5, with 11 KOs. Abraham is now 36-3, with 28 KOs, but he has seemingly lost a bit of his former skills and power.
Unlike Mateusz Masternak or Edmund Gerber, WBA I/C light middleweight champion Jack Culcay-Keth, a former amateur star and 2009 Milano world champion, did impress by achieving a feat, no one before him had been able to achieve. WBA #11 Culcay (now 14-0, 10 KOs), 27, became the first ever fighter to stop durable Frenchman Jan Michel Hamilcaro (17-5-3, 6 KOs), 26, within the distance.
Culcay-Keth was lightning-quick, and his fascinating reflexes made the rest of the job easy. Culcay was in and out, throwing numerous punches in bunches and coming back to throw even more. Hamilcaro tried to establish his left jab but to no use, and his tight quard was fully loaded since the very first round. The Frenchman tried to pay the German back, but his punches lacked the snap and speed to trouble Golden Jack. In round four, Hamilcaro has finally found something to surprize Culcay, when he threw (and landed) a multi-punch series. The German came back the next round and got the job done. He wobbled Hamilcaro with a huge overhand right and landed more to put him down. Hamilcaro rose on unsteady legs and continued fighting but was soon saved by the referee from further punishment. Time of stoppage was 2:26 of the fifth round.
Highly regarded Polish cruiserweight star Mateusz Masternak (29-0, 21 KOs) took a bout off against Finnish import Juho Haapoja (18-3-1, 11 KOs) but cruised to a unanimous decision over twelve rounds even despite an obvious lack of fire in his punches and overall fatigue after going 4-0 this year against various opponents. Masternak, who was ranked #4 by the WBO, #7 by the IBF and by the WBA, and #9 by the WBC, acquired the vacant EBU title in this fight.
The fight was uneventful and, speaking frankly, quite boring. Both fighters displayed their usual styles of boxing. Haapoja, 32, with his right hand dangerously low, was looking to emaluate the greats of 40's and 50's at an entirely lower level of fighting. Masternak, 25, was boxing with his hands down, trying to capitalize on his superior speed and reflexes.
The fight was quite easy for the masterful Pole, but it has hardly thrilled anyone. Masternak was slowly pressuring Haapoja around the ring, utilizing busy left jab but using very little of his powerful right hand. Haapoja had some mild success in the midst of the fight with his right hands, but the Pole was never in danger of eating something really big.
As rounds went by, Haapoja's outbursts gradually became less and less frequent, and Masternak easily dominated the end of the fight, putting his Finnish opponent in danger of losing within the distance. It has never happened though, and both fighters ended the contest relatively quiet. Scores were identical across the boards: 120-108 - all for the Polish fighter. BoxingScene had it 118-110 - also for Masternak, who needs to improve his offensive arsenal in order to please fans outside of his native land.
Exactly three months after his scandalous loss to Edmund Gerber, British heavyweight veteran Michael Sprott came back to Germany to face the very same opponent, and this time he came back with a bang, scoring one of the biggest European upsets this year. Sprott (37-19, 17 KOs), who has lost his last four, cruised to a sensational majority decision, getting 97-94 advantage on two scorecards of Austrian judges with the third (German) judge scoring this bout a draw - 95-95. BoxingScene was in approximate agreement with the former duo, awarding the contest to the Brit - 97-93.
Both combatants started their second fight very patiently. However, it was clearly seen that: a). Sprott was much more determined than in September; and b). Gerber wasn't focused, and his reflexes were about to let him down. The second round was in British favor due to his hard long jab and his defensive skills, which helped him much to avoid Gerber's head attacks. In the third stanza, the German came back with hard, vicious body punches to trouble Michael Sprott, but in his fifth outing this year Gerber looked soft and fatigued nevertheless.
The fourth round proved to be a crucial point of the contest. Sprott used his jab to cut Gerber's bridge of the nose. The cut bothered Gerber considerably throughout the rest of the fight. What was even worse, he was cut again - this time over his left eye - in the sixth stanza, which was contested mostly (but narrowly) in his favour. From that point on, the only fighter in the ring, who really dealt visible damage to his counterpart, was Sprott. He landed a monstrous right uppercut to cap the successful seventh round; then came back very strong at the end of the eighth to wobble the German on an accumulation of hard overhand rights. Rounds nine and ten were a bit slower and calmer, but Sprott certainly had an upper hand in both stanzas and ate very little fire in return.
24-year old Gerber, who was previously ranked #6 by the IBF and #13 by the WBA, suffers his first ever professional defeat and drops down to 22-1, with 14 KOs. He has to learn much more about this game befre getting back to the top-ten (or even former top-ten) opponents.
Rising super middleweight Tyron Zeuge (5-0, 4 KOs), 20, looked spectacular in a fast and furious annihilation of Romanian veteran Vasile Dragomir, 32. The former lightweight was first floored with a left jab, then turned his back on the opponent after a major right hand to the spleen, and was finally crushed down and out with another heavy right bomb to the very same spot of his soft body. Dragomir is now 21-7-1, 10 KOs. Official time of stoppage was 2:55 of the very first round. Zeuge is a 2012 pro debutant.
2012 London Olympian Enrico Koelling (3-0), a relatively new addition to Team Sauerland, hasn't impressed in his third consecutive professional fight. Koelling, 22, was active, tactical and methodical against little-known and hardly capable Hungarian Attila Baran (10-5, 6 KOs) but unable to stop his foe inside the distance. The German light heavyweight was content to win over six rounds with a unanimous decision. He is yet to score a knockout as a pro.