By Alexey Sukachev
Fresh and willing Dmitry Bivol, WBA #1 rated contender and a holder of the WBA interim light heavyweight title, made a successful defense of his title and showed his best skills in doing so. Bivol, 26, retained his belt against brave but very limited WBA #13 New Zealander Robert Berridge (29-6-1, 21 KOs), stopping him in four one-sided rounds.
Bivol, 6'0'', a former amateur star from Saint Petersburg (but originally born in Kyrgyzstan to a mixed family), immediately applied his methodical approach. He has never rushed in but he has never stopped pressing his foe either. Bivol used his jab as a measurement tool and quick right hands to keep Berridge, 32, honest. The real damage, however, was inflicted with his left hand, which rocked the 5'8'' Zelander twice in the first. The dismantling process continued in round two, as Bivol kept his southpaw opponent slightly wobbled, easily avoiding his left counter shots or blocking them with his right glove. A couple of hard body shots almost put Berridge down at the end of the round.
Round three turned into a nightmare for the guest fighter despite a good start: Berridge struck with a left hand to the whiskers of Bivol, forcing Russian to stumble back for a moment. Bivol immediately came back and started throwing bombs, finally putting Berridge on his knees on accumulation of punches rather than a single blow. He got up but was soon down again after another combo of Bivol at the very end of the third round. In the fourth, the Russian continued stalking his opponent, who was dazed and had little to respond to Bivol's aggressiveness. Finally, Bivol put Berridge down again, his right eye bleeding profusely. Berridge looked like a beaten man, but the stoppage was issued by a ringside physician who signalized to referee Gustavo Padilla that the cut over the right eye was too deep to let it go.
With the win Bivol improved his record to 9-0, 7 KOs. In his earlier interviews one of the best (if not the best) Russian prodigies revealed he was planning to fight up to four times in 2017. One fighter, which he admitted he is looking at with special attention is the Welshman Nathan Cleverly (30-3, 16 KOs), who hold a regular version of the black belt. Cleverly won it last October against veteran German Juergen Braehmer, and Bivol indicated that he is one opponent that he is particularly interested in.
Big Russian heavyweight Sergey Kuzmin (9-0, 6 KOs), who was 2010 European amateur champion, is now a holder of the WBC Eurasia Pacific Boxing Council, following a fast blowout of Czech Vaclav Pejsar (11-4, 9 KOs) in two rounds.
Kuzmin, 29, who weighed in at 251 lbs, almost 20 heavier than Pejsar, was quite lazy but his punching power and physical strength were the differencies. In the first, he took some time to adjust himself to the opponent. Pejsar, 32, was advertised as a capable opponent, having fought numerous times as a kickboxer but in fact he was in the different league with Kuzmin.
Kuzmin became more aggressive in the second round. Pejsar was first down after a punch to the side of the head, which hasn't been ruled as a knockdown by referee Daniel van de Viele. Kuzmin incresed his pressure and sent Pejsar down once again with a combo. Pejsar failed to beat the count. Time was 2:58 of the second round.
Two undefeated Russian featherweights collided for a vacant Russian 126lb title and... the belt remained vacant after a ten-round draw. Both Nikita Kuznetsov and Evgueny Smirnov spoilt their professional records and dropped down to 8-0-1, 2 KOs, and 6-0-1, 3 KOs, respectively.
Nikita Kuznetsov, a 22-year old local native, was an aggressor for the bigger part of the fight but Smirnov countered him well despite putting himself willingly to the ropes and to the corners of the ring. Kuznetsov attacked viciously but he lacked punching power to do real damage though he opnened a cut of Smirnov's left eye in round seven. Smirnov was quite precise and sound defensively but not active enough to really put Kuznetsov in trouble. Both fighters fought vehemently, whith Smirnov taking its mid, and Kuznetsov being better in the opening and in the closing rounds of the fight. Final scores were: 95-95, 93-97 - for Smirnov, and 96-94 - for Kuznetsov.
