By Alexey Sukachev
Rakhim Chakhkiev, one of the latest Russian Olympic gold medalists (captured the first place at heavyweight during the 2008 Beijing Olympics), put up a huge, willing effort on Friday at Dynamo Palace of Sports in Krylatskoye, Moscow, Russian - only to see his tough challenge being reversed by the defending WBC cruiserweight champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in a thrilling collision with a come-from-behind eighth-round TKO.
Chakhkiev (16-0, 12 KOs), 30, has come in with good credentials, higher ranks (WBC #2, IBF #5, WBA #10 and WBO #11) and being totally untested against the elite opposition. The Pole, a year his older, was much more experienced at the championship level, making the fifth defense of the green belt, he won in 2010 against Italian Giacobbe Fragomeni. With 47-2-1, 33 KOs, Wlodarczyk has a colossal advantage in experience but some see him on a downslide after long lay-offs and some controversy and adversity during his present championship reign.
Those worries were justified in the first, when Chakhkiev, supported by a zealous Ingush crowd, guided by the president of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Evkurov, prompted to an excellent start. Chakhkiev aggressively came in swinging, making a strong accent on his left hand, a money punch for the Caucasian southpaw. His punches were fast, a bit wide but efficient enough to trouble the champion at the starters. Adding more adversity was a nasty cut over Wlodarczyk’s right eye. Chakhkiev remained as aggressive in the second but Wlodarczyk did a good job weathering the sudden storm. Nevertheless, Rakhim was better in the second.
The third was the Pole’s big nightmare, confirmed midst into the third, when Chakhkiev dropped him down with a combination of punches. The fourth round was also in the challenger’s favour. When (as always in the WBC fights) interim scores had been added up, Rakhim’s dominance was clearly seen and felt: 40-35 – on all the judges’ scorecards. However, at the same time Rakhim started to show signs of fatigue. It would have been wiser to preserve some energy by changing his aggressive strategy to a more calculated and calm one, but Chakhkiev’s camp, led by ex-WBO long-time lightweight titleholder Artur Grigoryan, amazingly didn’t tell it to him.
The fifth stanza was also for Chakhkiev, but Wlodarczyk managed to mount his left jab and started to add short stinging lefts to frustrate the Russian/Ingush at times. The sixth round was merely even but then, at the very end, Wlodarczyk suddenly connected with a very short left hook (while in clinch-mode), and down went Chakhkiev. He got up, and the round ended.
A wiser challenger would have carefully calculated his next activities after a cold shower like that but Chakhkiev tried to put even more spirit into his attacks. He had some success early into the seventh, and even rocked Wlodarczyk a bit but the Pole wasn’t to be denied. Late into the seventh he caught Chakhkiev with another counter left hook and sent him down again. Chakhkiev continued to work his plan A in the eighth but he was already done. Wlodarczyk sent him down twice more to the canvas – by the same punch, a sturdy left hook – and after the last knockdown renowned referee Daniel Van de Viele of Belgium did what he should have done, and waved the fight off. Official time of stoppage was 2:03 of the eighth stanza.
“Surely, I was very nervous during the first trimester”, said Andrzej Wasilewski, Krzysztof’s promoter, afterwards, while being happy and smiling all around at the same time. “I guess it was a thrilling fight, a memorable one. But I also think that Danny Green’s clash was more nervous and Krzysztof was closer to his defeat against the Australian. This time, his cut played an important role in the fight. Hadn’t he been cut so early, Rakhim would have barely lasted to the middle”.
Being asked about Wlodarczyk’s next plans, Wasilewski said nothing is resolved or pre-planned right now. What about a unification fight? “You know it would have been great but the WBC doesn’t appreciate such fights”.
In his fifth defense of the title, the champion got a very deserved and hard-fought win against a willy challenger. Once being considered to be a home boy and a lucky winner of controversial decisions, Wlodarczyk has scored three serious wins in his last three fights and should be considered as one of the best (if not the best) champion in the cruiserweight division. Rakhim Chakhkiev, on the other hand, has to make a very serious investigation to find some certain changes both in his game and in his camp. He proved he had a warrior’s character and a punch to go with it but also showed little-to-none flexibility, a great share of amateurishness, and also raised serious questions about his punch resistance.
In the main supportive bout of the night, Russian cruiserweight Andrey Knyazev (8-0, 3 KOs) scored a workmanlike twelve-round unanimous decision over rugged Azerbaijani import Anar Mammadov (6-1). Knyazev was an aggressor throughout a whole fight but Mammadov was game and also tried to frustrate Knyazev with a small portion of showboating. He was punished for that in the ninth, when Knyazev dropped him twice, but managed to last till the final bell. Scores were: 120-106, 120-107 and 118-108 – for the Russian, who acquired a vacant PABA cruiserweight title during the process.
Elio Rojas, a former WBC featherweight champion, was first scheduled to be added to the list of bouts but it was scratched from the list yesterday. The entire show was co-promoted by DRS Promotions and Felix Kluch.
Svetlana Kulakova (7-0, 1 KO) UD 8 Susanna Radovanovic (1-13)
Ali Bagautinov (1-0) UD 4 Anton Bekish (5-6, 4 KOs)
Ilya Rolgeyzer (1-0) SD 4 Igor Pylypenko (3-15-2)
Ekaterina Izotova (1-0) UD 4 Yana Lyashko