Batyr Akhmedov didn’t get the win he felt he deserved in his title fight with Mario Barrios, but ultimately landed one major victory from the ordeal.
The World Boxing Association (WBA) has ordered an immediate title fight rematch between the pair of junior welterweights, with their ruling being handed down less than two weeks after their thrilling first fight. Barrios scored two knockdowns—the latter coming late in the 12th round—en route to a disputed decision win over Uzbekistan’s Akhmedov in their “Regular” title fight on Sept. 28 in Los Angeles, California.
Barrios prevailed by scores of 114-112, 115-111 and 116-111, though most observers felt the bout should have been awarded to Akhemdov, a 2016 Olympian for Turkey but who now lives in Russia and trains in Indio, California. The near-capacity crowd on hand voiced its displeasure with the final outcome, boos drowning out the in-ring announcement from Hall of Fame emcee Jimmy Lennon Jr.
An official protest was filed by Akhmedov’s team, which includes manager Vadim Kornilov and Russia-based promotional outfit World of Boxing. A review of the fight conducted by independent judges appointed by the WBA resulted in the sanctioning body determining that a rematch was in order.
The ruling was handed down on October 10, with the two sides granted a 30-day free negotiations period to each terms before the matter is sent to a purse bid hearing.
“It was very important for us to ensure that Batyr was given the opportunity to prove that he deserves the world championship title,” Kornilov said in a translated statement. “We look forward to this fight and we hope that justice will prevail this time.”
The first fight—which served as a supporting bout on the Fox Sports Pay-Per-View event headlined by Errol Spence’s thrilling split decision win over Shawn Porter in their welterweight title unification bout—saw San Antonio’s Barrios (25-0, 16KOs) jump out to a strong start, sweeping the first four rounds including a 10-8 frame in round four when a left hook forced Akhmedov’s glove to touch the canvas for an official knockdown.
The sequence served as a wakeup call for Akhmedov, who seized momentum at the midway point and appeared to be well in control heading into the championship rounds. Barrios—who suffered visible cheekbone damage—provided the bout’s most dramatic moment, dropping the previously unbeaten southpaw with a straight right hand late in the 12th and final round.
It turned out that the fight was wrapped up even prior to that point. Barrios won by a score of 116-111 on the card of Canada’s Jeremy Hayes. Nevada’s Tim Cheatham had it one point closer at 115-111, while California’s Zachary Young had the action 114-112, the knockdowns proving to be the difference between a draw and a Barrios win on his card.
None of the three cards were deemed acceptable by Akhmedov’s team, who submitted a press release shortly after the bout condemning the verdict.
“Everything was done to help this kid get the victory that he did not deserve,” Kornilov insisted at the time. “We greatly appreciate all the fans, which unlike the judges, don't care who the A or B side is and where each fighter is from, the arena knew who won the fight and so did most of the experts all over the world that wrote about this fight on social media, and they unanimously put justice ahead of nationality and other aspects.”
The comments did not at all sit well with the event handlers, especially considering the measures taken to ensure a level playing field.
“We both agreed before the fight on the selection of the judges,” promoter Tom Brown, whose TGB Promotions presented the PPV event told BoxingScene.com. “A formal request was made to the California State Athletic Commission for the referee and a maximum of one judge come from (California), with the other two judges being truly neutral to the event.”
A joint agreement submitted by TGB and World of Boxing called for one judge to hail from outside the state of California and one judge from outside the United States.
“If you think about it (geographically), half the officiating team was in favor of Akhmedov,” Brown notes, as Young and referee Jerry Cantu both hail from California, the same state where Akhmedov trains. “Barrios is from San Antonio, none of the judges are even close to his hometown. The one judge from California (Young) had it the closest but still had it for Barrios, as did the other two.
“Disagree with the decision if you want, but to take away from a great fight and a great event just isn’t right.”
The insistence from the other side is simply to run it back for the sake of clearing the air.
“We have always defended and will defend the positions of our boxers and welcome this decision by the WBA,” said Andrei Ryabinsky, who heads World of Boxing. “I want to emphasize that we have no complaints about Mario Barrios. He is a real fighter.
“I’m sure that the guys will please the audience with another great fight and let the strongest win.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox