By Alexey Sukachev
Last Friday night, WBC cruiserweight titlist Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (48-2-1, 34 KOs) made the fifth defense of his green belt, which turned into one of the most thrilling fights in his lengthy career. Wlodarczyk, dropped once in the third and badly down on the scorecards (with one judge having him outclassed with 34-40 score after the fourth), rallied hard in the very midst of his clash against Rakhim Chakhkiev (16-1, 12 KOs) and stopped the previously undefeated Olympic gold medalist within eight rounds, scoring four knockdowns in less than two rounds.
Several notable names in Eastern European boxing shared their thoughts on the reasons behind Chakhkiev’s loss and Wlodarczyk’s wins to Russian media outlets.
Artur Grigoryan, ex-WBO lightweight champion (19 defenses) and Chakhkiev’s head coach:
“We were very glad to hear that Rakhim was so dominant on the judges’ scorecards. He should have followed his line, continued to do the same. Fatigue was no option. As a part of the training camp, Rakhim was able to work easily with three fresh opponents in a row, boxing four rounds with each of them with just small breaks. This time the only opponent was enough for him to lose his game. It looks like we have failed to find a common sense in the camp; maybe we have different points of view there. I don’t want to put forward any excuses but a fighter should listen to his coach in the corner. I guess psychology is the main problems. It’s in his head, not in his body”.
On what he told Chakhkiev after the first knockdown, “I told Rakhim not to stop moving, not to remain stationary under fire. I urged him of Wlodarczyk’s plan to come up strong, to finish him off later in upcoming rounds. There’s been a great number of ways how he could overcome this deficit and win the bout despite all these taken shots, by using his ring intelligence and his endurance”.
On a rematch, “Chances are Rakhim will look better in a rematch. But first things first – Wlodarczyk should grant this rematch to us in the first place. There were no injuries; the knockout wasn’t damaging or career-breaking. We should recover from this tough loss and work harder in the gym. I guess we have many things to change there”.
On a stoppage, “It wasn’t an early stoppage by any means. Referee did a great job – he gave Rakhim every chance for recovering, allowed him to continue fighting after three knockdowns and stopped the fight when it was due. Hadn’t he stopped it at that point I would have thrown in a towel to prevent this fight from a more miserable end”.
Fiodor Lapin, coach of Krzysztof Wlodarczyk:
“I didn’t worry for Krzysztof very much at the beginning of the battle. Just as I thought, the result was decided in the second half of this championship clash. It would have been much more interesting and much harder for us, had Rakhim started to move more elusively and sophisticatedly after the great first round, trying to outbox Wlodarczyk, not to outpunch him. But he continued to work as a bully. Surely, the guy can hit but at that time Krzysztof knew very well what his punches were all about. Surely, the start was a bit risky but then the fight followed a pattern, we had drawn beforehand. Krzysztof relied too much on his right hand but I knew the final touch will be his left hook. There was a moment, when my pupil had two cuts over his eyes, and he experienced a hard blow to the midsection but it didn’t matter much. I continued telling him to wait just a bit before the fight scenario will be finally set”.
“At the beginning of the fight, Chakhkiev surprised me with the angles he gave to Krzysz, with a variety of his offensive arsenal. That was interesting. Had it been not Wlodarczyk but someone else, Rakhim could have ended up being a new champion. But Krzysztof has a beautiful defense, and his punches are just as crisp as Rakhim’s. Surely, Chakhkiev has a puncher’s chance – just because he hits so hard.”
“When Krzysztof was so much behind on the scorecards, I didn’t worry at all. I knew the fight would be decided later. I noticed Rakhim was putting his all in every punch, trying to knock Wlodarczyk out with each of his punches. I knew it wouldn’t last for long. If not a great character of Chakhkiev, the fight could have been decided much earlier”.
Dmitry Pirog, ex-WBO middleweight champion:
“I think Rakhim was too quick in accepting this title opportunity. It’s obvious he didn’t have enough experience in pro boxing. Chakhkiev hasn’t transformed yet – unfortunately, he is more of an amateur boxer than a pro pugilist. He didn’t use a fast series of light punches, trying to put his entire power in each shot. Those series would have been very beneficiary for him in terms of preserving his stamina and energy. Rakhim used only hard shots but they missed precision.
And he wasn’t ready for any of the surprises from Wlodarczyk. Everyone, who had watched the Pole’s fights, knew he was coming up hard down the stretch. Like he did in Green fight, when being far behind on the cards, he had stopped his opponent in the eleventh round. It looked like Rakhim was trying to get the job done in the first half. When his plan failed, he was an easy job for the champion”.