Rising featherweight Valery Tretyakov (9-0, 3 KOs) continued his ringside education with a tougher-than-scored ten-round win over Filipino import Eugene Lagos, who dropped to 11-3-2, 7 KOs, afterwards.
Lagos was aggressive early on, throwing huge punches to the body of Tretyakov, adding jabs when needed most. Tretyakov was mostly defensive in the first but got to a big start in the second, moving well and adding power punches to his frequent jab. In round three, Lagos threw a major blow to the lower section of Tretyakov's body, forcing him to take five minutes off. Lagos was warned but no points were deducted.
In the midst of the fight, Tretyakov re-adjusted himself to the fight and fight style of his opponent and started do his share of damage. Lagos was dangerous but slowly faded despite being successful from time to time. However, rounds nine and ten were in favour of the Russian, who dominated his Filipino opponent. Afterwards, all three judges saw it unanimously for the Russian: unrealistic 100-90, 98-92, and 98-92, while BoxingScene had it 97-93 - also for Tretyakov.
In an upset, local fan favorite Shuhrat Jalilov, a Tagil-based Tajik, suffered his first defeat with a close loss to Tyumen native Grigoriy Nikolaychuk.
Nikolaychuk, 25, much higher than his opponent, worked from the outside, trying to establish his jab and to add uppercuts and left hooks on the occasion. Much more aggressive but smaller Jalilov pressed forward to trouble his opponent. He was successful in doing so, dropping Nikolaychuk hard in round two with a straight right hand. Nikolaychuk got up and started fighting back. He lost the next round as well but managed to find his rhythm to turn back Jalilov's attacks.
The 22-year old local Tajik did what he could to drop Nikolaychuk again but was more and more involved into trench warfare and middle range that favoured the latter. Jalilov fought valiantly up until the end but Nikolaychuk's finesse and technique was too much for Jalilov to overcome. Two judges awarded the fight to Nikolaychuk: 97-92 and 95-94, while the third one scored it 95-95 - for majority decision for Nikolaychuk (3-1, 2 KOs), while Jalilov drops down to 5-1-1, 2 KOs.
Recent debutant Zurab Kvitsiani (2-0, 1 KO) went on with his career intact after an easy dismissal of veteran trialhorse Vadim Sufianov (6-14-1, 2 KOs). Kvitsiani, whose opening bout wasn't that easy, decked Sufianov with a body shot midst into the first, then forced a stumble and a subsequent knockdown in an exchange. The end came at 0:58 of the second round, when Zurab's left hook to the liver forced Sufianov on his knees and out on the countdown. It's to be noted that Sufianov, who started his career 5-0-1 before going 1-12 after that, was fighting for the first time in six years.
Sergey Vorobiev (2-0, 2 KOs), a younger brother of Grigory Vorobiev, who debuted on the same card, made a very quick work of incompetent debutant Alexander Obukhov (0-1), dropping him twice en route to a stoppage win at 1:46 of the first round.
Uzbek welterweight Botirjon Akhmedov kicked off his pro career with a bang, dropping incapable Dmitry Lavrinenko (2-20, 1 KO) twice in the first, once in the second and twice in the third round en route to a dominant win at 2:18 of round three. Akhmedov is best known under the name of Batukhan Gozgec. He represented Turkey in 2016 Rio Olympics, winning two before being defeated in a quarterfinal.
A big night of boxing in Nizhny Tagil, Russia, opened with a specific attraction in what was planned to be a boxing match between two debutants. Ravil Zorbaev, highly emotional with zero competence in boxing, immediately jumped onto fellow debutant Grigoriy Vorobiev, winging wild shots and looking exactly like your stereotype streetfighter wannabe. Vorobiev looked surprise, easily avoided a windmill of punches and soon put Zorbaev down with a short right. Zorbaev got up, went berserk and soon found himself on the canvas again after a counter combo of Vorobiev. He got up shaky and was soon stopped on his feet by referee Roman Petrov. Time of stoppage was 1:58 of the 1st round. Vorobiev is now 1-0, 1 KOs, while Zorbaev is 0-1.