KAZAN--Nigeria went 2-0 against Russia as 2008 Beijing Olympics heavyweight gold medalist Rakhim Chakhkiev saw his short IBO cruiserweight title reign ruined after a short but damaging left hook, thrown by former (and ne-e-ew!) IBO (and also former WBO Interim) champion Ola Afolabi. The end came at 1:44 of the fifth round of a fight, which was turning into Chakhkiev's favour before that moment.
There were very certain doubts in Chakhkiev's ability to overcome Afolabi coming into the first defense of his green belt, he had won against Junior Anthony Wright in May. While undoubtedly skilled (as every Olympic boxing champion is) and powerful (24-1, 18 KOs coming into this fight) he was also vulnerable (knocked down several times and stopped by Krzysztof Wlodarczyk being dropped three times down the road) and had stamina issues before that.
In his last fight, which took its place in September, TBRB #6 rated Chakhkiev was dropped twice and barely edged limited Brazilian fighter Hamilton Ventura over eight rounds.
Despite all those symptoms Team Chakhkiev chose to go on with the IBO title defense against a very experienced and very durable opponent in TBRB #7 Ola "Kryptonite"Afolabi.
The start was good for the Russian. He was as aggressive as usual, threw punches in bunches and used every opportunity to attack his foe. Afolabi, 35, also rated #10 by the IBF, took his time, defended himself well. However, Chakhkiev's pressure was partially successfull as he landed his share of clean shots to clearly win the opener.
The pattern was just the same in the second round, and that was a road to limbo for the IBO champion, as he spent way too much energy during his attacking surges. However the Russian was also avle to cut Afolabi on his left eye with what was an accidental headbutt. Chakhkiev, 32, wisely opted to walk off the third round but his stamina was gone nevertheless.
Afolabi gradually turned more aggressive in the fourth, though Chakhkiev's offense has probably got him that round too (BoxingScene had it 39-37 after the fourth).
WBC #3, IBF #4 and WBA #1 Chakhkiev (24-2, 18 KOs) faced a different version of Afolabi, the UK-born and US-based fighter of the Nigerian origin in the fifth. Almost immediately Afolabi landed a right hand but also slightly pushed Chakhkiev, who went down rather hard but referee didn't rule it as a knockdown.
Chakhkiev, however, was already gone by that time. He tried to hold on but Afolabi was smooth and calm. He forced Chakhkiev in, hit him hard with a right hand, and then landed a short clockwise (almost 180 degrees) left to drop Chakhkiev down for the count.
Chakhkiev seems to have his pro career on the brink of the downfall. Afolabi (22-4-4, 11 KOs), on the other hand, seems to be right back to the cruiserweight elite.
DURADOLA SHOCKS KUDRYASHOV
A high-octane thrilling shootout between two extremely hard cruiserweight punchers ended in a major upset when referee Jay Nady stepped in to prevent Russian Dmitry Kudryashov (18-1, 18 KOs) from taking any more punishment dealt to him by Nigerian Olanrewaju Durodola (22-2, 20 KOs). Durodola, 35, is a new WBC Silver cruiserweight beltholder, while highly rated Kudryashov should come back to the basics in search for a new steam and further ring education.
WBC #4 Durodola's nickname is the "God's Power". He tried to showcase it right from the opening bell, which was a risky move while fighting an immensely powerful banger, who has stopped all of his opponents, including two first-round kayos against such names as Juan Carlos Gomez and Francisco Palacios. Durodola's starting pressure was well felt by the Russian but he withstood it without any issues. Then a major left hook, thrown by Kudryashov found its spot, and immediately placed the Nigerian on queer street. The Russian went in for kill. Kudryashov, 30, landed several very crisp blows, rocking Durodola more than twice, including a stinging left blow to the liver. It lloked at that time that Kudryashov's God had seemingly more power than his Nigerian counterpart.
But it was a wrong impression.
WBC #2, WBA #4, WBO #5, IBF #8 and, more importantly, TBRB #9 rated cruiserweight chose to bang freely in the second round but Durodola turned back the tide, firstly surviving this deadly pressure, and then coming right back at the Russian. Kudryashov was on the receiving end of non-stop, thrilling exchanges in the midst of the second stanza. Both continued winging but Durodola's punches were far more frequent, and Kudryashov was forced to use his flawed guard for the survival. Durodola took advantage of the moment and continued landing big punches. Kudryashov was then pinned to the ropes, ate several hellacious power shots and was in groggy condition, when Jay Nady chose to wave the fight off.
Time of stoppage was 2:29 of the second round of the biggest victory of Durodola's less-than-stellar career.
Dmitry Bivol, 24, did what real prospects should do. The heavily talented Russian took a solid test in the fifth fight of his pro career and passed it with flying colours by annihilating dangerous Brazilian import Jackson Junior (19-5, 17 KOs) in four very one-sided rounds. Bivol looked much better against the Brazilian than his countymen Vasily Lepikhin, Egor Mekhontsev (both scoring close decisions) and Rakhim Chakhkiev (who was rocked several times in his fourth-round stoppage of Junior).
Bivol, half-a-Kyrgyz and half-a-Ukrainian, looked a complete package from round one. Mixing power shots with light punches into explosive series, showing unusual angles when needed and moving lighly on his toes he started to deliver beating to Junior, 29, from round one. The Brazilian, knowing he has dynamite in his gloves too, tried to open up in exchanges but Bivol was faster and tighter than his opponent, avoiding majority of the counters and taking the rest on his guard. Junior continued to miss in the second round, while Bivol used his superior command of the ring to dominate the Brazilian. With just twenty seconds remaining he sent Jackson Junior down after a prolonged combo with an accent on a hard right hand.
In the third Bivol was more measured and calm, playing with his opponent and hardly getting anything back. In the fourth, the Russian talent finally got back to work and continued to do damage with increased tempo. Finally, Jackson Junior decided to make a risky move at a close range and paid a price by going down after a picturesque right counter by Bivol. He got up but indicated he could go no more. Time was 1:59 of the stanza.
Bivol (5-0, 5 KOs), a former amateur star and Russian national champion, acquired a vacant WBA I/C light heavyweight title and is expected to be found in the next WBA ranks. Fighting mostly in shadows of unified champion Sergey Kovalev and highly regarded prospect/contender Artur Beterbiev, he is quickly establishing himself as the third stellar Russian fighter to enter the light heavyweight mix. Bivol is already looking far less amateurish than 2012 Olympic gold medalist Mekhontsev and arguably shows more versatility than Beterbiev, being a fighter to look after very carefully.
Chechen welterweight Viskhan Murzabekov (12-0, 6 KOs) has kicked off the televised part of a huge night of boxing in Kazan, Russia, with a bang. Murzabekov, 25 and nicknamed "Little Tyson", crushed Ugandan journeyman Solomon Bogere (13-3-2, 10 KOs) in three rounds to acquire a vacant IBO International 147lb title.
Murzabekov of Kurchaloi has been steadily increasing his level of opposition since the start of 2014. Against Bogere he pressed the action early on, tasted the limits of his foe, and then started to do damage in round two. Bogere was down at the end of the round after a sudden left hook to the jaw and had difficulties getting up. Murzabekov didn't waste any time in the third, firstly sending his opponent down with a liver shot and then ending matters with a brutal left hook to the head that sent the Ugandan to the canvas very hard. Time was 1:20 of the round. Bogere is 0-3, while fighting in Russia and Ukraine.