Maxi Hughes backed up his win over Jono Carroll in August by snapping the unbeaten record of Viktor Kotochigov, dropping the Kazakh prospect on the way to a unanimous points decision in the ten-round lightweight top-of-the-bill in Dubai on Friday.
The 30-year-old, who was twice beaten at British title level, is on an incredible run since turning 30 this year, and the win will elevate him into the top 15 of the WBC after collecting their “international title”.
Carroll had been expected to beat him and so had Kotochigov, who had his sights set on moving into contention for a world title shot. Hughes found him an easy target with his left hook, though, as he dropped Kotochigov and rocked him repeatedly thoughout.
Hughes produced a big upset by outpointing Carroll in August and he started well here. After a slow first round, Hughes landed a good left hook early in the second that seemed to wobble Kotochigov and followed it up with a good right hook moments later. Kotochigov recovered well, though, and re-established himself behind a strong left jab.
However, Hughes had seen he could hurt the Kazakh and, late in the third, he landed with a peach of a left uppercut that almost took Kotochigov off his feet as he went crashing down on his backside.
Kotochigov took the eight count on one knee but was under instant pressure as the Englishman pushed for the finish. He came close to it too, as he trapped Kotochigov on the ropes and landed two good hooks before the referee jumped between them. It turned out he had mistaken the ten-second warning for the bell, though, as he waved Hughes back in. only for the real bell to save Kotochigov.
Hughes had another good round in the fourth, as he caught Kotochigov with a long left and while the Kazakh tried to take back the initiative, Hughes was finding his regularly with the left hook.
Things turned in the sixth round, though, as Kotochigov seemed invigorated, forcing Hughes around the ring and when Hughes threw a wild right hook, Kotochigov countered with a hard right that caught the Yorkshireman flush.
The seventh was another good one for the Kazakh, although, in the eighth, he left himself open as he attacked Hughes on the ropes and was rocked again by the left hook. Suddenly, Kotochigov, who had swelling around the left eye, was backtracking again, although he braved it out and was trying to take the fight to Hughes towards the end of the round.
Hughes boxed the last two rounds on the retreat, as Kotochigov came after him without being able to put too much pressure on him, let alone threatening the stoppage he needed.
All three judges went for Hughes, by scores of 96-93, 97-92 and 95-94.
Former amateur star Hovhannes Bachkov, from Armenia, made a successful professional debut but was taken the full eight rounds by Samuel Gonzalez.
The Armenian was a two-time World Championships medallist as an amateur, as well as a former European gold medal-winner, and facing Gonzalez, a 32-year-old with a 22-6 record, in his professional debut was a serious statement of intent.
He did plenty to show he can go a long way in the paid ranks, not least plenty of grit to continue to force the pace in the later rounds.
Gonzalez emerged with plenty of credit too. He soaked up plenty of hard shots, but he had his own moments of success, although Bachkov seemed to shrug off his best punches.
The decision was unanimous and wide, Bachkov winning every round in three identical 80-72 scorecards, which did not do justice to Gonzalez’s effort, although it was a fair reflection on the action.
Bachkov looked completely at ease in the pro ranks from the start, pressing home a heavy jab and raising the pace in the last 30 seconds, as he landed two eye-catching left hooks.
Gonzalez, a Venezuelan living in Italy, took the fight to Bachkov in the second round, forcing the Armenian onto the back foot. But Bachkov stayed close and punished any miss from Gonzalez, whipping in sharp hooks from close range.
The cleaner shots were coming from Bachkov, but Gonzalez pushed him all the way. By the fifth round, the action started to slow and the pair were standing toe-to-toe. Bachkov continued the upper hand but Gonzalez stuck with it. In the last minute of the eighth round, the Armenian tried to push for a stoppage, landing a hard left hook and following it up with a flurry with Gonzalez pinned on the ropes, but he was made to hear the final bell.
Faizan Anwar, the unbeaten Indian super-welterweight, record a fifth professional win with a six-round points win over JR Mendoza.
Anwar towered over the Filipino and dominated from the opening bell, switching southpaw hooks well to head and body and ensuring Mendoza would never get too ambitious.
The Filipino had a point deducted for holding on the fifth round, meaning all three judges scored it 60-53.
Mohamed Salah Abdelghany snapped the unbeaten record of Blane Hyland, claiming a unanimous points decision in a six-round bantamweight show-opener.
Liverpudlian Hyland, whose dad, John, boxed at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, had won his first three bouts but never came to terms with the aggressive and often wild attacks of Abdelghany, from Egypt by way of Dubai, who bustled Hyland out of his rhythm and used his strength up close. The roughest round for Hyland was probably the fifth, as he tried to press the pace but was caught by a series of heavy right hands. Two judges scored it 58-56, with one scoring 58-57.