By David Robinett
Before his scheduled 10-round heavyweight fight Friday night against young up-and-comer Nagy Aguilera, 40-year old Oleg Maskaev acknowledged the possibility that the next fight could be his last as he continued to press forward through the twilight of a 16-year professional boxing career. “I will see in the ring if I’m going to get hurt,” explained Maskaev. “If I’m not going to be able to do what I used to do, if I’m going to lose every time then it means Oleg has to retire.” Those words may turn out to be prophetic as Maskaev, with his family watching at ringside, suffered a shocking technical knockout at 1:54 of the first round at the hands of Aguilera at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, California.
Maskaev, on the comeback trail since losing his WBC heavyweight title to Sam Peter last year, has a history of early knockout defeats but self-described boxer-puncher Aguilera did not seem to be a candidate to test Maskaev’s chin so early. Nevertheless, after a few probing jabs against the sluggish Maskaev, Aguilera exploded with a quick flurry punctuated by a left-right combination to the head that sent the Russian to the canvas. Maskaev struggled to his feet to beat the count, but appeared dazed. Aguilera quickly closed the show with a sweeping left hook that crumpled Maskaev into the corner and prompted referee Lou Moret to stop the contest without a count.
“I did everything I was supposed to,” said Aguilera after the fight. “I was younger, faster, and fitter than him [Maskaev]. I’m a new breed of heavyweight and its my time now.”
Maskaev, who was the WBC #2 ranked contender coming into the fight, was penciled in to face Ray Austin in an eliminator next spring to determine the mandatory challenger for current WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko. Aguilera’s trainer, Bobby Benton, said after the bout he did not know yet whether his man would be offered the chance to take Maskaev’s place against Austin.
Aguilera’s record improves to 15-2, 10 KOs, and as a young, skilled heavyweight with an eye-opening win on his resume, the sky appears to be the limit, provided his handlers have the good sense not to sacrifice their man to Klitschko until he is battle-tested against stiffer competition. Aguilera is promoted by former heavyweight contender Lou Savarese so hopefully Savarese has enough first-hand experience to know Ray Austin is not the measuring stick by which to determine a young heavyweight is ready to face either Klitschko.
Maskaev, (36-7, 27 KOs), on the other hand, will have some serious decisions to make regarding his future. He has been one of the more successful heavyweights this decade, even if somewhat overlooked, but at age 40, barring a major turnaround it appears his days as a top heavyweight are over. Maskaev left the auditorium without speaking to the media so for now his future is left to speculation.
Grachev Draws With Castaneda
It was not a good night for the Russian and Russian-American fans in attendance, as the other Russian fighting on the card, undefeated light heavyweight Denis Grachev, (8-0-1, 5 KOs), was held to a six-round majority draw by local journeyman Ernesto Castaneda, (11-8-2, 4 KOs).
The bout was contested at a fast pace, with very few clinches and both fighters trading blows nearly all three minutes of each round. The taller Grachev attempted to keep Castaneda at distance to size him up for straight left and right hands. Castaneda had difficulty reaching Grachev through the first half of the fight, missing wildly with looping left and right hooks, and missing short when lunging forward to attack. However as the fight progressed Castaneda began to lay on the ropes, which tempted Grachev to come in and eventually turn the fight into a close-quartered affair. Castaneda had greater success the second half of the fight as Grachev chose to make it a slugfest, with Castaneda utilizing a left uppercut and hooks with both hands while Grachev scored primarily with straight hands he would step back to deliver as he pressured Castaneda along the ropes.
In the final minute of the sixth round both fighters stepped up the pace even more, drawing the crowd to their feet as the final bell sounded. At the conclusion of the bout, one judge scored it 58-56 for Grachev while the other two judges scored the contest a draw, 57-57.
Lopez Batters Dundas
Geraldo Lopez, (5-0, 3 KOs), remained undefeated with an easy fourth-round stoppage of Kyle Dundas, (0-2), in a scheduled four-round junior middleweight bout. Lopez controlled the action throughout, peppering Dundas with jabs and straight right hands in the center of the ring as Dundas circled around him looking for an opening to attack.
This fight was unusual in that Dundas was the more active fighter, dancing and circling around Lopez without pause, but Lopez was still the busier fighter in terms of punches thrown, catching Dundas every few seconds as he circled around while Dundas seemed hesitant and unable to pull the trigger.
In the final round Lopez appeared to have had enough with just standing in the center of the ring firing away at Dundas, finally moving forward to walk down his opponent. Lopez landed several right hook, left hook combinations to Dundas’ body, visibly wearing down the smaller fighter until a straight right hand by Lopez caused Dundas to take a knee. Dundas did not appear badly hurt from the punch, but referee Lou Moret decided he had seen enough and called a halt to the bout at 2:36 of the round.
The most impressive knockout of the evening belonged to Sacramento super middleweight Mike Guy, who flattened Ayo Olorunsola at 1:32 of the first round in a scheduled four-round bout where both fighters were making their pro debut. Guy charged Olorunsola almost immediately after the opening bell, loading up and throwing two-handed bombs while Olorunsola futilely tried to keep Guy off of him with a weak jab and unsuccessful counterpunching.
While Guy prolonged the inevitable by smothering many of his own punches in his rush to take out Olorunsola, eventually he landed a pair of sweeping right hooks that sent Olorunsola crashing to the canvas. Olorunsola briefly tried to get up, but then slumped forward back to the canvas, prompting referee Lou Moret to step in and wave the fight over.
Lightweight Max Becerra, (3-0, 2 KOs) went the distance against a game Thomas Herrera, (2-4-1, 0 KOs), but came out the winner with scores of 40-36 across the board. Becerra started the fight a little arrogant, throwing a left hook in response to Herrera looking to tap gloves shortly after the opening bell, but Herrera earned Becerra’s respect by rocking him on several occasions throughout the fight. Nevertheless, Becerra landed a greater volume of punches and continuously pumped a piston-like jab into Herrera’s face throughout the fight to win every round on the scorecards.
Richard Hargraves won his pro debut against winless John “The Baptist” Dunham, (0-5-1), scoring a technical knockout at 1:50 of the first round. The Baptist was in need of divine intervention in this bout, suffering his first knockdown a minute into the fight after taking a left hook, right hook combination to the chin. Hargraves patiently looked to close the show and dropped Dunham again moments later with a straight right hand. Dunham was wobbly getting to his feet so referee Ray Balewicz stepped in to end the bout.
Prior to the main event several current and retired fighters with local ties who were in attendance were recognized, including former super featherweight and lightweight champion Tony “The Tiger” Lopez, former light welterweight champion Loreto Garza, Juan “The Hispanic Causing Panic” Lazcano, and Karim “Hard Hitta” Mayfield.