I never think the Russian’s do a bad job of putting on a decent show – and tonight’s card from Moscow that was headlined by the extremely brief one round WBC heavyweight final eliminator fight between Alexander Povetkin and Mike Perez, was certainly better than some of the domestic cards offered up as competitive in the UK lately.
If we learned anything, it’s that the current WBC champion Deontay Wilder is potentially in a hell of a lot of trouble!
Along with some of the best musical interludes I’ve heard on a show in a long time (AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath) and a massive audio/visual build up immediately before the headline fight, we were treated to some decent boxing on the undercard – not to mention Michael Buffer on MC duties – It’s always big time boxing with Buffer.
The cruiserweight division is hardly one of the marquee weight classes in the game, yet tonight – along with the heavies – it was the representing 50% of the TV card and we finally got to see how exciting the division has the potential to be in the near future, as well as the depth of talent that exists within it at the top – namely WBC champ Grigory Drodz, who provided ample chief support to Povetkin-Perez.
The first fight on the televised card however saw German based Syrian Manuel Charr (28-3, 16ko) box a comfortable points win against former world title challenger Alex Leapai (30-7-3, 24ko) in a fight which got off to something of a slow start until the plodding Australian began to look every inch his 35 years from around the 4th round on – consistently walking forward in straight lines as the more mobile Charr began to get up on his toes to try and put his punches together. Thanks to the pedestrian, flat footed style of Leapai, who seemed to have no sting in his punches, Charr was able to use him for target practice as he boxed his way pretty comfortably to the win which was handed out by 10 round UD.
Next up we got a good look at brutal Russian knockout artist Dmitry Kudrayashov (17-0, 17ko) and got a vague taste of what the fuss is supposed to be about. And most – including me, were slightly underwhelmed.
This was supposed to be his coming out party to an international audience and he boxed a 10 rounder – against Namibia’s Vikapita Meroro (28-4, 14ko) in which he did what he was supposed to do – yet he was by no means as impressive as we were led to believe he would be.
After a lot of hunter stalking prey type action early – after which Kudrayashov grew increasingly frustrated – a brutal body shot in the 6th round floored his Namibian opponent for the second time in the fight and ended matters – which was reasonably impressive considering Meroro had never been stopped in any of his 4 previous defeats – 2 of which were to South Africa’s Isaac Chilemba German WBA (reg) champion Jurgen Braehmer.
Meroro, who was visibly the smaller man – yet far the superior boxer – frustrated the Russian with his speed and footwork for almost the entire contest, until the mechanical yet consistent work of Kudrayashov gradually wore him down enough to get the impressive finish.
There was nothing exceptional about the performance, that in a word, was robotic – the flaws, many. It was also the first time Kudrayashov had been beyond 5 – and he looked tired doing so in honesty.
Liverpool cruiserweight Tony Bellew may well fancy the job after seeing that fight.
Next on the card was another big cruiserweight clash for the now lightly regarded IBO title – between home fighter and former world title challenger/Olympic gold medalist Rakhim Chakhiev (22-1, 17ko) and unbeaten American prospect Junior Anthony Wright (13-0 – 1, 11ko) – who is a frequent sparring partner of Adonis Stevenson.
The Russian came out fast and was the busier fighter throughout the early going, yet was frequently reckless coming in and while doing enough to nick the rounds, was certainly troubled by the movement of the visibly smaller American – who was sticking to a box and move plan – in no part helped by his incredibly loud corner bellowing instructions throughout the contest.
As he listened, it seemed the unbeaten man was finally starting to find some kind of rhythm, though it clearly wasn’t enough as the bigger and stronger Chakhkiev was able to get to him on numerous occasions, even if he didn’t look fantastic doing so.
The rounds were piling up in favour of the busier Russian fighter – and it was evident throughout that the American man simply didn’t possess the sting in his punches to get Chakhkiev to sit up and listen – despite his misleading knockout ratio.
