Two bouts from the WBA heavyweight tournament took place on Saturday night as Luis Ortiz (25-0) amicably mowed down Tony Thompson (40-7) while Lucas Browne (24-0) beat the odds and an eight count to stop Ruslan Chagaev (34-3-1), claimed the WBA title and emerged as the first ever Australian heavyweight champion.
Ortiz – Thompson was a non-title bout since Thompson replaced the mandatory challenger Alexander Ustinov who was unavailable. The Cuban KO artist was not expected to have any problems with aging Tony Thompson. The fight took place in Thompson’s home town Washington, D.C. but he was outgunned from the opening bell and went down three times in front of his home crowd – in rounds 1, 3 and 6, the third time for the count. Ortiz had total control and was in no hurry to chase and finish the opponent at the every opportunity. He gave Thompson more time than Thompson actually wanted and the logical end came mid-way through the fight when Ortiz landed a smooth but thunderous one-two, a direct import from Havana.
“He is (as) strong as advertised”, commented Thompson. He did not venture any parallels with past opponents, especially Klitschko, but he reconfirmed the general perception of his opponent’s ability. Ustinov remains a mandatory challenger for the Cuban and after that the WBA somehow believes they can make the winner of Klitschko – Fury fight the winner of Ortiz – Ustinov in a final eliminator. Luis Ortiz comes from a hot climate and lives in hot Miami but manages to send a chill through the ranks.
In another quarterfinal of the same tourney, Ruslan Chagaev lost his WBA title to unbeaten Australian Lucas “Big daddy” Browne. The fight took place in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, Russia. Chagaev had more experience and much better boxing skills than the challenger whose only advantage was size and the strength that comes with it. Chagaev was easily out boxing the phlegmatic and plodding Australian in the initial rounds and appeared to be landing at will to the body and head. Browne had his moments when he decided to use his range but had trouble putting punches together. His defense looked perfunctory as he kept his hands down and tried to keep moving and keep his distance. It rarely worked and when he had to bring his guard up in close range, things got even worse. His muscle bound upper body froze completely when on guard and all the Uzbek had to do was go around or between the large forearms. He landed even easier when the guard was up as Browne awkwardly blocked his own vision and his reflexes were on hold.
It is easy to pick Browne’s mistakes as he lacks most of the basics, his speed, balance and body movement are of the same order as Primo Carnera’s and his muscle mass is of non-boxing origin. He slows down and stiffens by the minute even in a moderately paced bout.
Chagaev exploited the wide openings and Browne was bruised and battered before he went down in round 6. The knock down combo – a right hook to the body and a wide left round house to the chin – caught the big boy moving and looking to his right against a southpaw. He went straight down in a lump, a sign that he did not see the shot. The Australian boxer beat the count and Chagaev jumped in for the kill, staggered the opponent again but could not finish him even though the bell came a little later than usual.
Browne was a mess but came out aggressively in the 7th and landed two flush uppercuts on his opponent who appeared to be out of gas. Chagaev slowed down even more under the awkward offense that followed and this may have been the only round that Lucas Browne had won clearly so far. It must be noted that the round was inexplicably shortened and the bell sounded prematurely.
The 8th and 9th were uneventful as the gassed Uzbek was not trying hard but landed now and then while the Australian moved around chaotically and threw fewer but heavier shots. The 10th and final round did not bring any changes – Chagaev chased and threw half heartedly while Browne ran around and answered awkwardly. Then Chagaev made the mistake of standing in front of the big boy and trading with him, he missed with a big left and Browne had already thrown a right hook which caught the champion flush on the chin. He took several steps back and went down, then rose on unsteady feet and Browne poured shots on him against the ropes prompting the referee to stop the fight. Ruslan Chagaev was on his feet but the stoppage appeared to be justified and timely.
Lucas Browne showed strength and some punch resistance but hardly any boxing potential. His next mandatory challenger is Fres Oquendo at the semi-final of the WBA tournament and this could buy him some time at the top. After that he will find himself in very deep trouble as Ortiz, Fury or Klitschko would be waiting for him.