Russia - WBO/WBA #5 and IBF #15 rated ljunior middleweight Magomed Kurbanov (22-0, 13 KOs) triumphed in an even fight with former WBO light middleweight champion Liam “Beefy” Smith (29-3-1, 16 KOs), now rated #2 by the same sanctioning body, to capture a vacant WBO International light middleweight belt and a possible contest with WBO #1 rated Russian-Australian Tim Tszyu.
Kurbanov prevailed with a unanimous decision: 117-112, 115-113 and 115-113.
The first round and a half were very cautious, both fighters trying to feel each other out and to understand what to do next. Smith, 32, was first to explode during the last minute of the second, the Russian fighter smothering his offensive.
The British fighter, supported by his three brothers and served by famed Russian cutman Dmitry Luchnikov, was playing the aggressor during the first half of the fight. Kurbanov, 25, negated his offensive tactics, using shoulder rolls, Ali shuffles and some other distinctive defensive moves. Some of Smith’s blows landed cleanly… but a slow-mo replay showed the majority of them were either avoided or smothered by subtle moves of the fighter nicknamed The Black Lion.
Kurbanov himself was landing between the Brit’s blows. He was effective in forcing Beefy to at least pay attention, or - more to it - respect to his punches. His biggest success came at the end of the sixth when several right hands in succession rocked Smith and forced him to the corner. Meanwhile, rounds three-to-five were mostly even but Smith looked a bit better in general due to his offence-mindedness and punch output.
Rounds seven-through-nine were mildly in Brit’s favor but rounds were tight, except for the ninth, which was a huge one for the road fighter. He landed several hard blows to move Kurbanov backwards and forced him to hold on. Referee Joerg Milke issued several warnings to both combatants but failed to deduct any points.
When it seemed Smith can get it late, Kurbanov caught some second wind in the tenth, specifically with a right uppercut and a subsequent four-punch combo. In the eleventh, Smith stumbled again after the right-left-right combo by The Black Lion. Both the tenth and the eleventh rounds were in Kurbanov’s favor. The twelfth was close both fighters showing signs of fatigue but the local warrior being gassed out more.
BoxingScene was in agreement with two judges, having it 115-113. A draw could also be a possible outcome, while 117-112 score looked to be off the mark. Both Liam Smith and Magomed Kurbanov has nothing to be ashamed of. They offered a true fistic battle for the local fans, and both were loudly cheered afterwards.
Next in line for the winner can be a showdown with the Hall of Famer’s son, Tim Tszyu, who is ranked #1 by the WBO. The winner of the latter would be a primary option for whoever comes as the winner of the July 17 unification between WBC/WBA/IBF champion Jermell Charlo and WBO titleholder Brian Carlos Castano.