By Alexey Sukachev
Ekaterinburg, the jewel of Ural, is getting ready for one of its biggest cards in history on December 15. There will be no major title fights – as was the case several years ago when then-WBO middleweight champion Dmitry Pirog competed in the biggest city nearside the virtual border between Europe and Asia.
Instead of making a single high-profile attraction, local promotional stalwart German Titov, now partnering his son Alexey, who continues the dynasty, will put up a well-packed show with no less than nine perfectly matched-up fights.
The star of the show is undeniably top Russian heavyweight Alexander Povetkin, whose name is making headlines again – and in a positive way – after more than a year and a half of mostly continuous disaster.
Last week, the former WBA heavyweight champion saw his WBC suspension shortened to a year, which he has already missed (if taking into account WBC-sanctioned cards). Povetkin is now rated #5 by the WBA, #7 by the WBO and #12 by the IBF.
The 38-year old Athens super heavyweight gold medalist, his record saying 32-1, with 23 KOs, will take on WBO #2, IBF #4 and WBA #6 Christian Hammer (22-4, 12 KOs), a Romanian fighting of Germany in the defense of his WBO international heavyweight title.
The fight will also be an eliminator for the WBO belt, now held by Joseph Parker of New Zealand.
Povetkin won his last two fights during a period of doping-related issues, albeit against second-tier opponents in Johann Duhaupas (KO 6 in December 2016) and Andriy Rudenko (UD 12 in July 2017) – instead of scheduled opponents Deontay Wilder and Bermaine Stiverne.
Hammer, 30, is 15-1 since losing back-to-back fights to Mariusz Wach and Taras Bidenko in 2010, but will be considered an underdog on Dec. 15. Hammer is 5-0, 2 KOs, since losing to Tyson Fury in February 2015. In his most recent outing, Hammer barely got past 40-year old Algerian Zin Eddine Benmakhlouf on a close unanimous decision.
If, for any reason, Hammer fight falls off, the World of Boxing, which co-promotes Povetkin has a viable replacement already set in ex-cruiserweight multi-time title challenger BJ Flores (34-3, 21 KOs). Flores is fairly active recently, going 2-0, 1 KO, in 2017. He is rated WBA #11.
Another eliminator will see Russian super bantamweight Evgueny Gradovich in the IBF eliminator versus previously undefeated Australian Terence “TJ” Doheny.
WBA/WBO #5 and IBF #6 Gradovich (23-2-1, 9 KOs) is a former IBF featherweight beltholder, which he held from March 2013 to May 2015, making four defenses in process. The 31-year old slugger, nicknamed “El Ruso Mexicano”, showed his flaws and also a considerable level of degradation following his bitter loss to Lee Selby. Since then, Gradovich has barely got past four journeymen, getting mildly questionable majority decisions against 13-8-1 Jesus Galicia and 23-6-1 Deiner Berrio, and split decisions versus totally unheralded Brazilian Aldimar Silva (19-8) and Nicaraguan journeyman Eusebio Osejo (28-17-3), while losing badly against a world-class opponent (TKO 4 to Oscar Valdez in April 2016).
Opposing Gradovich is Australia’s TJ Doheny, also 31. Doheny (17-0, 13 KOs) has fought all but two of his fights in his native Australia, having slowly built his record since his pro debut in 2012. His biggest win took place in 2015 against ex-WBA flyweight king Denkoasen Kaovichit of Thailand (63-5-1 at the time). Doheny dreams of avenging his compatriot and former IBF 126lb champion Billy Dib, who firstly was dethroned by Gradovich and then stopped in a rematch.
The third twelve-rounder will see highly-rated light middleweight Magomed “The Black Lion” Kurbanov (12-0, 9 KOs), 22, in the first defense of his WBO International 154lb belt against battle-tested Japanese hard-hitter Akinori Watanabe (also known as Ushiwakamaru Akibei), 32, a former OPBF welterweight champion, best known for his wins over Prawet Singwancha and Masa Bakirov. His record reads 35-6, 30 KOs. WBA #6, IBF #9 and WBC #13 Kurbanov, who was in not-so-successful hunt after recently retired Shane Mosley this spring and summer, is also ranked #1 by the WBO. The WBO title might become vacant in December after ring legend Miguel Cotto’s farewell fight versus Sadam Ali. Cotto is the present holder of the belt.
Three ten-rounders will make the mid-part of the card. One will see local fan favorite Evgueny “Happy Gilmore” Chuprakov (18-0, 10 KOs) in the second defense of his WBO I/C 130lb belt against Pablo Manuel Ojeda (14-3, 10 KOs) of Argentina. Chuprakov is ranked #2 by the WBO and #14 by the IBF.
In a battle of unbeaten, Russian lightweight Pavel Malikov (12-0, 5 KOs), ranked #8 by the IBF and #13 by the WBA, will look to past his troubled past behind him in a bout against Colombian upset artist Deiner Berrio (20-0-1, 11 KOs). Berrio scored the win of his career this May, when he defeated Russian Rustam Nugaev on points also in Ekaterinburg.
WBO #6, WBA #9 and IBF #11 cruiserweight Yuri Kashinskiy (14-0, 13 KOs) is a wrecking ball, while fighting at home. He will try to prove it by taking on dangerously punching American Al Sands (20-2, 18 KOs) in a battle of two punchers.
Young Tajik Mukhammadkhuja Yakubov (9-0, 6 KOs) will warm-up against overly experienced Filipino journeyman Jaime Barcelona (40-61-1, 10 KOs) in an eight-rounder. Yakubov will look to make 2017 the best year of his life so far (he is going 4-0, 3 KOs in 2017). Barcelona, 39, is coming off a huge upset win over 36-7-2 compatriot Eden Sonsona.
Another interesting collision between Russian and Filipino citizens will take place at lightweight, where this year debutant Zaur Abdullaev (6-0, 4 KOs) will clash against Robert Gonzalez (27-3, 17 KOs),
Opening the card is heavyweight Gasan Gimbatov (3-0, 2 KOs), who has just stopped 7-1 Anton Dryuchin in one. Gimbatov collides with Belgian kayo artist Roberto Secola (6-0, 6 KOs) in an interesting match-up.
The show will take place at the DIVS Arena and will be officially arranged by the RCC Boxing Promotions.
As is a usual case for the RCC Boxing, the Dec. 15 card will be supported by a small-packed show at Dom Pechati in Ekaterinburg on Dec. 12, which will feature the rest of the roster. There will be nine pairs of boxers, three of a considerable interest.
Former Ukrainian light middleweight champion Eduard Skavinskiy (7-0, 5 KOs) will be pitted over ten against former Russian 154lb champion Vaginak Tarmazyan (12-3, 1 KO). Alexander Sharonov (9-1-2, 4 KOs) clashes against another Ukrainian Alexander Ivanov (12-3, 8 KOs) over eight. Kyrgyz Akzhol Sulaymanbek (8-0, 4 KOs) will be the last who wishes to add Belarussian Andrey Isaev (30-11, 9 KOs).