By Alexey Sukachev
Moscow is presently preparing for its biggest boxing card this year and one of the largest in Russian boxing history. An interesting fact is that the label of the card, which is set to take place on September 8 at Olimpiyskiy Sports Arena, is a foreign fighter. WBC heavyweight champion of the world Vitali Klitschko (44-2, 40 KOs), from neighboring Ukraine, is a subject of both pure love and hatred from Russian boxing fans, depending on their approach to the Sweet science as a whole. Klitschko faces Manuel Charr (21-0, 11 KOs) of Germany (but originally from Homs, Syria) in a voluntary defense of his title. Charr is ranked #7 by the World Boxing Council.
The announced undercard of the evening, however, will be entirely filled in with a Russian package. Also, in a rare turn of events, all six proposed contests of the evening, including five undercard bouts, will feature various versions and types of the WBC belts.
In a co-feature, feared Russian heavyweight powerhouse Magomed Abdusalamov (15-0, 15 KOs), who is ranked #13 by the World Boxing Association but hasn’t yet entered the top-15 of the WBC rankings (he is rated #16), will be tested tough by the biggest challenge of his rising career in American 42-year old veteran Jameel McCline (41-12-3, 24 KOs), who is coming of a close loss to another European hopeful Artur Szpilka in Poland. Abdusalamov, 31, is 3-0 this year, including fast knockouts of capable unbeaten fighters Pedro Rodriguez and Jason Pettaway. A vacant WBC USNBC title will be at stake in this fight despite the fact Abdusalamov represents Russia and not the States.
Four WBC Baltic titles will be contested in the undercard of the show. In what seems to be the biggest of them, Russian super middleweight Maxim Vlasov (23-1, 12 KOs) is penciled to take on slowly fading German Armenian Khoren Gevor (32-8, 17 KOs). In the past, Gevor fought four times for various portions of the world crown but lost in every single bid, being knocked out cold by Arthur Abraham in 2007 and closely outpointed by Felix Sturm, Dmitry Sartison and Robert Stieglitz in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively. Gevor, 32, is just 1-2 since losing to the latter, and Vlasov’s fight is his possibly the last chance for a successful comeback. WBC #9 Vlasov, 25, defending his WBC Baltic super middleweight belt for the first time, is also well-known among boxing fans, thanks for his regular appearances on ESPN Friday Night Fights. His only loss is a disputed decision in favor of world-ranked light heavyweight Isaac Chilemba in early 2011.
Heavyweight collision between up-and-coming 2008 Beijing bronze medalist for Ukraine Vyacheslav Glazkov (12-0, 9 KOs) and hard-nosed German veteran Konstantin Airich (23-6-2, 17 KOs) will feature only the vacant silver version of the WBC Baltic heavyweight belt but this is quite a meaningful fight nevertheless. Glazkov is 2-0 this year, while Airich followed his upset knockout win over Ondrej Pala in March with a one-sided loss to Odlanier Solis in May.
Two more WBC Baltic title fights, featuring lesser-known pugilists will add more sound to the card. 24-year old Andrey Meryasev (10-0, 9 KOs) will challenge Uzbek Muhitdin Rajapbaev (8-2, 5 KOs) for a vacant WBC Baltic middleweight belt. This contest will be a good test for Meryasev, who has never fought a live opponent in his career. Rajapbaev, while having a lesser sound record, has never been stopped and in his last outing he scored a relatively big upset, knocking out previously undefeated Ukrainian Kostya Rovenskiy (17-0-2).
Finally, two unbeaten fighters will collide in potentially the most heated battle of the night, when the native of Ingushetia, Ayup Arsaev (12-0, 7 KOs), 28, takes on Chechen native Khavazhy Khatsygov (8-0, 5 KOs), 35, in an inter-Caucasian collision. Given the flaming character of the WBC Baltic featherweight titlist Arsaev, the great experience of former Belarussian Olympian Khatsygov, and recent tensions between the Chechen and the Ingush Republics, the bout can turn into a horrific war – which is usual for Arsaev’s fights.
The entire event is promoted co-jointly by K2 Promotions and handlers of the Olimpiyskiy. Mikhail Denisov is a driving force for the WBC Baltic title fights. The whole event will be sanctioned locally by the Russian Professional Boxing Board, a rival firm to the Professional Boxing Federation of Russia, an older sanctioning body here, in Russia.