by Alexey Sukachev
Oleg Maskaev (38-7, 28 KOs), the Big O, now reduced to a very small window of future prospects, continued his rocky road with a life-and-death unanimous decision over fellow veteran Jason Gavern (21-15-4, 10 KOs) in a non-title ten-rounder, held at Mordovia sports arena in Saransk, Russia. The bout also proved irrelevance of a famed former WBC heavyweight champion as a real player in the sport's glamor division and his foggy future.
Gavern, 36, was brought in as an opponent, whose only goal was to go some rounds against the former champ before being chopped down. He lost his last six (five by way of knockout), and in his last fight just a month and a half ago he was blitzed by Amir Mansour while going down four times in less than three minutes. Against Maskaev Gavern wasn't drastically better than his latest versions but the Big O wasn't all right at all. He started vigorously, peppering the American with his jab, but his slow feet showed every year of his 44, and his hand speed was very limited also. The punching power was intact, and it helped Maskaev to be better in the starting rounds. His right hand was a big weapon, as he connected with some smashing crosses. Yet Gavern refused to go down. There was a lot of clinching and holding between two aging boxers.
As the bout progressed, Maskaev slowed down considerably. He was staying for too long in a pocket and he left himself opened wide to the left counters of Gavern. The latter wasn't doing much damage though, and in round seven Gavern was also deducted a point for hitting to the back of the head by referee Yuri Koptsev. But the American also landed some heavy legal blows, which got Maskaev's attention. The ninth stanza proved to be a catastrophe for the Russian, as the former champ was hit cleanly with left hooks by Gavern time and again. Oleg didn't stop marching forward and paid his price. During one of the exchanges, Maskaev missed his share of blows, when Gavern retaliated with a right cross (which missed), followed by a hard left hook to the chin. Maskaev went down and was very lucky to get up until the count of nine. He was wobbled early in the tenth but managed to summon what was left of his stamina and will to come back strong before the final bell.
At the end, all three judges had it unanimously for the Russian: 96-93 (Alexander Artemiev), 97-94 (Victor Panin) and horrible 98-90 (Yuri Tamm). BoxingScene had it 95-93 - also for Oleg Maskaev, who should think very carefully about his career prospects.
WBC Baltic middleweight champion Andrey Meryasev (14-0, 11 KOs) continued to rise in the ranks after his victory over the Mexican import Alvaro Gaona (12-3, 7 KOs) in what was a non-title affair. Meryasev dominated the fight but didn't look as a fighter, capable of winning something big in future.
Meryasev started fastly, going hard with his left hook to the body but Gaona wasn't rocked at any time and carefully survived the opening storm. However, he suffered a cut over his right eye in the second stanza, which later proved to be the crucial moment of the battle. The cut was a result of an accidental headbutt. Firstly, Gaona's cutman dealt it fairly well. At the same time, Alvaro did better in the ring, beginning to temper onrushing Meryasev. Rounds three, four and five were mostly even but it was the Russian who threw more and landed more, although Gaona retaliated dangerously. Yet, Meryasev was better of the two in terms of aggressiveness and ring generalship despite boxing straightforwardly, with no Plan B.
In the sixth, Gaona's right eye was hit again, and this time with a legal punch. Blood kept dripping from the eyebrow but the Mexican bravely fought till the bell. During the break between rounds six and seven, Gaona was carefully examined by the medical staff and also insisted he had problems with his vision. The fight was stopped right after that, and scorecards were collected. All three judges had it 60-54 - for Andrey Meryasev, who was declared a winner by technical decision.
In a two-way all-action encounter between the Russian and the Ukrainian fighters of the Greek origin, Fedor "Mr. Knockout" Papazov (11-0, 8 KOs) indeed scored a stoppage win over Artiom Ayvazidi (10-5, 5 KOs) but it wasn't easy.
Papazov, who is best known for his spirited effort against Vasyl Lomachenko, arguably the best active amateur fighter, in 2007, was all over Ayvazidi in the opening rounds, putting his body punches together in order to hurt the Ukrainian time and again. Ayvazidi came back to life in the third to produce a major round in the fourth, when both combatants put the crowd on its feet with non-stop punching. Papazov rocked Ayvazidi with a right hand but the Ukrainian got the favour back with the left counter. Papazov often delivered his blows below the beltline and was credited with two knockdowns, and one of them was very dubious. In the fifth Papazov continued to mix legal and illegal punches but alos landed a number of heavy blows to the head, though Ayvazidi did his best to stay in the fight. However, the Russian Greek was gradually getting the better of the Ukrainian up until the end of the sixth, when Ayvazidi's corner decided to stop the pounding.
Undefeated welterweight Aslanbek Koazev (24-0-1, 7 KOs) softened bad memories of his March draw with capable Russian titlist David Avanesyan in a fight many thought he was lucky to save his "0" through - by getting a one-sided unanimous decision over Belarussian Evgueny Kruglik (11-18-3, 3 KOs). All of the scores were identical: 80-72 - for the Russian. Torres has lost his fourth straight after getting eleven wins to make a promising start of his career.
In a horrific war between two young super bantams, Russian Vladimir Tikhonov (9-0, 4 KOs) barely edged dangerous Mexican import Jose Cen Torres (11-4, 1 KOs) over eight rounds. Tikhonov was active early on but a former WBC Mundo Hispano flyweight titlist kept coming no matter what and dealt his share of punishment to the Russian fighter. Final scores were realistic 77-76 and wider-than-expected 78-74 and 79-73 - in favour of Vladimir Tikhonov.
Rising 19-year old cruiserweight prospect Murat Gassiev (11-0, 7 KOs) notched his third stoppage win this year, knocking out experienced Ukrainian trialhorse Igor Pilipenko (3-14-2) in four one-sided rounds.
Another 19-year old fighter Aik Shakhnazaryan improved his record to 6-0, with 2 KOs, getting a well-deserved fifth-round stoppage over the Uzbek import Jahongir Mamadjanov (7-5, 1 KO). Mamadjanov was stopped for the first time in his career.
The show was co-promoted by Kirill Pchelnikov of the Pushka Promotions, Evgueny Vainstein of the Ural Boxing Promotions and Igor Shafer from the Neva Glove.