By Jake Donovan
A pair of cruiserweight title fights are set to share the spotlight on September 27 in Moscow, in a night that pits Poland versus Russia in both ends of the co-main events.
Long-reigning cruiserweight titlist Krzystof Wlodarczyk of Poland makes his first appearance of 2014 as he will face Russia's Grigory Drozd in what will mark his seventh title defense.
In the co-main event, Denis Lebedev makes his debut under the World of Boxing promotional banner as he faces unbeaten Pawel Kolodziej.
World of Boxing confirmed in a statement that "contacts are signed for fights (between) Krzystof Wlodarczyk and Grigory Drozd, and Denis Lebedev (versus) Pawel Kolodziej. Russian boxers battle with the Poles on September 27 in Moscow."
Wlodarczyk has been inactive since a 6th round stoppage of aged former champ Giacobe Fragomeni last December in Chicago, Illinois. The bout was their third in a series spanning more than four years. The two fought to a draw in 2009, followed by an 8th round knockout win for Wlodarczyk one year later to begin his title reign.
The showdown with Drozd (38-1-1, 27KOs) - who has won 13 straight - marks the second time Wlodarczyk travels to Russia to defend his cruiserweight belt. His previous trip was filled with thrills, overcoming an early knockdown to thrice drop and eventually stop previously unbeaten Rakhim Chakhkiev in eight rounds last June in Moscow.
Lebedev (25-2, 19KOs) has been out of the ring since last May, though not by choice and through controversial circumstances. The Russian knockout artist was stopped in 11 rounds by Guillermo Jones last May, only for the middle-aged Panamanian to test positive for a banned substance. The ring result was never officially reversed, but Lebedev was given back the title.
A rematch was to take place this past May, but was scrapped literally at the last minute after Jones once again came up dirty. This time, the positive result was revealed in a pre-fight randon drug test, forcing the World Boxing Association (WBA) - whom recognizes Lebedev as its champion - to withdraw its sanctioning from the bout.
The two camps are now battling it out in court, with a pre-trial hearing held earlier this week. Meanwhile, life goes on for Lebedev, who seeks his first win in nearly two years.
Kolodziek (33-0, 18KOs) enters his first major title fight and also his debut performance in Russia. The 33-year old contender, who hasn't fought since last November, has spent the majority of his career in Poland, with road trips to Germany and Chicago coming earlier in his career.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox