By Alexey Sukachev
On Sunday, April 29, WBA welterweight champion Vyacheslav Senchenko (32-0, 21 KOs) will step into the ring, staged at one of the most sumptuous venues in the world – Donbass Arena in Donetsk, Ukraine – to defend his championship against the most difficult opponent in his career in former IBF light welterweight king - the always brash Paulie Malignaggi (30-4, 6 KOs) of the United States.
The main event, organized by Union Boxing Promotions, one of the most financially stable boxing teams in Eastern Europe, will be supported by a relatively small but very rich undercard, which will feature the return of former world title challenger Stas Kashtanov and four minor title twelve-rounders with local guys taking their parts.
WBA #9 cruiserweight Yago Kiladze (18-0, 12 KOs), originally from Tbilisi, Georgia, will risk his WBA I/C title for the third time against suspect challenger Julien Perriaux (15-8, 8 KOs). Perriaux, 31, had two relatively solid wins lately but otherwise he is expected to be easy work for the smooth 24-year old boxer-puncher.
Formerly ranked light welterweight Wladimir Kravets (25-1, 15 KOs) will continue his restoration after a crushing loss to Ignacio Mendoza last August. The former Olympian for Ukraine (Athens 2004) will defend his minor IBC title, which he acquired a year and a half ago against Tarik Madni, against rugged Frenchman Abdoulaye Soukouna (14-10-6, 1 KO).
Despite his average record, Soukouna, 31, should be considered as a tough opponent. He had several quality wins, notched two wins and a draw against prospect Yvan Mendy, holds French 140lb national title and is 5-0-1 in his recent fights. He doesn’t possess a punch but he knows how to take one as he has never been stopped in his career. Kravets, 30, a pressure southpaw with a questionable defense, had one common opponent with Soukouna in Bastien Laforge, and both fighters got easy wins over that Frenchman.
Aging veteran Andriy Kudriavtsev (38-9, 17 KOs) comes back to the ring as well. The long-time European and international contender Kudriavtsev, 35, will test his skills against undefeated Frenchman Samir Ziani (10-0-1, 2 KOs), 21. Ziani is far less experienced than his Ukrainian counterpart but his youth and freshness can give him solid chances to create an upset here. The vacant WBA international lightweight title will be at stake.
WBA #12 Donetsk pride Oleg Yefimovich (21-2, 11 KOs) will dilute the Ukraine vs. France matches with an intercontinental contest. He will risk his WBA I/C featherweight title against 38-year old Argentinean Sergio Carlos Santillan (29-11-3, 14 KOs), who is going up in weight. Expect a lopsided decision for Yefimovich here.
Finally, local super middleweight Stanislav (Stas) Kashtanov (28-1, 15 KOs) is coming back for the first time since his highly debated loss to the WBA 168lb regular champion Karoly Balzsay in August 2011. WBA #5 Kashtanov dropped a split decision to the Hungarian, though the majority of the ringside observers thought he did enough to take the title. Kashtanov, 27, will tune-up against Uruguayan Jorge Rodriguez Olvera (23-4, 12 KOs) over eight.
Three days after that, a rest of the UBP protégés are going to showcase their talent at Sportmax arena also in Donetsk, as they won’t be parts of the April 29 mega-event. They will refine their skills in tune-up contests over eight and six rounds.
Recent WBA world title challenger Stanislav Merdov (32-8-1, 24 KOs), who gave an unexpected stern test to the almost eternal Indonesian champion Chris John, will try to blow out Georgian Mikhail Avakian (13-5-1, 5 KOs). Merdov, 36, is still ranked #13 by the WBA.
In an interesting match-up, local middleweight Artiom Redko (20-2-2, 11 KOs), who isn’t as good as his record suggests, will be matched pretty hard against another padded fighter in Georgian Shalva Jomardashvili (32-4-1, 24 KOs), who, unlike Redko, has valuable European experience.
WBA #6 super middleweight Server Emurlayev (21-0, 8 KOs) will be featured as well but his opponent isn’t defined yet.
Other fighters, who will take part in the show, are: light middleweight Artiom Karpets (14-0, 6 KOs), middleweight Ruslan Schelev (8-0, 6 KOs), super bantamweight Olexander Yegorov (7-0-1, 4 KOs) and flyweights Olexander Gryschuk (7-0, 2 KOs) and Artiom Dalakian (2-0, 1 KO).