By Alexey Sukachev
One of the best performances by Russian perennial contender and former European light welterweight titlist Denis Shafikov (32-0-1, 17 KOs) - simultaneously resulted in one of his most painful wins. Making his lightweight debut, Shafikov, 27, who was ranked #2 by the IBF at 140 lbs and #5 by the WBC at 135 lbs, was outboxing capable Uzbek veteran Alisher Rakhimov (25-2, 12 KOs) up until the tenth round, when WBO #4 rated lightweight Rakhimov landed his first low blow of the fight. He added two more deliberate and painful punches below the beltline to be disqualified by referee Predrag Aleksic in the eleventh round.
Shafikov started the grudge match cautiously, and the same sentence was correct for Rakhimov, 35. Alisher was even better than Shafikov in the second stanza, while the Miass native waited too long to kick off. From that point on, the fight was all Shafikov's. Rounds three and four were relatively even but it was Shafikov who threw more punches and landed them cleaner than the Uzbek former Olympian (quarterfinalist of Sydney 2000 Olympics).
In the fifth round, Shafikov explicitly showed why he is considered by many to be one of the best-kept secrets in boxing and why he is rated #8 by Ring magazine. Shafikov was liquid and connected with numerous combinations. Rakhimov moved but he was unable to find a spot, where Denis' shots couldn't reach for him. Shafikov mixed body blows with multiple barrages to the head of Alisher. The latter failed to find a moment for a counter attack. Shafikov was huge in rounds seven and eight; Rakhimov mounted a tiny comeback in the ninth paying a cut forehead for it.
Round ten was once again in Shafikov's favour. Rakhimov looked more and more frustrated before landing the first of his low blows. All those episodes weren't accidental as all the south-to-the-border punches were well set and cleanly landed. Referee Predrag Aleksic deducted a point from Rakhimov after the second case and had no other choice but to DQ him after the third blow. Time was 2:22.
In October 2012, David Avanesyan, the Russian welterweight champion, collided with hard-nosed veteran Roman Seliverstov, a notable upset artist, and won what was thought by many to be an extremely unfair decision in his favour. This time Avanesyan (13-1-1, 6 KOs), 24, paid his dues, fighting the best fight of his life so far and being held to a draw against previously undefeated Aslanbek Kozaev (23-0-1, 7 KOs) in a rugged fight.
Avanesyan, 24, chose to fight on the ropes, while Kozaev, 25, was as aggressive (and as straightforward) as usual, going right at Avanesyan. Th punch output was Aslanbek's advantage but his shots were too wide and he landed them on Avanesyan's gloves, no on the chin of the ethnic Armenian. Meanwhile, the latter used his finesse and uncanny technical abilities to score cleanly - specifically with his sneaky right hand and right uppercut. Still, Kozaev was overwhelmingly active, which resulted in the even fight for the first four rounds.
As the bout progressed, Kozaev started to gas out, while the Russian Armenian preserved more stamina and energy. Kozaev was rocked after a huge left uppercut by Avanesyan in the fifth and also ate a number of clean shots in rounds six, seven and eight. But he was in the face of his opponent, and when David started to lose his power after working himself out in the previous stanzas, Kozaev's resilience and activity began to pay off. Both combatants engaged into heated exchanges in the closing rounds, and Kozaev was better in spite of a bad cut over his left eye - the result of numerous accidental headbutts and also of good shots by Avanesyan.
At the end, judge Roman Filimonov preferred Kozaev - 118-111, Yuri Tamm scored for Avanesyan - 117-112, whilst Predrag Aleksic of Montenegro had it a draw: 114-114. Kozaev retained his WBC Baltic an WBC CISBB welterweight titles. BoxingScene had it 115-114 - for David Avanesyan.
WBC Youth welterweight champion Konstantin "The Prodigy" Ponomarev (19-0, 10 KOs) continued his rise in the pro ranks with a quality win over dangerous Fariz Kazimov (13-3-1, 4 KOs) in a bout, scheduled for eight rounds in the light middleweight division.
Kazimov, 25, once the Russian and the WBC Baltic light welterweight champion, holds a win over former world champion Demarcus Corley (in what was an arguable robbery), but in this fight he was buldgy and out of shape. In the opening rounds he pressed the action against 20-year old Ponomarev but a lanky youngster easily avoided dangers by boxing outside and moving laterally along the ropes. Kazimov's fuel tank emptied considerably after the first couple of stanzas, and from that point of it was all Ponomarev's. He worked as a counter-puncher for the next three rounds, scoring much with his left hand, using uppercuts to cut Kazimov's nose inside and usin his jab as a measure stick. In the sixth and in the seventh stanzas Ponomarev started to unleash with light but non-stoppable fusilades. One of them had Kazimov on the ropes in the seventh, where Konstantin landed a number of punches cleany enough for referee Rozalin Nasibulin to induce a stoppage at 1:02 of the round.
"Mr. Knockout" Fedor (Theodoros) Papazov (10-0, 7 KOs) got off to a very fast start against battle-tested Uzbek veteran Behzod Nabiyev (21-4-1, 15 KOs) in their scheduled eight-rounder. Papazov, 27, connected with hard left hands to the liver and strong right hands to wobble Nabiyev in the starting stanza. Aggressive Papazov continued to stalk Nabiyev in the second and finally dropped him down with a huge left hand. Nabiyev, however, wasn't there to be taken out easily. He dug deep and started to fire off in response. Meanwhile, the Russian slugger started to fade down the stretch of the fight and survived some rocky moments in the midst of the fight, with the Uzbek being specifically effective with his liver hooks. Late into the contest, Nabiyev lost some steam while Papazov finished the bout strongly to get a unanimous decision. BoxingScene had it 78-73 - also for Papazov
Rapidly rising 19-year old cruiserweight Murat Gassiev (9-0, 5 KOs) had an easy night against incompetent but brave Belarussian trialhorse Denis Solomko (10-21-1, 2 KOs), 33. Gassiev was patient, strong and effective when needed. He dropped Solomko twice (with a liver shot and a right hand) in the second stanza. In the third, Gassiev continued to deliver beating to his foe. He knocked down Solomko with a combination of pucnhes along the ropes, and finally got the job done with another liver punch to the bitterly beaten Belarussian. Time of stoppage was 2:59.
In a sad rematch between Azerbaijani Rauf Aghayev (11-1, 3 KOs), 29, and very shot 39-year old Ukrainian veteran Yuri Voronin (27-19-2, 18 KOs), the former scored yet another unanimous decision over his counterpart to retain his WBC Baltic super bantamweight title for the first time. Scores were almost identical across the boards: 100-90 (twice) and 100-91 - all for Aghayev.
In November 2012, Aghayev and Voronin met each other in an inaguaral title fight for the WBC Baltic belt, and Aghayev dominaed his aging opponent over ten rounds, despite being knocked down once. It was Voronin's eighth consecutive loss; he got another one in December, and hasn't scored a win over a fighter with a positive record since 2004. This time the Ukrainian veteran looked very vulnerable in the opening rounds. He marched forward very slowly eating straight counter punches from Aghayev and landing almost nothing in return. It seemed his corner was ready to throw in a towel between the third and the fourth round, but the fading Ukrainian amazingly found energy to continue fighting. Meanwhile, Aghayev's punches lost their steam in themidst of the fight, and Voronin suddenly started to get some chances. Moreover, Voronin even decked his foe with a counter left hook in the sixth but referee Oleg Filimonov mistakengly didn't rule it a knockdown. Aghayev found his groove again in the later rounds and won the fight handily. The bout was foul-filled but the referee did a bad job, officiating the fight.