IBF #8 and WBC #9 ranked lightweight Zaur Abdullaev (13-1, 8 KOs) was put on a brink of defeat and narrowly escaped an upset loss with a dramatic last-second knockdown of upset-minded Armenian challenger Zhora Hamazaryan (10-3-2, 7 KOs) in what was a very tight and close contest. Final scores were: 96-91 (Irakli Malazonia), 95-92 (Olena Pobyvaylo) and 94-93 (Juergen Langos) for Abdullaev, who was knocked down in round seven.
Abdullaev, 27, lost his bid for the WBC Interim belt to American prodigy Devin Haney in September 2019. He returned almost a year later, stopping fellow teammate Pavel Malikov in seven rounds. Hamazaryan, 24, who was winless for three years in 2018-2021, losing close decisions to Arslan Magomedov and (a controversial one) to Thomas Mattice, and getting draws against Sulaiman Segawa and Mattice in a rematch, scored an upset kayo of previously undefeated Dmitry Yun in January.
Abdullaev, a bigger and more muscular of the two, was a bit lethargic in the opening rounds and also lacked consistent jab to outpunch the Armenian. Hamazaryan did good job in breaking Abdullaev's pace with his crisp jab and he also didn't hesitate to land multi-punch combinations. The Russian fighter continued to pressure his opponent throughout the first half of the fight but Hamazaryan was landing better punches and they were well felt by Abdullaev. The Armenian was faster than his opponent and was looking better as a ring general.
The fight was virtually even by a mid-point as Abdullaev's pressure and occasional power blows started to take toll on Hamazaryan as well. Yet the Russian lacked body punches and didn't use his jab much thus becoming a stationary target for Abdullaev and not limiting his opponent's speed. A major turnaround occured in the seventh, when Hamazaryan landed a huge uppercut and then pushed Abdullaev down for a knockdown. The Armenian seemed to be on his way to an upset win. He tried to get the job done right down but Abdullaev weathered the storm. Miraculously, he got through without clinching and once again almost without any jabs.
Hamazaryan's chances got a serious hit the next round, which he was winning on the strength of his ultimate round surge and Andullaev's slightly wobbling condition, when he was deducted a point for continuous spitting of his mouthpiece.
The fight was up for grabs at the start of the tenth round. Abdullaev, sensing he could be trailing on the scorecards, threw everything he could. Hamazaryan didn't went into a full defensive mode but continued to retaliate with zeal. Ultimately, he paid a price in a gunslinger's game, getting less in a heated exchange and then eating a monster right hand at the ropes. He went down crushingly with just seconds remaining in the round, which saved the fight for Zaur Abdullaev.
Mukhammadkhuja Yakubov (17-0, 9 KOs) retained his WBC International title for the fourth time, scoring a convincing ten-round unanimous decision over previously undefeated South African Lunga Sitemela (13-1, 7 KOs). Final scores were: 99-89, 99-90 and 97-91 - for the Tajik native, who fights of Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Yakubov—ranked by #5 by WBC and #8 by WBO—was fighting for the first time in over a year, when he scored a unanimous decisiov over former WBC super flyweight champion Thomas Rojas. Meanwhile, Sitemela has never fought outside of his native land.
Yakubov, 25, a sneaky southpaw counterpuncher, was cautious in the opening rounds, trying to find some weaknesses in Sitemela's defense. The latter mostly moved forward and winged punches but a majority of them hit air, not Yakubov. The Tajik fighter showed solid lateral movement and defense in the first and in the second rounds.
Sitemela, 29, continued to pressure Yakubov in the third but landed nothing of not. Fireworks started at the end of the round, when being cornered Yakubov suddenly connected with a smashing left hook, which sent Sitemel backwards on unsteady legs. Yakubov jumped after Sitemela and landed several blows but also missed much, when the South African landed a very hard right hand of his own, then pushing Yakubov down. Referee Juergen Langos didn't call it a knockdown, and the bell ended the round just after that. In the fourth, both combatants landed some big bombs.
