Ekaterinburg, Russia -2016 Rio bronze medalist Vladimir Nikitin suffered his second career setback (as a pro) with an eight-round draw against determined Kazakh import Yerzhan Zalilov. Scores were: 77-75, 75-77, and 76-76 - in what was a very spirited two-way contest.
Nikitin, 30, was fighting in Russia for the second time since losing a hyped rematch to a much touted Irish prospect Micheal Conlan, one weight division heavier. Conlan claimed he was robbed in a quarterfinal of the Rio Olympics. This time Nikitin was competing as a super bantamweight and put up his trademark pressure and dog's perseverance. He also showcased his limits: not-so-tight guard, fragile skin and little power to match his desire.
Zalilov, 27, was coming off two consecutive losses and needed rehabilitation and a regroup. However, he was boxing calmly and confidently, showing no signs of urgency. He was setting traps to Nikitin, who was lucky to oblige but also bring multi-punch combos with him. Those punches troubled Zalilov at times but he wasn't about to give up his line. He was able to produce a swelling under Nikitin's left eye, and also made Vladimir's face swollen red.
Both combatants gave their all, and Nikitin had arguably done more in the closing round but it wasn't enough to earn him a win. Nikitin is now 4-1-1, while Zalilov is 11-3-2, 5 KOs.
Tajikistan native Asror Vokhidov (9-0, 5 KOs) acquired his first career belt with a one-side beating of South African Thato Bonokoane (10-4-3, 7 KOs), which ended at 1:48 of the ninth round, when Vokhidov sent Bonokoane down, and the latter's corner threw in a towel.
Bonokoane, former Gauteng champion and RSA title challenger, was no match to the Tajik, who was an accomplished amateur with a close (16-21) loss to Naoya Inoue (Inoue was 18, and Vokhidov was 16 at the time). He was moving backwards, while the Tajik fighter used various combinations to trouble Bonokoane time and again.
The South African was just trying to last it till the final bell, and he was rather close to accomplishing this feat but failed just short, when Vokhidov landed several hard punches in the ninth round to send the African down. None of the punches seemed to contain enough power to rock Bonokoane, but it was accumulation of punches that got the job done for Asror Vokhidov. The Tajik fighter is now a proud owner of the previously vacant WBO Oriental super bantamweight title.
Super bantamweight Evgueny Lyashkov, who by no way is a feared puncher, made a certain splash by becoming the first fighter to stop usually durable Ukrainian import Oleksandr Yegorov, a former WBA Continental titlist and European title challenger. Time of stoppage was 2:33 of the seventh round.
Yegorov was never down in the fight, but he wasn't active enough. He was mostly on the defensive, grabbed his foe on the inside, held him much and produced very little offense in return. Lyashkov was putting constant pressure, and Yegorov's stamina started to wane rapidly after the midpoint. His legs were stiff, and he was also losing his balance at times. After yet another combo by Lyashkov, referee Victor Panin has no other option but to wave it off.
Lyashkov, 21, scored just the second stoppage of his young career and improved to 8-1, 2 KOs, while Yegorov has lost his fourth straight and goes down to 20-5-1, 10 KOs.
Flamboyant rising light heavyweight prospect Vasily Voytsekhovsky (6-0, 3 KOs) continued to impress with a quick blowout of Anatoly Belyakov (3-2-3, 1 KOs). Voytsekhovskiy, stronger of the two, trapped Belyakov at the ropes early into the first and started pounding. His opponent did his share of damage too but Vasiliy's power was unmatched. Late into the round, both fighters threw left hooks simultaneously and landed them cleanly. The difference was that Belyakov was going down for the count, assisted by yet another blow - this time a straight right. Time of stoppage was 2:38.
Light welterweight Oganes Ustyan (5-0, 2 KOs) scored a workmanlike unanimous decision over always-ready, tough career journeyman Alexey Tukhtarov (4-17-6, 3 KOs) in a scheduled six-rounder.
Yet another debutant Aznaur Kalsynov (1-0) overcame tough resistance of the Uzbek import Ikhtiyor Mirzaev (0-2) to get a deserved decision victory over four rounds.
Skilled Kyrgyz amateur Abdurahman Abdurahmanov (1-0) made a successful transition to a pro game with a unanimous decision over rugged professional loser Evgueny Tershukov (0-12) over four rounds. Tershukov showed seasoning, grit and durability to make Abdurahmanov work for his first victory.
Tajik debutant Bakhodur Yakubov (1-0) used his amateur background to frustrate and outbox Victor Vezhlitsev (0-2) over four rounds with a majority decision. Bakhodur is a brother of the world-rated super featherweight Mukhamadkhuja Yakubov.