By Alexey Sukachev
It wasn't easy but in the end, IBO cruiserweight champion Kevin Lerena (21-1, 9 KOs) of the South Africa remains the only obstacle for the joint Russian/Ukrainian 200lb domination, marked by Olexander Usyk (WBC/WBO, Ukraine) and Murat Gassiev (WBA/IBF, Russia).
To prove that Lerena overcame the tough resistance and significant punching power of another Ukrainian Roman Golovaschenko (19-2, 17 KOs) with a unanimous decision over twelve rounds.
The fight was main event of the evening, staged by promoter Gennday Kravchenko at the Sarhadci Olympic Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Originally from Nemiriv, Golovaschenko, the 30-year old banger, fights out of Weissenfels, Germany. But he is no stranger to Baku, as he fought there twice before, albeit with mixed results.
WBC #4 and IBF #6 Lerena, meanwhile, was making the second defense of his belt in his second trip to Europe, and it was the second consecutive time he was fighting against a Ukrainian.
The fight itself was mostly fought in close quarters. Aggressive, physically strong Golovaschenko was doing his best to tag Lerena, 26, but the South African retained his composure under fire.
The first couple of rounds were, however, in the Ukrainian's favour. Lerena, his defense tight and his hands up, covering his chin, was also found to be bullet-proof (and punch-proof too), as he took numerous shots from Golovaschenko well. Roman also tried to go to Lerena's body but with mixed results.
Lerena got more offensive-minded in round three, uppercuts immediately being defined as his primary weapon. Golovaschenko also appeared to be vulnerable and a bit soft in his chin, wilting under moderate power of the South African. Lerena effectively avoided exchanges and preferred subtle moves to avoid clean shots at the close, while hitting back in spurts.
The fifth round, at its end, proved to be a crucial point of the fight, when Golovaschenko, arguably leading in the round, was decked after a right-left combo of Lerena. He got up but appeared to be shaken - more mentally than physically.
The midst of the fight was Lerena's, while Golovaschenko showed remarkable will and character to carry on and to show his best in the closing rounds of the fight. Both boxers were hit big in rounds ten and twelve, but neither got the upper hand.
At the end, all three judges had it unanimously: 115-112, 115-112 and (spuriously as the voice of a ring announcer was not well heard) 115-112 again.
After three consecutive wins over the same opponent in Elvin Garayev, bantamweight Rauf Aghayev (24-6, 11 KOs) made it a bit different - outpointing late sub Spartak Shengelia (3-4, 2 KOs) of Georgia over four. Shengelia gave fits to Aghayev early on but was dominated during the last two rounds.