In the wild fifth, Sitemela was one who threw punches, and he was also one who went down. The first time it was a left hand by Yakubov, which put the African fighter down, making him roll over his back. The second time it was a right hand, which has seemingly landed to Sitemela's mid section. However, in the sixth the South African had maybe his biggest round in the fight, connecting with an assortment of single shots and power jabs during the last minute.
Both boxers continued to fight hard in the closing rounds. Sitemela's punches were not so strong but he endured Yakubov's punches as well. The Tajik fighter landed more during the second part of the fight and looked a legit and convincing winner of it.
Tatyana Zrazhevskaya (11-0, 3 KOs) acquired her first major belt, overcoming much shorter but bulkier and equally determined Mexican veteran Estrella Valverde (18-7-2, 3 KOs) in ten two-minute rounds for a vacant WBC Interim bantamweight title.
The undefeated Russian worked as a counterpuncher, using her reach and height advantage over very short Valverde to land multiple combinations from distance. The Mexican failed to adjust, struggling to get inside without being hit way too much. Showing great courage and determination, she marched forward for entire ten rounds but her chances got scarcer with each fought round, and he was getting hit at will at the closing stage of the fight.
All ten rounds were virtually identical. Zrazhevskaya's domination was well reflected by the judges' scorecards: 100-90, 100-90 and 99-91. Yulihan Alejandra Luna Avila holds the full version of the title.
Former WBC Flyweight king Yuri Arbachakov received the WBC special recognition award afterwards, presented by the WBC supervisor Oksana Semenishina. Of Shor ethnicity, Arbachakov, who has built up his career in Japan, was a dominant player in his weight class during the mid-90's, going as high as to be ranked in top-ten of the mythical P4P rankings by the Ring. He held the green belt for five years in 1992-1997 and ended his career with a record of 23-1, 16 KOs, retiring after the lone (decision) loss in his last fight. He has well deserved this recognition.
Dmitry Khasiev (11-2-2, 5 KOs) of Vladikavkaz, Russia, continued his wrecking path as a boogeyman for RCC-promoted fighters by scoring his third consecutive win against them. Khasiev scored a TKO win in round five over Vladislav Krasnoshein (8-2-1, 2 KOs) in the quarterfinal round of the WBO junior lightweight tournament, which is also presented by RCC Boxing.
Khasiev engaged in close quarters collision with light-punching but determined Krasnoshein, whose only loss was off the hands of the third semifinalist Stanislav Kalitskiy. Krasnoshein tried to deliver the same heat this time around but Khasiev was just a notch better in every department, especially in landing short hard uppercuts at a close range. Khasiev, despite being cut in the opening rounds under his right eye, was continuously better than Krasnoshein, slowly dismantling the latter. In the fifth, there was nothing slow about Khasiev, who landed several very hard punches, culminating in yet another uppercut, which sent Krasnoshein crushing down, as another left hook landed when he was already falling back. There was no need in a ten count.
Stanislav Kalitskiy, originally from Kazakhstan and now fighting of Ekaterinburg, Russia, scored the most emphatic win of his career with a come-from-behind one-punch knockout of experienced veteran Pavel Malikov in their tournament quarterfinal clash. Kalitskiy was dropped down twice in round two and three before he delivered the great equalizer in the fifth round.
Both fighters were coming off losses in their recent fights. Kalitskiy, 23, was stopped in August 2020 by Khasiev. Malikov, who was once a top-ten rated fighter and who fought (and lost to) Daud "Cino" Yordan in the WBA lightweight eliminator three years ago, was stopped twice in his last two fights - by countrymen Zaur Abdullaev and Roman Andreev.
Kalitskiy was in attacking mode from round one, while Malikov was looking for the spots tried to land counter-punches on Kalitskiy's way in. After the even first, Kalitskiy began to slowly move Malikov back with his overall pressure in the second. Just as the fight seemed to go his way, Malikov, 35, caught the younger fighter, with an overhand right, and Kalitskiy was lucky the veteran fighter missed with a subsequent left hook.
