By Alexey Sukachev
Exactly a year since its previous installment, world-class prize-fighting is finally back to Donetsk for more action. And it will be just as huge as Ukrainian fans of boxing can possibly imagine. Nah, no Klitschko brothers this time but two full-fledged WBA titles and a significant array of minor belts from World Boxing Association will decorate major local festivities, dedicated both to the City Day and the Miner’s Day, two of the most celebrated Donetsk dates.
The host of the show is the top Ukrainian company “Union Boxing Promotions”, headed by the president Yuri Ruban and former amateur star Dmitry Yeliseev. UBP isn’t actually very active outside of the second-largest Ukrainian city but its local festivities are always welcome both among fans and TV suites. It won’t be much different this time especially given the fact that the pre-set venue can easily be compared to the best stages around the Earth. “Donbass-Arena”, built by the richest Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, is a home for the famed soccer team “Shakhtar Donetsk”. On August 26, it’ll be in the spotlight for a few reasons other than the most popular sport in the world, as it’ll be the place for “Pro Boxing Show IX”, organized by the UBP.
Ukrainian fans will be well advised not to miss the show. Two world titles will be at risk, and both times Ukrainian fighters will take part in fisticuffs. In what can be names “the main event” WBA welterweight beltholder Vyacheslav Senchenko (31-0, 20 KOs) will risk his regalia against little-known Venezuelan veteran Marco Antonio Avendano (30-7-1, 22 KOs). Records can lie, however, and this time it can probably be the case.
Senchenko, 33, despite his perfect numbers and two-and-a-half year long title reign, isn’t exactly the best fighter in his weight class. Vyacheslav battles rarely (just a single title defense in almost two years), and he struggles even against regular opposition. One of the best proofs was his August 2010 hard win over another Venezuelan Charlie Jose Navarro.
Meanwhile, 38-year old Avendano isn’t here to be overlooked. The tough Latino possesses a stoppage win over durable Argentinean Jorge Sebastian Lujan and he gave the now-famous Japanese Nobuhiro Ishida not one but two tough assignments in 2008 and 2009. That’s being said, it will be a considerable shock if Senchenko doesn’t win this one.
Much more compelling and indefinite is the matchup between experienced Hungarian former champion Karoly Balzsay (23-2, 17 KOs) and local prospect Stanislav Kashtanov (28-0, 15 KOs). Kashtanov, 26, can easily be considered a home boy with a nicely padded record (and the latter is true to a considerable degree) but he is not. This reporter has seen an imposing boxer-puncher twice (in 2005 against Vyacheslav Syrovatko and in 2010 against Ruslan Pojonisevs), and Kashtanov impressed me both times. Certainly, former WBO champion Balzsay is no pushover either. He has successfully come back after a sorry end of 2009, and he is eager to wrestle his title back.
The WBA “regular” belt will be contested between Balzsay and Kashtanov, while the super champion Andre Ward is busy resolving much more thrilling issues overseas. Both fighters are highly ranked (Kastanov is the WBA #1 and WBO #9 super middleweight, and Kashtanov is rated #2 by the WBA and #10 by the WBO).
“This is the most important moment of my entire career”, expressed Kashtanov. “Balzsay is very strong and, moreover, he is a former champion. But I hope that my training camp under Freddie Roach’s guidance was very helpful. And I also hope that my fans will offer a titanic support for me. World title is what I was aiming at for years and years, and I’m ready to give a try and to show my best”.
“I’m very glad I have an opportunity [to fight for a title] again. I has been preparing extremely hard for a long period of time. Actually, I think my losses to both Robert Stieglitz and Eduard Gutknecht were very useful for me. I’ve got stronger after those setbacks. But this time will be very hard. My future opponent isn’t ranked #1 in the world for nothing. He is willing to win but I’m willing to win too. And that’s what I’ll do on August 26. I’ll win and I’ll get my belt back”!
An interesting fact is that the both fighters are promoted by the UBP: Kashtanov by the Union Boxing Promotions, and Balzsay – by Universum Box-Promotion.
Several more title fights will be scheduled in the undercard of the show. Almost all of them will feature WBA belts on the line, making Donetsk a small version of the regular WBA festivities in Latin America.
In probably the most thrilling affair, former Ukrainian Olympian Vladimir Kravets (24-0, 15 KOs) will contest for a vacant WBA International junior welterweight title against hard-punching Spain-based Columbian Ignacio “Natxo” Mendoza (30-6-2, 19 KOs), 27, who is best known for his losses to recent rivals John Murray and Kevin Mitchell. For WBA #4 Kravets, 30, it’ll be the toughest test of his career.
Former long-time European featherweight champion Oleg Yefimovich (19-2, 11 KOs) continues his Reconquista against “Tigre” Christian Palma (17-5, 5 KOs) of Chili, who is rather successful lately. Yefimovich is ranked #14 by the WBA, and Oleg’s WBA I/C belt will be at stake in this fight.
The fighter, who is ranked one place lower than Yefimovich, 35-year old veteran and reigning EBA titleholder Stanislav Merdov (32-7, 24 KOs) will defend his title against an opponent to be named. Also unknown is the future test for rising Georgian cruiserweight Yago Kiladze (16-0, 11 KOs). This WBA #14 200lber will also defend his WBA I/C belt.
Finally, Ukrainian light middleweight champion Artiom Karpets (13-0, 5 KOs) will risk his national title against durable journeyman Rizvan Magomedov (7-6-2, 1 KOs).
Several more local fighters will be seen in non-title six and eight-rounders, including veteran lightweight Andrey Kudriavtsev (36-8, 16 KOs) and prospects Ruslan Schelev (6-0, 5 KOs), Artiom Redko (19-2-1, 10 KOs), Olexander Yegorov (5-0-1, 3 KOs) and Olexander Grischuk (5-0, 1 KO). Talented flyweight Artiom Dalakian will make his pro debut.
The show will be supported by a good number of VIP parties. The Senchenko–Avendano affair will be worked by veteran referee Steve Smoger; and Michael Buffer will call the night from the ringside.