By Alexey Sukachev
Russia - Rapidly rising Russian light middleweight Magomed Kurbanov (11-0, 9 KOs) made an important step up with a classy dismantling of Lithuanian journeyman Virgilijus Stapulionis (27-5-1, 19 KOs) in nine rounds.
Both fighters engaged in a toe-to-toe combat early on. Stapulionis was the first one to suffer damage being dropped by what was ruled a push in round one. Kurbanov himself touched the canvas in the second - once again no count has been issued by the referee.
The turning factor was a huge cut over the left eye, suffered by the Lithuanian in early rounds. Stapulionis barely weathered a mid-round storm but his game deteriorated in closing rounds. Finally, in the ninth a totally winded Stapulionis went down three times - more due to exhaustion than anything else. Time of stoppage was 2:44.
Kurbanov was scheduled to fight Shane Mosley instead of the Lithuanian, but the fight was cancelled due to Sugar Shane suffering an injury.
Hitting (or being hit?) a rocky road, former IBF featherweight titlist Evgueny Gradovich (23-2-1, 9 KOs) barely edged unheralded WBA #14 Colombian Hugo Berrio (23-7-1, 14 KOs) with a majority decision in his super bantamweight debut.
The fight wasn't dead even but Evgueny's advantage was tiny, as the difference presented itself in single digits if not one to two punches in almost every round for both fighters. Rounds were similar, as both combatants rumbled in close quarters and at mid range which is exactly their preferable style. The decisive difference was punctuated by Gradovich's sudden turn to boxing in middle rounds.
Final scores were: 114-114, 115-114, and 117-111 - for WBO #11 Gradovich, who added Berrio's WBA I/C title to a vacant WBO I/C 122lb belt. Gradovich is now 4-1 in his latest fights with a crushing loss to Oscar Valdez and four close calls over average opposition.
Mikhail Alekseev (10-0, 4 KOs) of Russia defended his WBO Youth super featherweight title by overcoming tough resistance of Mexican import Salvador Briceno (8-2, 3 KOs) over eight rounds.
Lankier stylist Briceno was successful in earlier rounds by using his lengthy jab. As rounds went by, aggressive slugger Alekseev sapped his energy and forced Briceno to go into defensive mode in the closing stages of the bout.
Briceno was deducted a point in round seven for excessive dropping of his mouthpiece. Final scores were identical: 78-73 - for the Russian.
WBO #2 super featherweight Evgueny Chuprakov totally dominated Filipino import Eden Sonsona (36-7-3, 13 KOs) in five rounds to retain his WBO I/C 135lb title.
Chuprakov (now 18-0, 10 KOs) dropped Sonsona in round three with a couple of left hands to the head, then in the fourth after what was arguably a kidney punch. Sonsona was pummeled again in the fifth and finally turned his back onto the local hero, forcing referee to call it off at 1:31 of the fifth.
In on of the best local fights in 2017, super featherweight Shavkat Rakhimov (10-0, 8 KOs) overcame two hard right-hand-imposed knockdowns from Filipino Jimmy Paypa (19-4-1, 7 KOs) to score a knockout of his own, dropping Paypa with a huge left uppercut to the solar plexus.
Paypa got up in time but was halted by the referee to his major dismay. Time was 1:17 of the sixth, and Paypa was well ahead at the time of stoppage. Rakhimov of Tajikistan acquired a piece of the WBA minor regalia.
----------In a minor upset, rugged Russian veteran slugger Rustam Nugaev (29-8-1, 19 KOs) was soundly upset by previously undefeated yet untested Colombian Deiner Berrio (20-0-1, 11 KOs) over ten.
WBO #7 cruiserweight Yuri Kashinskiy (12-0, 11 KOs) successfully retained his WBO Oriental title against former interim WBA champion Valery Brudov.
Brudov (44-12, 30 KOs) has never went down in the fight but he was also unable to cope with Yuri's youth and power. His left eye was cut and troubled him all the time. After five one-sided rounds the veteran fighter chose to retire on his stool.
Lightweight Dmitry Ganiev (13-4-1, 5 KOs) continued his downward spiral, losing his third straight after coming off a five-year long hiatus.
Ganiev was stopped after five by recent debutant Zaur Abdullaev (4-0, 3 KOs), who scored his second win in three days. Ganiev was bloodied and dropped once in the third and once in the fifth before retiring on his stool.