In the third, Kalitskiy looked slightly better but then Malikov repeated a trick at the end, scoring with yeat another overhand right counter that dropped Kalitskiy down. The fourth was mostly even though Kalitskiy continued to deliver a bit more in regular exchanges than his opponent. In the fifth, Stanislav's scoring chances increased and Malikov started to eat more leather than before. Still the end came abruptly, when Kalitskiy (11-1, 4KOs) threw and landed a mejor right uppercut. Malikov went down as a heap of old, rotten leaves and stayed down for the count, issued by referee Semen Stakheev.
Time of stoppage was 1:00 of the fifth round. Malikov (16-4-1, 6 KOs) has lost inside the distance for the third consecutive time in a span of just seven months.
In the second tournament quarterfinal, upset-minded stylist Gaybatulla Gadzhialiev scored a road win over locally based Kyrgyz native Erzhan Turgumbekov (8-2-1, 2 KOs) with a majority decision over eight rounds.
That was a usual encounter between a slick, technically sound fighter (Gadzhialiev) and a pressure specialist (Turgumbekov). Turgumbekov threw more punches and was more aggressive overall, while Gazhialiev looked for the spots and exposed blemished in Erzhan's not-so-tight defense. The fight was close but the road fighter was a bit better in a majority of encounters. No fighter was hurt or rocked but Gadzhialiev's punches were mostly landing flush, producing extra effect for the judges.
After eight rounds, two judges awarded the bout to Gadzhialiev 77-75, while the third judge saw it a draw: 76-76. Gadzhialiev improves his record to 8-2-1, 3 KOs.
WBO #15 ranked Ruslan Kamilov impressed in a 6th round stoppage win over former title challenger Evgueny Chuprakov. The fight served as the first WBO tournament quarterfinal.
Kamilov, 32, is a relative rookie as a pro but had a storied, lengthy career in the unpaid ranks. Chuprakov, two years his younger, spent little time fighting as an amateur but owns a stoppage win over Kamilov way back in June 2011. Chuprakov entered the pro ranks several months later and built up a solid career, which culminated in the WBO super featherweight title challenge in December 2018, when he was stopped in six by Masayuki Ito in suffering his first career defeat.
Chuprakov started aggressively, often tagging Kamilov with fast combos. However his diminished reflexes were unable to protect him from counterpunches of the opponent. Kamilov landed several to scout the best way through Chuprakov's guard in the first. He began to deliver heat in the second, landing more telling blows and rocking Chuprakov with some serious punches that landed cleanly. At the end of the second, Chuprakov was dropped down after a one-two burst of Kamilov.
The beating went on in the third and in the fourth rounds. Chuprakov courageously fought back, tried to bring more offense to his game but was slowly getting dismantled by Kamilov. Ruslan used an assortment of punches, including both left and right hooks to the head, occasional uppercuts and right hands to the body. In the fifth, referee Semen Stakheev started to pay more and more attention to Chuprakov's conditions. In the sixth, Chuprakov was pinned to the ropes once again, tried to retaliate but ate four unanswered punches on his way in and wobbled a step back as Stakheev was waving the fight off.
Time of the stoppage was 1:27. Kamilov is now 10-0-1, 5 KOs, while Chuprakov drops down to 23-4, 12 KOs, and should carefully weigh-in his future options as the fight game endangers his health more than it brings benefits to him at this point.
Kamilov and Kalitskiy will now meet in the tournament semifinal round, while Khasiev faces Gadzhialiev on the other side of the bracket. The winners will then meet later this year for the right to earn a Top 5 spot in the WBO junior lightweight rankings.
Zoravor Petrosyan (11-0, 4 KOs) scored an eight-round unanimous decision over 21-year ring veteran Koos "Lambo" Sibiya of South Africa with a unanimous decision over eight rounds.
Petrosyan, 22, was two years old when Sibiya, now 39, started his pro career as a super bantamweight. The little fighter, nicknamed The Last Great Warrior, has seen it all but at his advanced age and with a huge disadvantage in both height and range Sibiya struggled to get close to Petrosyan, eating numerous punches in return. The Ukrainian utilized fast if not crips combinations to pepper Sibiya (23-15-5, 3KOs) from distance. The South African threw one punch at a time and was successful at times but both his power and punch output were by far not enough to slow Petrosyan down.