By Alexey Sukachev (ringside)
Photos: Evgeny Solodov
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On Thursday night, two time Russian promoter of the year German Titov staged his biggest tournament in 2009 so far, bringing world class professional boxing to Moscow for the first time in ten months. A world financial meltdown surely took its toll on the Russian boxing community, but Titov was able to arrange a well packed card with a number of title bouts, several nice looking young prospects, competitive opposition for them, and huge attention of the Russian media, both paper and electronic. Though there were empty sits at “Dynamo” sports arena in Krylatskoye district, the vast majority of those, who had come to see the action, were quite thrilled and touched by the fights.
In the main event of the evening, highly regarded Russian cruiserweight contender Grigory Drozd (32-1, 24 KOs) retained his WBO Asia Pacific and PABA titles (WBC ABCO belt wasn’t reportedly at stake) and became the first ever to stop ultra durable American banger Darnell “Ding-A-Ling Man” Wilson (23-9-3, 20 KOs) inside the distance, when the latter chose to retire after the tenth stanza. According to the PBFR and PABA supervisor Andrey Chirkov, the result will go into record books as the TKO 11 because the time of the rest period between rounds is being formally added to the next round by the rules of the PBFR.
Drozd, 29, started the bout carefully, trying to keep his distance and avoiding wide hooks and swings of the shorter Wilson. The Russian fighter used his jab to bother the hard punching American, 34, and pin him to the ropes. Drozd also began to land his trademark combinations with an accent on the right cross from the outset, bringing several power shots together. Though blocking some attacks and ducking low from the others, Wilson took a punishment in a slow but steady pace. He just wasn’t able to find neither Drozd’s head, nor his body. Whenever he hit the Russian with his power shots, which was a rare case in the first four rounds, the Prokopyevsk native (and now Moscow dweller) took it well, just shaking his head and grinning at his foe.
Things turned around for a moment in the beginning of the fifth stanza, when Drozd, seemingly feeling he can end the fight at any time, broke his tactics in favor of a close range brawl, which was exactly what Wilson had been looking for. The American puncher got the better of several heated exchanges in the center of the ring; Drozd having a dazed and surprised face. The Russian, however, didn’t let his opponent capitalize on that by jumping backwards to the safe distance. Wilson, on the other hand, lost his momentum by throwing wild but missing left swings till the end of the round.
In round six, the Ding-A-Ling Man started to show the signs of fatigue. The kayo artist was looking for pauses in his already slow tempo, and low activity reflected in him taking more unnecessary blows, especially to the head. Wilson was showboating, talking to photographers and asking Drozd to deliver more, but that just didn’t seem like funny crowd pleasing tricks; rather a desperate attempt to encourage himself. “The Pretty Boy” Drozd was bouncing on his toes, scoring measurably but with increasing frequency. The seventh round was all Drozd again, while Wilson’t right eye began to shut due to the accumulation of punches.
In the eighth stanza, the already dirty clash started to heat up in a bad way. Seeing no chance for a legal victory, Wilson started to complain to referee Victor Panin and use some barely legal tactics of hitting his opponent behind the head, especially in clinches, and punching with his head. The American fighter was finally deducted a point after a few warnings and conversations with the referee for illegal use of the head. In round nine, he once again was penalized a single point for the rabbit punching. It’s worth noting that the local hero wasn’t an angel as well, receiving a number of warnings for pushing his foe down, punching while in clinches and pressing Wilson with his shoulder.
The fight was rapidly turning into an ugly foul fest and the tenth round was the epitome of that. Both boxers preferred to throw illegal blows, rather than legal. Many of Wilsons punches were below the beltline or behind the temple of the head. Drozd wasn’t an angel either, punching his rival with one hand while holding him with the other. The dirty combat resulted in three penalty points being subtracted from the scorecards in the tenth: two – for Wilson, and one – for Drozd. Another effect was a constant booing from the crowd, which was visibly disturbed with the latest part of the fight.
