In a shocker of sorts, rising prospect Ali Izmailov announced his arrival at the upper tier of the cruiserweight hierarchy with a dominating ninth round stoppage of the world-rated contender Ruslan Fayfer. The scheduled ten-rounder crowned another installment of the KOld Wars series in Minsk, Belarus, produced by Al Siesta of Siesta Boxing in association with the Top Gym and other partners.
Izmailov, 27, had just four wins, coming in, but they included decisions over tough opponents in former two-time world title challenger Dmitry Sukhotskiy and once-defeated ex-prospect Sergey Ekimov.
WBO #6 and WBC #8 Fayfer, 29, on the other hand, was coming off his first career stoppage loss - to Alexey Papin in the WBC cruiserweight elimination in August, a fight he was handily winning until being knocked out by a fighter with superior punching power.
Izmailov, a native of Malgobek, Ingushetia, proved he had superior power over Fayfer too. After the confidence-building opening round, Izmailov started to land clean punches in the second. He rarely used jabs but he was solid in countering with his upper hand as well as landing his money shot - a left hook to the chin. One of those had Fayfer reeling at the end of the round, and down went Ruslan, but it was ruled a push by referee Vladimir Kovalenia.
As soon as Fayfer started to box instead of toe-to-toe exchanges, things got brighter for him in rounds three and four. Izmailov failed to land exclusively, though when he did Fayfer felt it through his entire body. Izmailov got back to basics and began to impose his will again in round five. He was doing it out of the backfoot, easily slipping Fayfer's punches and landing solid punches in return. Both combatants were excited enough to continue punching after the stop command.
The seventh round was big for the Ingush fighter, who landed at will, rocking Fayfer time and again, almost exclusively with his right hand. Fayfer was very resilient in staying on his feet but has hardly done anything other than that. Izmailov, on the other hand, took the eighth round off. In the ninth he continued his assaults, finally having him in big trouble late in the round and finally prompting the referee to save wobbly Fayfer from more punishment with several seconds left in the stanza.
With the win, Izmailov improves his record to 5-0, 3 KOs. Former Russian heavyweight titlist Fayfer drops down to 25-3, 16 KOs, and definitely needs some time to re-group.
In another upset, this time a minor one, undefeated British lightweight prospect Sean Fennell (7-1, 1 KO) ran into Belarussian journeyman Nadir Bakshiev (6-11-3) only to lose a close unanimous decision over six rounds. Bakshiev used his pro experience against various favorites and converted into some much needed adage over an unpolished young fighter.
Also, heavyweight Petr Romankevich (2-0, 2 KOs) stopped Iranian debutant Seyedmehdi Hosseyni (0-1) inside a round.