A big shot in the 8th brought the curtain down when the Russian amateur stand out smashed a left into Wright’s solar plexus – causing him to crumple, breathless to the canvas.
The European cruiserweight champion now needs to step up to the next level, yet at 32 years of age, his career needs to certainly be on the fast track if he is to achieve his world title ambitions.
WBC cruiserweight champion Grigory Drodz (39-1, 27ko) was up next, defending his title in style against Eastern European rival – Poland’s Lukasz Janik (28-3, 15ko) in a classy performance that showed even at 35, he still has a full tank of gas and rightly deserves his place as the division’s top dog.
He boxed an intelligent and perfectly paced fight in which he was never really in any danger, moving in and out of range, utilizing fantastic handspeed and never looking anything other than confident and assured throughout as he beat up on the challenger, who round by round had the life sucked out of him.
The oft criticised practice of reading out the scores after the 4th and 8th round didn’t really do the Pole any favours either it seemed. As the shut-out was announced to the arena in the fifth, the repeat announcement in the 9th signaled the end for the game Janik, who finally succumbed after a barrage of punches on the ropes that caused referee Ian Jon Lewis cause to jump between the action and call things off.
A great fight with German WBO boss “Captain” Marco Huck would certainly be a mouth watering fight that would be massive in mainland Europe, as well as a fight with Britain’s Ola Ofalabi, who has enjoyed his own memorable wars with Huck over the last few years – Afolabi also beat Janik – but nowhere near as convincingly!
After a 7 minute audio/visual presentation on the arena’s big screens, our headliner was next – and rightly in my eyes – home-town fighter Povetkin was the clear favourite against the teak tough Mike Perez, who said beforehand that he realised he would need a knockout to get a draw in Russia.
If only he’d had a crystal ball…..He might not have bothered turning up!
There were many unknowns going in for me regarding the Irish-based Cuban, who has been threatening a breakthrough to the upper echelons of the division for some time – yet somehow never quite fulfilling his standout amateur promise.
His most recent fight was a blowout of American journeyman Darnell Wilson that was a return from the close Bryant Jennings fight almost a year ago that many think he was unlucky to lose.
Despite that, those unknowns regarding his weight and training all turned into stark reality within seconds tonight.
Povetkin had all the momentum and pedigree – his only loss to lineal champion Wladimir Klitschko 18 months ago saw him totally negated by the classic Wladimir “safety-first” style. But you can’t judge a man on a Klitschko fight alone and he’s been fantastic since.
If you went out to get a beer, or a cup of tea at the opening bell of this one, thinking that you’d see a toe-to-toe inside war for 7 or 8 rounds, you would have missed the lot!
After a tentative thirty seconds of feeling out, Povetkin caught the Cuban with a solid right hand that got Perez’s attention as the two stood center ring. As they continued to circle each other, another huge right moments later stiffened the legs of Mike, who remarkably stayed on his feet – yet it was the beginning of the end. As he backed away to the corner in visible trouble, a patient Povetkin took his time to pick his shots and as Perez tried to fire back – in the melee – he tangled with the Russian who subsequently floored him with another sledge hammer of a right hand. Perez had his arms by his side – a fatal mistake.
Why he was allowed to continue after rising I do not know, as he was on Mars when Povetkin came towards him once more – and mercifully, one quick right hook sent him crashing into the ropes, signaling the end of the fight.
It was a dangerous statement to Deontay Wilder, who, after his June 20th fight with unheralded Eric Molina – must fulfill his mandatory obligations with the dangerous Russian as the man in the opposite corner.
If I were Deontay I’d be glad I had Al Haymon in the corner but still a little worried. Step aside money is all good to certain guys – but the Russian’s who back Povetkin will be able to compensate him beyond anything Haymon would offer as a step-aside deal to let a lower ranked guy in first before him – and if he decides to enforce his mandatory aggressively – and not accept a step-aside – Wilder has no choice but to fight him next or vacate.
It’s about to get interesting.
Thanks for reading