With his right eye virtually shut, barely standing on his feet after losing last amounts of the energy and taking a horrible punishment, Darnell Wilson took the advice of his cornermen and went across the ring to congratulate Grigory Drozd on a victory immediately after the end of the round. A huge win for the WBO #1, WBA #2 and WBC/IBF #5 cruiserweight in the world; the first premature loss for Wilson, who is now 0-3 in his last fights. Drozd, on the other hand, while showing a major improvement since his 2006 loss to Firat Arslan and proving he is fully ready for another shot at title, should be delivering his A-game throughout the whole contest and not going alongside his emotions.
“I’m very happy with the win,” said Drozd afterwards, “But, frankly speaking, I was boxing at 60% of my real abilities. I can perform even better. Also, the courage and durability of Darnell Wilson can’t be surpassed or overestimated. He showed a real heart by taking this amount of punishment. The first half of the fight was very dangerous for me, because Wilson was fresh and fast. I intentionally preserved my energy to explode in later rounds and it turned out to be a great decision. As for the world title opportunity, I’m ready to deliver. Bring me the champions! I’m ready for them!”
An eight round bout between two undefeated Russian light heavyweights : Vasily Lepikhin (7-0, 4 KOs) and Roman Simakov (6-1-1, 4 KOs) for the vacant Baltic Boxing Union 175lb belt was hidden in the midst of the card. However, the all action slugfest became the real gem of the night and an obvious front runner for the fight of the year here in Russia so far. This reporter was honored to take his tiny role in producing the fight, being the BBU supervisor of this event.
Reigning Russian light heavyweight champion Lepikhin, 24, is a tall (officially 6’3’’ but visibly 6’4’’ if not higher) stylistically sound counter puncher, while his opponent is a shorter take-no-prisoners come-forward banger with a solid build and considerable menace in his punches. Simakov, 25, went right to it from the starting bell, throwing all types of punches and cornering Lepikhin near the ropes. Simakov was punching hard, leaving no doubt in his bad intentions, while Lepikhin, nicknamed “The Professor”, was mostly covering but without any bob-and-weaving which resulted in him being seriously rocked a few times. In round two, Lepikhin didn’t start to move until he was shouted at by his father and his coach. But when he finally began to move sharper, the result was immediate as Simakov started to miss with his lead right hand while taking some blows in return. In the midst of the round, Lepikhin landed a short and seemingly weak right hook to the body, which surprisingly almost doubled Simakov up. The end of the round was in Professor’s favor as he seriously wobbled his opponent but failed to stop him early.
In round three, Lepikhin finally found his rhythm, circling around rugged Simakov and battering him with all kinds of punches. When Simakov finally pinned him to the ropes, Lepikhin threw a picture perfect right uppercut to the head, which had Roman down for the count. Being considerably dazed, Simakov somehow survived till the end of the stanza.
Rounds four and five were all Lepikhin’s as he outslugged and outpunched his opponent. It seemed that both fighters had the same caliber of ammunition, but Lepikhin’s ability to take the punch was a bit higher than that of Simakov. Nevertheless, Simakov never stopped delivering bombs even though his face was quickly turning into a bloody mask.
Round six was even, but in round seven another turnaround approached, when Lepikhin began to show signs of erosion. Simakov, catching his second wind, had some success in this stanza, and both fighters went toe-to-toe during the last round, which saw the excited partisan crowd on its feet encouraging both boxers.
At the end, Evgueny Gorstkov, who scored the fight 75-76 in favor of Simakov, was overruled by Victor Panin (78-74) and Nikolay Puchkov (77-74), both of whom saw Lepikhin as a winner. A rematch between two exciting fighters can produce even more fireworks in the closest future.
WBO #6 Belarussian featherweight Andrey Isaev (21-1, 7 KOs), 29, was forced to dig deep but finally found a missing link in his pugilistic system to retain the WBO Asia Pacific belt for the second time after a hard fought unanimous decision over Thai import Chaiyong Sithsaithong (17-5-3, 14 KOs). The Asian fighter showed remarkable poise, making surprising improvements since his one sided losses to Filipino Z Gorres and another Titov fighter Vyacheslav Gusev.
