By Alexey Sukachev at ringside
Izhevsk definitely isn’t the nicest place on the Earth in terms of its climate and shrouded location in the very heart of Russia, at the foothills of Ural Mountains. However, the Udmurt capital showed its class and hospitality in staging what was the first boxing promotion in the city over the course of seventeen years (flyweight journeyman Maxim Pugachev was the last one to get a victory here). Promoter of the show Vladimir Hryunov and local producer Rodion Obada delivered an interesting tournament, which has been well mixed with the beauty contest and musical performances. Unfortunately, the show named “Defenders of the Motherland” and held at Udmurt Circus on Monday night was somewhat marred with a yawning abundance of empty seats inside the arena despite a titanic effort of local organizers. However, those, who witnessed the entire promotion, were visibly delighted with the outcome of both boxing contest and a beauty contest, which has severely heated up the crowd. Two world-class match-ups headlined a big show, which featured also several prospects from Russia, Kenya and Azerbaijan.
GIANT IZHEVSK PHOTO GALLERY
Photos: Evgueny Solodov
KPICASA_GALLERY(BakhtinOtieno, GayaAzizov, LebedevEsparza, Undercard, MissWBC, Misc)
Bakhtin – Otieno
In a WBC bantamweight semi-final eliminator, unbeaten WBC #2 Russian “Knight” Alexander Bakhtin (25-0, 11 KOs) earned a workmanlike twelve-round unanimous decision over the hard-nosed Kenyan pressure battler Nick Otieno (20-5, 9 KOs) with the scores: 120-107 (twice – Evgueny Gorstkov and Predrag Aleksic) and 120-108 (Nikolay Puchkov).
Bakhtin, who is managed by Hryunov and trained by Alexander Zimin, was accompanied by his family and former flyweight powerhouse Yuri Arbachakov, the first Russian to capture a world title as a pro boxer. Sensing the opponent is too rugged and tough to be taken out instantly, Bakhtin measured his aggressiveness in the first against shorter WBC #21 Kenyan who boxed out of a rather awkward stance. Instead of going inside to brawl with Otieno in his second ever Russian appearance (after nine years of living and boxing in Japan) unbeaten Bakhtin took his time to read Kenyan’s moves while sticking his sharp left jab to frustrate the African. At the very end of the initial stanza Bakhtin connected with a short right hand and knocked Otieno down. The fall was correctly ruled a knockdown by the well-known referee and boxing personality Daniel Van de Wiele even though Otieno wasn’t rocked a bit with the shot and easily regained his composure.
In round two, Bakhtin continued to outbox the raw Kenyan, who was previously best known for his wide loss to Filipino Z Gorres two years ago. Otieno tried to get into close quarters but he preferred to move in without throwing any punches and his rare jab also didn’t help much. Bakhtin was able to avoid his wide shots from outside by moving back and circling around Kenyan warrior. The third stanza saw Otieno a bit more precise with his punches and he also connected once with a hard right hand, which had visibly shaken Alexander. That was too little however to earn even a single round for the African. The fourth round was very much alike only without any blemishes from the WBA/IBF #6 and WBO #14 Russian. As usual, an open scoring was used in the WBC-sanctioned contest and all scorecards not surprisingly read 40-35 for Bakhtin.
The fight hadn’t changed much during the next four rounds as Bakhtin continued to use sharp jab both to the head and body to keep Otieno on safe distance and left hooks to score time and again on his way out. Bakhtin, 28, didn’t let his hands go and used his trademark right uppercut only on occasion. Otieno, on the other hand, was eating jabs but tried to move in nevertheless only to be roped there by the Russian. All three judges (all three from Russia) saw it 80-71 after the eighth. Feeling the victory was fleeing out, Otieno tried to increase the pressure in later rounds but he didn’t force Bakhtin to worry a bit. The Russian technician also showcased praiseworthy calmness and used dirty tactics on rare occasions to frustrate the African once more. In rounds eleven and twelve Alexander went in for the KO but failed to wobble the hard-nosed Kenyan Otieno despite finding a room for several well-laced right uppercuts. At the end of the day, Fightnews scored it 120-108 for the Russian bantamweight.
“Sasha is a great fighter and his punches were very well felt by me,” noted Otieno after the fight. “I did whatever I could have done but it wasn’t enough as Bakhtin was just a little bit better. The cold weather (it was around -40 degrees Celsius before the fight) also hasn’t helped me much.”
“My pupil was way better and sharper than in his last tragic outing against Nosirjon Ruzimatov,” concluded Alexander Zimin. “He has accomplished a fine work during his training camp though he was a little bit tired fighting for the second time in two months. I want Sasha to rest a month or two before going further after world titlists.”
WBC supervisor was the World Boxing Council vice-president Houcine Houichi of Tunis. A posthumous ten count of ten was performed in memory of late WBC vice-president Roy Van Putten.
Lebedev – Esparza
Hard-punching cruiserweight terror Denis Lebedev (20-0, 15 KOs) continued his string of scintillating KOs with the fourth round blowout of Mexican champion Ignacio Esparza (16-2, 12 KOs) retaining his WBO Intercontinental title in process.
WBO #1 Lebedev, 2009 Russian fighter of the year, entered the ring wearing paratrooper’s uniform (Airborne forces are very highly esteemed in Russia). He did not go after the bulky Mexican but preferred a bit more of a cautious approach. Esparza tried to connect with a hard right hand in the first but hit Lebedev’s block instead. The Russian, nicknamed “Bomber/White swan” (‘Lebed’ means ‘swan’ in Russian), felt what his opponent was doing and started to apply a smart pressure trying to reach his soft corpse. Lebedev dropped Esparza with a wicked left to the head at the end of the first, which was his first significant punch of the fight.
