By Alexey Sukachev
Crocus City Hall, Moscow, Russia - "Champion in recess" Guillermo Jones (39-3-2, 31KOs) shocked WBA cruiserweight champion Denis Lebedev (25-2, 19KOs) with an eleventh round knockout in a 2013 "Fight of The Year" contender. Jones, 41-years young, defended his WBA belt just for the third time since capturing it in September 2008, but he effectively unified his ridiculous - but, ironically WBA "Champion in recess" title with Lebedev's "regular" belt.
El Felino (also known as El Jefe) Jones started slowly and looked a bit sluggish against his southpaw opponent early, but gradually worked his way into the fight and came out very strong late in the first round with hard, single shots, landing damaging right hands and cut Lebedev above the right eye.
The two boxers were swinging with tremendous zeal and letting their hands go in the second stanza. Jones dominated the Russian banger early on but Lebedev took the initiative in the middle of the round, allowing Jones to grab the end of a hard-fought three minutes of non-stop punching.
They continued to trade in the third, with both finding success but Lebedev, 33, was eating more than the Panamanian veteran, who showed fascinating ability to take damaging shots without even wilting under Lebedev's power. Guillermo Jones continued to show his chin in the fourth, after taking several hard shots and continued to press forward looking for big shots of his own.
Lebedev's right eye was swelling hard and rapidly closing, while the Latino import showed no signs of facial damage. Lebedev, despite slowly losing his facial lines, performed with tremedous will and determination, despite fighting under dire circumstances.
Jones appeared to be taking over in the fifth with hard punches. Uppercuts and long lean right hands were major weapons for the former welterweight. Meanwhile, Jones looked much bigger than the former light heavyweight Lebedev and actually looked to be a heavyweight in the ring. It was surprising to see him without any shades of rust and sustaining a great tempo of in-fighting against much younger opponent. However, nothing is eternal, and Jones' vial of vim wasn't ever-replenishing as well. The Panamanian started to show fatigue, while the Russian enforcer came on strong during a hard-fought sixth.
Lebedev continued hard in the wild seventh stanza of this instant classic, landing numerous vicious bombs, while Jones was stepping back without throwing even a jab but miraculously still wasn't wilting under heavy pressure of Lebedev, which saw lesser opponents being completely dominated in Denis' past. Jones took them all and started to come forward as the bell rang to make this round complete. Lebedev swept the eighth, as the Panamanian wasn't punching at all but managed to take all of Lebedev's punishing blows, utilizing his will instead of his footwork and his chin instead of his guard, summoning all of his vast experience to outlast (if not outpunch) his hard-bitten rival.
As the fight progressed, Jones was able to catch his second win, effectively ending a huge "stratopause" in the ninth but still probably losing it to the still willing Russian. He turned back the tide a round later, coming very strong in the tenth and Lebdev's left eye was now as bad as his right eye as he entered into the eleventh. His face being a bloody mess, with his right eye totally shut, the Russian was rocked several times in the tenth but was fighting back vehemently.
During the eleventh, things got harsher for the Russian, as the Panamanian was hitting him at will. Hall-of-Fame referee Stanley Christodoulou called for a break to show Lebedev's face to the ringside physician, who - not surprisingly - allowed this bout to go on. But the end was nearing fast, as the Russian champion had little left, despite his fiery will.
Lebedev went down after eating of punches by Jones, having nearly nothing left in his bottles, and the referee waved it off at 1:54, as the Russian fighter was unable to get up in time. Lebedev was dead tired and had nothing left as the replay showed the Russian fighter first went down without taking an actual shot. He looked beaten both physically and mentally at this point, emptying both his body (of vigorous juices) and will against a rock-solid opponent.
Sweet revenge and an amazing comeback of a seemingly finished and underpreciated champion. Jones also upset huge odds - 8-1 in favour of the Russian.
Lebedev and Jones had been scheduled several times in 2012, but Jones was always pushing the contest back. The WBA eventually made Jones the "champion in recess" and elevated Lebedev to the status of "full champion." Jones has been very inactive over the years and hadn't fought since November of 2011 when meeting Lebedev.