Both fighters were boxing in furious tempo, throwing major punches and aggressively trying to finish their work inside the distance. Sithsaithong, 28, was down in round two after a fast combination by Isaev, whose only loss was on cuts to the world-ranked 130lb Brit Kevin Mitchell. The Thai import came back in round four, suddenly rocking Isaev, and after a series of punches, flooring him to the canvas. Both fighters fought on even terms for the next two rounds but then Isaev started to take the fight over, showing a world class technique sporadically and scoring at will at the end of the fight. All three judges saw it in favor of the Belarussian: 118-108, 118-109 and 117-110.
24-year-old Russian lightweight Dmitry Ganiev (10-0-1, 4 KOs) added an interim version of the WBO Asia Pacific belt to the currently owned PABA 135lb title with an easy third-round TKO over unwilling Thai Sapapetch Sor Sakaorat (14-6, 9 KOs), 28.
The Asian guest was never in the fight, doing almost nothing to bother Ganiev, who realized his opponent had no chance at all no earlier than in the second round. The first round was pretty cautious as both fighters did little to thrill the crowd. After the break, Ganiev started to increase his punching tempo, throwing multiple combinations. In round three, the Thai fighter was surprisingly down at the end of the first minute after a light combination by Ganiev. He easily beat the count, but was down moments later after a wicked left hook to the body by the Russian fighter. He once again was able to stand up; however, the bout was surprisingly stopped by referee Victor Panin on the advice of the doctor. The Thai boxer showed no signs of any injury, and was ready to continue physically, but not mentally. The stoppage came at 1:57 of the third round.
Pro debuting 2008 Beijing Olympic super heavyweight bronze medalist Vyacheslav Glazkov (1-0) got an easy nod over hugely overmatched 31-year old German based Turk Ozcan Cetinkaya (15-6-1, 9 KOs) but failed to impress in his first clash at paid ranks. Glazkov, 24, was by far faster and busier than the virtual no hoper Cetinkaya, but his style was too amateurish and raw as he kept throwing light combinations in the same tempo and not using his uppercut at all. At the end all scores were 40-36 in favor of the Ukrainian heavyweight, but it’s too early to say much about his prospects.
28-year-old heavyweight banger Magomed Abdusalamov (5-0, 5 KOs) had never heard the bell, ending the first round, before. He is still to hear it after his fifth first round KO of hugely overmatched and undersized Uzbek cruiser Sherzod Mamajanov (6-9, 2 KOs), 29. The fight was stopped at 1:40 after a devastating combination by Abdusalamov, who is promoted by Yuri Fedorov Sports Lab.
Moscow based Georgian Georgy Kevlishvili (11-0, 3 KOs), 28, survived the toughest test of his career so far, after scoring an eight round unanimous decision over rugged Thai banger Saichon Satornpitak (10-1, 5 KOs), 26. Satornpitak, hardly a boxer but rather a converted Muay Thai specialist, proved to be a tricky, awkward southpaw with poor technique and huge punching power. Fighting for the first time outside of his native land, Satornpitak had some problems in the beginning of the fight, but as soon as Kevlishvili, despite public advices and his corner shouts, changed his stance, the Thai fighter started to find a spot for his powerful left hook. In round four, Satornpitak exploded with a thunderous left hook, which had Kevlishvili down and almost out. He continued the bout on wobbling feet and barely made it to the end of the round. In round five, the Thai fighter tried to connect with his best punch once again but was unsuccessful. From round six it was again Kevlishvili, who dictated the flow of the fight though without his usual confidence. Fightnews scored it 77-74 for the local hero.
25-year old featherweight Sahib Usarov (12-0, 6 KOs) outpointed 41-year old Ukrainian grizzled veteran Rakhim Mingaleev (27-60-1, 8 KOs) over six work-man-like rounds.
A number of honored guests were in attendance, including up-and-coming middleweight contender Dmitry Pirog, who had just brought Kofi Jantuah to school in Germany. Pirog, looking fresh without any bruises and/or black eyes, will be reportedly back in the ring in September, headlining another Titov installation in Moscow.