By Cliff Rold
Sands Casino Resort, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania - Fans were treated to as good a near shutout as one could see at Light Heavyweight as 26-year old Isaac Chilemba (22-2-2, 9 KO), 174 ¾, of Johannesburg, South Africa, cut and outworked 31-year old Russian Denis Grachev (13-3-1, 8 KO), 175 ¼, of San Diego, California, over ten rounds for a unanimous decision. The referee was Shawn Clark.
The quicker Chilemba established the advantage almost from the outset and it carried through the first five rounds. Grachev pressed forward but, more often than not, was beaten to the punch. Late in the fourth, he appeared to be in a little trouble but the man dubbed “Drago’s Son” kept his feet and pressed on. A cut under the left eye was a sign of the action and it was easy to wonder if perhaps a corner save might be in order.
Grachev held that argument at bay with a solid effort in the sixth, going to the trenches and forcing Chilemba to work hard. In the seventh, Grachev stayed on top of Chilemba, digging with the right hand while Chilemba worked his jab and kept on with nice lefts across and underneath.
The final minute of the eighth round featured excellent two-way action. Grachev landed several lefts hands and came forward, invigorated. Chilemba responded with a closing flourish to keep the edge but fans had reason to cheer both men. There was little of the same in the ninth, Grachev unable to find another serious rally as Chilemba put on a clinic for most of three minutes.
There would be no miracle in the final round either, Chilemba holding serve en route to scores of a shutout 100-90 and 99-91 twice.
Chilemba was respectful of Grachev’s effort in the post-fight interview. “We had a very good preparation. We knew he was going to come hard; we knew he was going to come tough.” Asked about a future that inched closer to a WBC mandatory and possible crack at lineal World Light Heavyweight Champion Adonis Stevenson, Chilemba said, “I’m ready for whoever is the best at Light Heavyweight because to be the best you have to beat the best.”
Chilemba, who entered the bout rated #2 by the WBC, wins his second straight after a loss to Tony Bellew in May 2013. Grachev, who entered rated #7 by the WBC, drops his third contest in four starts.
In a battle of hometown welterweight rivals, former IBF welterweight champion Kermit Cintron (35-5-2, 28 KOs) won a ten round unanimous decision over Ronald Cruz (20-3, 15 KOs). All three judges scored it 96-94.
The card was broadcast on NBC Sports as part of its “Fight Night” series, promoted by Main Events.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]