Any confusion as to the rightful tenant to the WBA World Cruiserweight throne should get straightened out this evening when reigning incumbent Denis Lebedev squares off with ‘champion in recess’ Guillermo Jones of Panama at the 7,000 Crocus City Hall in Myakinino, Moscow.
It’s sure to be a quality match up between two time served world class operators and, once again, BoxNation, The Channel of Champions, delivers the action live and exclusive to its subscribers from 5.30pm on Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch.546. Join at www.boxnation.com
The words ‘rugged’ and ‘uncompromising’ appear to have been invented for the defending champion, a 5ft 11in southpaw.
The 33 year old is, however, a natural born fighter who, following back to back scalpings of faded US legends Roy Jones Jnr and James ‘Lights Out’ Toney in 2011, has been making a solid claim to be considered the most dangerous 200lb fighter on this planet.
Hailing from Chekhov, Lebedev entered the profession back in February 2001 and was crowned Russian light-heavyweight champion in just his third fight. He made steady progress thereafter, first surfacing to prominence in the UK in July 2009 when he left Swansea’s ex WBO king Enzo Maccarinelli with a face like a gargoyle after a three round mauling at Manchester’s MEN Arena. The Ruskie had previously featured at that venue 10 months earlier, bashing up Battersea fireman Nick Okoth inside two rounds.
The mauling of Maccarinelli persuaded promoter Frank Warren to make an investment and three subsequent meaningful stoppages over Ali Ismailov (16-2-1, WRTD 6), Ignacio Esparza (16-1, RSF4) and, most notably, a one shot, second round icing of ex world amateur champion Alexander Alexeev (19-1, going in) secured Lebedev his first world title opportunity against WBO king Marco Huck in Berlin. He is commonly believed to have been shafted by the judges losing a 12 round split decision in December 2010.
Nevertheless, his stellar showing fashioned the openings against Jones Jnr, who he ironed out with just two seconds remaining of their scheduled ten rounder, and Toney against whom he won all 12 rounds on every judge’s card.
The latter victory brought recognition as the WBA’s ‘interim’ champion and, after seeing off veteran Barbados banger Shawn Cox in two rounds, he assumed full championship status by blowing away Columbia’s Santander Silgado last time out, also at this venue.
His Don King promoted challenger might be 41 now but he’s only been mastered once in the past 15 years and that’s when he conceded a 10 round points decision to the very able Steve Cunningham in April 2005.
Remarkably, the gangly Panamanian entered the profession as a 6ft 4in welterweight (!) way back in July 1993 and twice challenged France’s Laurent Boudouani for the WBA light-middle strap (drawing, then losing) before the turn of the Millennium. In a third world title tilt he was again thwarted by a tie following a November 2002 WBO cruiser challenge to Sheffield’s Johnny Nelson in Derby.
‘El Felino’ finally earned the right to style himself as a world champion in September 2008, when he collected the WBA belt by scalping Turkish tough guy Firat Arslan in eight rounds over in Hamburg, Germany. However, in the ensuing 38 months, he managed just two defences –both stoppage wins – and the sanctioning body understandably lost patience, downgrading his standing to that of ‘champion in recess’.
Despite 18 months of dormancy, he appears eager to atone and has predicted that he well retain his claim by beating Lebedev inside five rounds!
To provide expert analysis of the principals, boxing writer Glynn Evans hunted down ex WBO 200lb king and former Lebedev victim Enzo Maccarinelli. Here is what the cordial and extremely knowledgeable 32 year old from Bonymaen, Swansea, had to say.
“I’ll definitely be tuning in to this. It should be very entertaining while it lasts.
I’ve followed Denis pretty closely since we fought four years ago and I have to say he’s really come on since then. I wouldn’t read too much into his win over me because, at the time, I was experimenting with a new style, waiting to counterpunch and it just didn’t really suit me.
But that said, I do remember that Lebedev was very, very strong in the clinches. Physically, he’s built like a bull. When we fought, I know that I hurt him with a body shot quite early on but remember that his recovery was very quick. He’s a genuine hard man.
But there’s much more to him than just brawn. He does all of the basics very well and, against me, he used his southpaw stance very effectively. Everything came from behind the jab and he had a very heavy, swinging back hand punch.
He’s also a lot cleverer than he might outwardly appear. He gauges range very well; moves his head back just far enough to make you fall short. Then he counters hard. It might look awkward but it’s definitely deliberate. I thought he was very unlucky not to get the nod when he conceded a close decision in a WBO challenge to Marco Huck, the only loss on his record.
I’ve probably not seen as much of Jones as I have of Denis but I caught his humdinger with (ex WBC king Wayne ‘Big Truck’) Braithwaite and also watched his WBO challenge to Johnny Nelson, when he gave Johnny all sorts of trouble. If my memory serves me correctly, Johnny escaped with a pretty dubious draw. Back then, Johnny was a class act but Jones gave him a torrid night.
I think the type to trouble Lebedev might be a fighter with clever movement, someone like Steve Cunningham when he was operating down at cruiserweight. But Guillermo doesn’t really fall into that category. He doesn’t run away. Whenever I’ve seen him, he’s always come and given it a real go.
It’s remarkable that he began his pro career 20 years ago as a welterweight but now he’s a big, big cruiserweight who takes a good shot. He seems to have a very big heart. He showed himself to be very strong, stubborn and resilient against Johnny Nelson and Johnny could really bang. But that was 11 years ago so who knows if the desire is still there.
He’s coming off a very long period of inactivity and a lot will depend on how he’s been training and living in the interim. If he’s undertaken regular quality sparring, the rust shouldn’t affect him too badly but the impression I’ve been getting, is that he hasn’t done very much at all. If that’s the case, it’s very doubtful that he’ll fully recover top form over an eight to ten week training camp.
If he’s to win he’s going to have to apply relentless pressure throughout but I think his age and the inactivity will go against him. I expect Lebedev to keep his hands up, chin down and pepper Jones with jabs as he charges in, driving in those back hand shots, every time Guillermo falls short.
As Jones never lost his title in the ring, you can expect him to give it an almighty try and I certainly don’t envisage a one-sided beat down. But I do favour Lebedev to retain by stoppage.”