The Mexican recovered well in the second and gave Lebedev a tough battle till the end of the fourth. Ramon Arellano, who trains Esparza, 32, asked his pupil to use his right hand more and Ignacio tried hard to realize this advice. He had some success with his right overhand cross on few occasions and was able to frustrate Lebedev several times with his tricky but fast moves.
IBF #6, WBC/WBA #14 southpaw Lebedev increased the tempo of his bodywork in the fourth, delivering huge bombs. With ten seconds remaining in the round Lebedev charged forward with a monster-like left-right-left combination (starting from the leading hook to the liver), which had Esparza down for the count. Time was 2:59 of the fourth when referee Victor Panin waved the fight off for good. Lebedev, 30, is now (7-0, 7 KOs) since finishing his four-year long layoff and proved once again to be a serious force in the cruiserweight division.
“I felt myself better than during my last fight against Ali (Ismailov) in Saint Petersburg. I know I wasn’t at my best tonight and I want to apologize for looking a little bit soft tonight. I can improve much and I’ll work as much as possible to increase my sharpness and skill set”, said Lebedev during his post-fight interview.
“Well, the victory is always nice,” said Denis’ coach Valery Belov. “However, I expect a huge improvement in future. Denis can and should win in more impressive fashion. I want him to use his right hand more and to throw one-two combination more often. We need two more fights before going after the world title.”
“Denis is a wonderful fighter and he has all the tools to become a world champion,” said Ramon Arellano. “As for us, we have underestimated Lebedev and we were punished severely for that. I hope Ignacio will re-group but we need time to see what shall be next for us. I don’t think we shall return in Russia in future. The road here was way too hard for us.”
In a major upset, multiple junior welterweight minor titlist Azad Azizov (22-3-1, 13 KOs) was defeated by underrated Kenyan southpaw Geoffrey Gaya (5-2, 1 KOs) over eight rounds in a crowd-pleasing contest which had fans jumping all around Udmurt Circus. Gaya, fighting through nine pounds of weight difference (in favor of the IBO International / IBF Europe titleholder) lost the first couple of rounds before he adjusted his style to shorter Azerbaijani. The Kenyan used his skill set and elusiveness to frustrate aggressive but way too unskilled Azizov. At the end of eight rounds, all three judges saw it in favor of Gaya – 78-75, 77-76 and 77-75 – to a big joy of local fans and displeasure of a small group of Azerbaijani supporters. Fightnews saw it 77-75 – also for Gaya. Azizov, who is set to face another Kenyan Nasser Athumani in May, was fighting in Russian for the first time in three years since his departure from St. Petersburg. Gaya, on the other hand, has already fought in Russia a year before.
Volga Cossack Konstantin Piternov (9-0, 2 KOs), 27, scored a stoppage win over Kenyan journeyman Samson Onyango (19-6, 12 KOs) in the fifth round. Former amateur standout Piternov (over three hundred amateur wins), who is also reigning Russian super middleweight champion, rocked the African badly in the first and forced referee Evgueny Gorstkov to issue a standing eight in the second but failed to finish him off himself. He continue to bomb wobbly Onyango through rounds two to four but as the time passed the Kenyan veteran (who notable looked older than his 38 years of age) was able to get used to Piternov’s actions. Konstantin wasn’t very active and even gave his opponent some moments in rounds three and four when he was sent down (without a punch) twice. The contest was halted at 2:38 of the fifth due to Onyango’s right leg injury after a huge assault by Piternov.
Former amateur star Igor Ivanov (4-0, 1 KO), who had over 300 victories in the unpaid ranks and who was #2 of the Russian team past amateur legend and two-time Olympic gold medalist Alexey Tischenko, scored a brutal first-round knockout of Uzbek lightweight Sharof Aitbaev (1-1). The Uzbek went down after a huge left by Ivanov in the midst of the stanza and was impressively finished off with a chilling overhand right for the count at 2:55. Aitbaev face was like a bloody mask while calm Ivanov didn’t change his face for a moment nor he got tagged by any shots of vastly incapable Uzbek youngster.
Azerbaijani light middleweight Vusal Aliev (4-0, 1 KO) got his first ever career kayo with the first-round stoppage of professional debutant Gerey Gamedov (0-1) of Moscow, Russia. The fight was stopped at 2:42, when Gamedov was being mercilessly pounded in the corner. He never went down though.
In the first fight of the night, Tajik trial horse Safo Boboradzhabov (2-11, 1 KO) scored an upset win over Azerbaijani junior middleweight Ali Mammadov (1-1). Scores were: 40-37, 39-37 and 38-38 – for Safo, who was much more aggressive than he usually is.
A wonderful beauty contest was arranged to support the boxing constituent of the show. Twenty-four lovely participants showcased their nice looks, stature and talent in front of the interested crowd. Girls presented their laced underwear in Victorian style, cabaret costumes and evening gowns. 19-year old student of Udmurt State University Sofia Nikolaeva was chosen as Miss WBC by the respected jury. Several girls were awarded with other prizes and top notches and received their share of applause.
Supervisors were Igor Mazurov and Houcine Houichi. Ring announcer was well-known showman Alexander Zagorsky.
Both Alexey Sukachev and Evgueny Solodov thank organizers for their continuous help during this trip.