by Alexey Sukachev
Russia - WBO #8, WBA #10 and IBF/WBC #14 light middleweight Magomed "The Black Lion" Kurbanov (12-0, 9 KOs) should have fought ring legend Shane Mosley (firstly in May, then tonight) had Sugar Shane not retired this summer. Kurbanov fought unheralded and relatively unknown WBO #5 Czech Stepan Horvath instead, and Horvath almost turned into Mosley for Kurbanov, at least dropping him once. Kurbanov enjoyed a final victory - with a close unanimous decision - but it was by far harder than anyone expected.
Kurbanov, 22, is usually a stalker, a slugger-puncher, who looks for an immediate finishing touch and throws each punch with conviction. This time he was mostly lethargic and allowed aging Horvath, twelve years his senior, to do his work. And Horvath did his job well. He peppered Kurbanov with his jab, added power punches in short stints, and his footwork allowed the Czech boxer to avoid Magomed's outbursts, which were slower than usual.
Kurbanov was a bit better though. When he landed his blows, Horvath was sometimes reeling, staggering around the ring. However, Kurbanov's percent of landed punches was lesser than in his previous fights, and his overall damage wasn't enough to stop Horvath in his tracks. Kurbanov's corner gave a clue to his inactivity between rounds, when his head coach indicated the plan was to go the distance. The plan had been slowly realizing with somewhat mixed success, but Kurbanov almost paid a price for his lack of energy and inner fire in round eleven. Horvath made a sidestep and landed a shot at the back of Kurbanov, which had him down for a second, and it was (erroneously) ruled a knockdown.
The final bell saw Horvath running around the ring in joy, and disappointed Kurbanov speaking to his corner in dismay. All three judges had it for the Russian: 115-113, 115-112, and 116-111. He acquired a vacant WBO International light middleweight title, while Horvath drops down to 18-6, 8 KOs. BoxingScene had it 116-111 - also for Kurbanov.
Don't bite off more than you can chew, says an old proverb. It's identical in both English and Russian, and maybe also in Tajik, which by the way is a variety of Persian, and thus also an Indoeuropean language. Nevertheless, 23-year old super featherweight Shavkat Rakhimov from Ekaterinburg, Russia, by way of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, tried to repeat this bite-chew trick... and was successful in doing so - according to the official judges, who awarded him with a controversial unanimous decision over Emanuel Lopez of Mexico... and thus also with the IBO 130lb world title.
Rakhimov started his career in 2015 and dominated nine of ten of his opponents (save for Kazakh Mirzhan Zhaksylykov). He was scheduled to fight Argentinean Fernando David Saucedo before that but 27-year old Mexican Lopez of Comitan, Chiapas, came as a late sub, fighting out of his native land for the first time.
Lopez immediately brought fight to Rakhimov, who utilized lateral movement to avoid fast Mexican's combo. Lopez was landing more than Rakhimov but he was also missing a lot. The Tajik was mostly working with his jab, landing overhand right hands on some occasions. Rakhimov was dropped down but seemingly without a count in the second round. Lopez continued to control the fight amd to (at least) look a boss over the next several rounds. Rakhimov's success was limited.
In the mid rounds, Lopez lost some steam, allowing Rakhimov to fight his way back to the fight. Rakhimov landed several nice-looking flurries in rounds seven, eight and nine, while Lopez came back with vengeance in the next couple of rounds. Both boxers did their best to edge one another in the final round, and it looked as if Lopez had pulled it off. However, two judges gave it to now 11-0, 8 KOs, Rakhimov with scores 116-112, while the third one awarded a almost criminal 118-110 - also to the Tajik fighter. Lopez drops down to 27-7-1, 12 KOs.
When you can't find it at the upper floor, maybe it's time to pay attention to the lower one? The positive answer to the certain question was received by Russia-based Tajik Mukhammadkhuja Yakubov (9-0, 6 KOs), who scored his fourth win this year with a monstrous left hook to the body which put Filipino Earnie Sanchez down in pain early into the fourth. Pain which he failed to sustain in time to beat the referee count.
Sanchez, 25, is a familiar name for Russian fight fans. He gave a tough fight to future world title challenger Sergey Lipinets three years ago before being stopped in the eighth round of their battle in Moscow, Russia. That was Filipino's first stoppage loss, and two more followed it before his fight with Yakubov, 22.
The Tajik was aggressive from the starters, landing bombs, but Sanchez gave hims fits with his well-taken, precise shots. The Filipino had some success in the third round and tagged Yakubov hard early into the fourth. However, shortly after that Sanchez lost his conentartion for just a second or two on his way in and paid a very high prie for that... which came with a liver shot. Sanchez is now 17-10-1, 8 KOs.
21-year old Uzbek slugger Ziyavuddin Toxirov used to stop anyone who was put against him... until he met Russian light welterweight Zaur Abdullayev in a eight-round battle of undefeated contestants. And another stoppage was recorded but this time in favour of... Abdullayev, who knocked out his opponent at 2:24 of the sixth round.
Toxirov, smaller but faster of the two, was very aggressive from the opening bell. He jumped in connecting with impressive flurries, while Abdullayev was mostly defensive for the first two rounds. Toxirov spent enormous amounts of energy but still looked fresh after the first couple of rounds. However, his combinations didn't trouble a lankier Russian, who began to land jabs and body shots of his own.
Toxirov showed signs of fatigue at the end of the third, and his frenetic storm of aggression calmed down to light wind in the fourth. Abdullayev, 23, returned fire and looked poised in doing so. Finally, Toxirov opened up with a left-handed shot but ate a massive left hook before he landed this punch. The Uzbek went down and was unable (and maybe even unwilling) to get up in time. Toxirov record goes down to 4-1, 4 KOs, while Abdullayev improves his record to 6-0, 3 KOs.
Russian cruiserweight Yuri Kashinskiy was rated WBA #12, WBO #13 and IBF #15 but was still relatively untested coming into his fight with upset-minded and experienced American gatekeeper / fringe contender Garrett Wilson. The test has been passed brightly, albeit after some hard work made by the Russian, when Kashinskiy stopped Wislon in the ninth round to retain his WBO Oriental title and to improve his record to impressive 14-0, 13 KOs.
Kashinskiy was strained and overly careful in the opening round, while Wilson who scored his best wins in 2010-2012, played an aggressor, trying to stalk his foe. Kashinskiy started to throw more and to land with more conviction in the second round, finally scoring a flash knockdown with a left hook to the jaw. Wilson, 35, got up and continued an open warfare. Kashinskiy, a lankier and bigger of the two, kept the American mostly at a distant bay with his jab, landing power shots when needed. Stockier Wilson meant to land a frightful punch every time he went in but landed only a few.
Still Kashinskiy limited his offensive to single outbursts and jab fencing in the middle rounds before catching his second win in round eight. He began to land more in the eighth and continued to batter faded Wilson in the ninth finally prompting referee to call it off after another huge combo. Wilson is now down to 18-13-1, 9 KOs.
Rising heavyweight Gasan Gimbatov (2-0, 1 KO) scored an easy decision over durable Georgian opponent Tornike Puritchimiashvili (10-7, 5 KOs) in s scheduled four-rounder. Gimbatov was better in every department but the Georgian, who was stopped just once in his pro career, managed to go the distance again. No scores were announced but BoxingScene had it 40-36 - for the Russian fighter. Gimbatov is 2013 and 2014 Russian national champion.