By Alexey Sukachev
New Moscow, Russia - No one really thought Oleg Maskaev would be a nominee for the Comeback of the year (and he won't be), but at 43, fighting three years after his painful first-round TKO to Nagy Aguilera, the former WBC heavyweight champion did return to the ring and looked relatively good against similarly shot fighter in Owen Beck. His comeback shouldn't be mixed up with a possible road back into contention, and he looked like an old 43-year old heavyweight but he still was relevant enough in comparison with an unwilling former world title challenger, who appeared in the ring only for another payday.
Maskaev was as slow and as flat-footed as ever, but Beck, 36, was just doing nothing to for the real fight to break off. He hugged his opponent every time he ate a share of leather and rarely threw any meaningful punches. The rusty veteran Maskaev started to tag Beck only during the third minute of the fight, but the Jamaican soon went down without a punch, which was incorrectly ruled a knockdown by referee Victor Panin. In the second round, Maskaev was aggressive but Beck has finally tried to fire back. In the midst of the round he connected with several good-looking blows and forced Maskaev into a devensive mode. The Big O also suffered a bad cut over his right eye, which was stopped from bleeding between the rounds by Vicor Luchnikov, the best Russian cutman.
In the third, Maskaev went after Beck, and the latter refused to fight back. He was soon eating punches and hugged the Russian on every possible occasion. Soon thereafter, Maskaev threw another uppercut which hardly landed anywhere, but Beck went down comically, and another phantom knockdown has been issued by the referee. Finally, Maskaev landed a hard right hand to the jaw, which sent Beck down for the third time. The Jamaican did get up but was visibly too wobbly to let him continue fighting. Time of stoppage was 2:59 of the third. Maskaev is now 37-8, with 28 KOs. Beck falls down to 29-12, with 21 KOs. He has lost his last nine.
In a hard and bruising affair, world-ranked Russian super middleweight Maxim Vlasov (25-1, 12 KOs) took another step back into the title contention with a wider-than-needed unanimous decision over rugged Serbian Geard Ajetovic (21-8-1, 10 KOs).
Ajetovic, a 31-year old former Sydney Olympian from Serbia, who fought mostly in the United Kingdom, has never been knocked down during his professional career (despite losing wide to such notable hitters as Dmitry Pirog, Daniel Geale or Matthew Macklin), and this particular fight showed why. The Serbian master of defense covered his head behind a tight block and used his ankles to create an additional shield around his waist to prevent liver punishment. Fighting behind the shell, which looked very much like Arthur Abraham's guard, Ajetovic didn't do much and exploded rarely with his relatively soft punches. Vlasov was unable to penetrate Ajetovic's block clearly, losing his energy in the Serbian's viscous defense. However, his jab forced Ajetovic to stay at the long range, which suited the much taller Russian. Vlasov tried to deliver uppercuts and did some damage in the midst of the fight and during the final two rounds but his opponent has never been really hurt.
All rounds were very much alike, with Vlasov dominating his opponent on a sheer activity and punch output. Ajetovic had a moment in the ninth round, rocking Maxim with several well-placed right hands but the Serbian fighter failed to follow those punches with something big. Vlasov was briefly down in the same round but that fall was ruled a slip by referee Yuri Koptsev. Vlasov finished the bout strong, showing both grit and determination, but Ajetovic refused to go out on his shield and fought it to the end. Official scores were: unrealistic 100-90 (by Yuri Tamm) and more realistic 99-92 (by Victor Panin and Rozalin Nasibullin). BoxingScene had it a bit closer: 97-93 - also for Vlasov, who is expected to go up in ranks from the currently owned WBC/IBF #10 and WBO #15 positions. Geard Ajetovic was ranked WBO #10 prior to the fight. No titles were reported to be at stake in this fight.
Former Uzbek Olympian (2004) and amateur star Sherzod Husanov (16-0-1, 8 KOs) returned to prizefighting after more than two and a half years of retirement, knocked out previously undefeated middleweight Maxim Chemezov (6-1, 2 KOs) in the third round, and hasn't looked any better doing that.
Chemezov, a slightly bigger and naturally heavier fighter, looked to impose his skills on Husanov in the first but the latter refused to be collected and put himself out of the harm's way with his sneaky jab. He also used quick combinations to trouble Chemezov's ground floor and to check his chin. In the second, Husanov gained a full control of the fight. He kept his foe against the ropes and sometimes cornered him for the entire round. Chemezov bravely tried to counter the Uzbek, but Sherzod was much quicker than him and put himself out of trouble. He puniched Chemezov's body with hard liver punches trying to soften him. It did help in the third and final round. Midst into the second minute of the fight, Husanov connected with some grzing body punches and then suddenly expolded with a heavy right hand to the ear. Chemezov went down and tried to get up again and again but was falling to the canvas after each attempt. Time of stoppage was 1:32 of the third stanza.
Russian Greek Theodoros (Fedor) Papazov (9-0, 7 KOs), a former amateur standout, came back into the ring after a year and three months of a forced layoff to stop determined trialhorse Alexander Saltykov (8-27-3, 5 KOs) in three rounds. 27-year old Papazov, a powerful puncher with dynamite in his gloves, dropped Saltykov, 32, once in the first, twice in the second and twice in the third rounds, using his left hook to the liver to deliver quality beating to his opponent. Time of stoppage was 2:27. Saltykov hasn't won any fights since March 2009.
Welterweight Aik Shakhnazarian (3-0) outboxed Bahruz Kazimov (1-1) unanimously over six. Scores were: 60-54 (twice) and 59-55.
Light heavyweight talent Ilshat Khusnulgatin (7-0, 3 KOs), nicknamed "Obama", looked relatively ordinary against very limited Khavash Kodzoev (0-3). Khusnulgatin dropped his opponent in the second round and cruised to a comfortable decision on the judges' scorecards, despite showing only glimpses of his huge talent. Scores were: 39-37 and 39-36 (twice) - for Ilshat.
In a battle of unbeatens, light heavyweight Varazdat Chernikov (4-0, 1 KO) used his superior boxing skills to outpoint fellow unbeaten Grigoriy Fedorov (3-1-1) unanimously over four: 40-36, 39-37 and 39-38.