By Alexey Sukachev
Kazan, Russia - During his first rise in the cruiserweight ranks (right after a long four-year break in his career) and some years after that, Denis Lebedev was considered a murderous puncher - a reputation he proved numerous times against such fighters as Alexander Alekseev, Roy Jones Jr. and Santander Silgado (just to name a few).
In recent year this aura of fright and danger around Lebedev has partially shaved off: he lost to Guillermo Jones, who took an enormous share of punishment (although proved to be PEDs after the fight); Pawel Kolodziej was overmatched in comparison to the Russian; and Yuri Kalenga went the distance.
If there were any doubts - Lebedev addressed them tonight in his classic style by knocking out previously undefeated Nigerian Lateef Kayode (21-1, 16 KOs) in eight rounds.
WBA #3 Kayode, 32, was a controversial figure coming into this fight being involved into two no contests beforehand. The first time he was held to a draw by veteran Antonio Tarver but the former light heavyweight king failed a drug test after the fight. Kayode failed as well - not a drug test but something just as important, ruining his partnership with Showtime after offensive post-fight quotes.
Two years later Kayode got a chance to win a piece of the heavyweight crown but was annihilated in one round by powerful Cuban Luiz Ortiz, who was also found using illegal substances after the fight.
TBRB #2 Lebedev (28-2, 21 KOs) was making the fourth defense of his black belt.
Both combatants started the bout cautiously, calculating each other, trying to taste limits of one another. No one got an advantage during the first three rounds. Punches were rare, accurate, and clean shots were also numbered.
However, in round four Denis started to find a room for his left hand against the orthodox fighter. Kayode held his right glove too low, visibly charging Power (his nickname) for a single bomb which never landed. The Russian bomber wasn't pressing the action but his punches landed effectively on the Nigerian's chin in rounds four and five. In the sixth, both boxers were slightly lethargic but Lebedev wasn't fatigued at all, and Kayode slightly slowed down.
In the seventh round Lebedev continued to hit his opponent more often. During the second half of the round, Lebedev missed with a right hook but connected with the right follow-up to the glove of Kayode, sending him down. Veteran referee Steve Smoger issued a count to a mighty displeasure of the Nigerian.
But it wasn't a fluke.
In the eighth, there were two different fighters in the ring: a confident and fresh Lebedev and shaky, tired Kayode. Lebedev connected with a major left hand during the first minute of the stanza, sending Kayode down. The Nigerian was hurt but continued fighting, and soon went down for the second straight time after a following combination by Lebedev. He got up again but the end was near.
The Russian continued his assault and landed a massive barrage of unanswered shots, forcing Smoger to intervene at the end of the second minute of the eight.
Lebedev, 35, got his trademark stoppage win, while Kayode got his first official career loss.