By Alexey Sukachev
Salle des etoiles, Monte Carlo, Monaco - Fought at a catch of 171-pounds, Edwin Rodriguez (24-0, 16KOs) destroyed Denis Grachev (13-2-1, 8KOs) with a first round TKO. Rodriguez hurt Grachev with every hard punch that landed to the head and body. He sent Grachev down twice in the first two minutes. Rodriguez then punished Grachev, who was out on his feet, with a heavy barrage of punches until the referee jumped in to wave things off and save Grachev from further punishment. Rodriguez was crowned the winner of a four-fighter international tournament, which also included Hungarian Zsolt Erdei (defeated by Grachev) and Argentinean Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna (eliminated by Rodriguez) and a catchweight limit set between the 168lb weight class and the 175lb division.
WBC/WBA/WBO #3 and IBF #5 super middleweight Rodriguez immediately jumped on the totally unprepared Russian and kept swinging. Grachev, raw and rusty, looked absolutely shocked and started to take a beating in the corner. Soon he went down on a big right hand by Rodriguez, which seemed to land closer to the back of his head. Dazed and wobbly he went on with fighting, was once again cornered and knocked down with a big right counter. Again he got up, and Rodriguez continued beating Denis up until the moment, when the Hall-of-Fame referee Stanley Christodoulou has seen enough of Grachev's wobbled movements and stopped the contest at approximately 2:51 of the very first round.
IBO/WBA junior welterweight champion Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-0, 9 KOs) beat down former champion Souleymane M’Baye (40-5-1, 22 KOs) in the eleventh round. Khabib hurt him often to the head and body, put M'Baye down in the second and the eight - and closed the show in the eleventh by trapping him against the ropes and unloading with both hands as the referee rushed in to stop the action.
Allakhverdiev, 30, had hardly shown any signs of ring rust but was cautious in the first, as was the 38-year old Frenchman. Both fighters chose to work slowly behind a tight jab. Allakhverdiev came out of his corner more confident in the second, landed more hard punches on M'Baye, and one of them - presumably a right cross - sent the veteran fighter down. It also seemed that WBA #2 140lber also slipped while being caught unbalanced. He beat the count and continued fighting hard. M'Baye looked stronger in the third, timing Khabib and forcing him to pay the price.
Allakhverdiev once again had a big round in the fourth, while M'Baye received some accolades for his efforts in the fifth. The collision has then slowly turned into a war of attrition, and the younger Russian was one to take advantage. He has slowly increased the tempo and started to deliver heat to M'Baye. Round seven was big for Allakhverdiev and he continued to pound the Frenchman in the eighth - up until the moment, his legs became rubber and he went down with a big right hand (and following a previous barrage of punches). M'Baye once again went on and changes his tactics, trying to outslug a slugger. The choice was wrong, and it was only a matter of time before Frenchman would realize it. The time has come late into the eleventh, when another of Allakhverdiev's combinations made M'Baye virtually defenseless. The approximate time of stoppage was 2:21 of the eleventh round.
In a major upset, WBC #2, IBF #6 and WBO #13 rated Ukrainian cruiserweight Dmytro Kucher suffered his first career defeat, seeing his unbeaten record spoilt by hard-hitting Congolese Ilunga Makabu (14-1, 13 KOs) following a crowd-pleasing brawl for a vacant WBC Silver title. Kucher (now 21-1, with 15 KOs) became the third undefeated boxer in a row (all - in 2013), whose perfect ledger was torn apart by Makabu, who was fighting just for the second time out of his adopted homeland of South Africa.
Kucher, 29, was better in the first round, landing harder blows but also eating some blows in return. It was apparent, however, that Makabu had very much left. He showed it in the second stanza and kept showing his determination and suprisingly sound fundamental skills throughout an entire fight. Kucher, a bit flat-footed, was also much slower than his 25-year old opponent. The Ukrainian struggled to win the jabbing contest, and it was one of the reasons for his future loss. Makabu was indeed very hard to be caught by significant punches, moving well under fire using some upper body movement to frustrate Kucher.
The Ukrianian was eating much leather midst into the fight and had his nose bleeding. He adjusted to the beating taken and started to land some hard punches of his own but they had no effect on the Congolese fighter. Kucher was taking much punishment, and referee Daniel Van De Viele showed signs of concern but Kucher's chin has hold up to the task. The Ukrainian caught his second breathe in the eleventh round and ended the fight very well, pounding Makabu at the ropes at the end of the twelfth stanza.
After twelve rounds, one judge had it 114-114 - a draw, but he was overruled by the other two who scored it 115-113 and 115-114 - for the Congolese fighter. BoxingScene had it 117-111 - a wider mark for Ilunga Makabu.
European middleweight champion Maksim "Tiiger" Bursak (27-1-1, 12 KOs) successfully retained his continental regalia for the very first time, clearly outscoring much taller opponent Prince Arron (23-5-1, 5 KOs) over twelve rounds in a rugged, unpleasant fight, filled in with gaps, fouls and clinching.
WBA/WBC #5 and WBO #11 Bursak, 29, started very confidently, going through Arron's jab to do some damage with his sudden left hooks to the head. Arron, 25 and 6'3'', was leaning backwards too much but it didn't help him against spirited 5'11'' Ukrainian fighter. Bursak was better in the first couple of round, while Arron came back pretty well in the third stanza. The midst of the fight saw Bursak doing better. He was more aggressive and active of the two, throwing and hence landing more with a little percentage though. Arron was sharp but did way too little in the ring to get any positive marks on the judges' scorecards.
Midst into the seventh Arron was put down with what seemed to be a thumb to the eye by the champion. He got up and outfought Bursak at the end of the round. In the eighth, the Brit landed a picture-perfect right uppercut to the head of the Ukrainian but he didn't wilt under fire. Instead, Bursak landed a very hard left to the body to put Arron down for the second round. Still, Prince survived the round. In round ten, referee deducted a point from the champion for excessive holding. Both boxers fought hard in the championship stanzas, and Arron was even slightly better at the very end of the fight.
Official scores were: 116-109, 117-108 and 119-106 - for Maksim Bursak. Arron, 2010 Prizefighter champion and former BBBofC British 154lb titlist, suffered his first setback in a new weight class. BoxingScene had it 117-108 - also for Bursak.