By Glynn Evans: A semblance of sanity will be restored to the WBO’s chaotic light-middleweight situation on Saturday evening when Ukrainian based champion Zaurbek Baysangurov collides with interim king Lukas Konecny of the Czech Republic in a potential barnburner at the Sports Palace in Kiev.
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It promises to be top quality fare from the Eastern European rivals who have both held the continental crown after meritable amateur careers.
The 27 year old Baysangurov, born in Achkhoy-Martan, Russia, enters as a 2-1 on favourite. He is the younger man by seven years and, effectively fighting on home turf – his three ‘world’ title fights have all taken place in the Ukraine. At 5ft 101/2in tall, he holds a sway in height and reach and with 20 stoppages on his 28 fight CV, he certainly appears the heavier hitter.
A former Russian junior champion, Baysangurov first surfaced as a talent to monitor when he bagged bronze medals at the 2001 World Cadets and 2002 World Junior meets.
He was still a teenager when he joined the profession in June 2004, signing with German mob Sauerland Events. Appearing in the Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Germany early doors, he made swift progress and, within a dozen gigs, had won IBF Youth titles at both 160 and 154lbs, successfully defending the later on two occasions.
However, the first real indication that he might become a future force on the world scene occurred in September 2006 when, still only 21, he rose from a first round knockdown to comprehensively school mallet-fisted Mexican Marco Antonio Rubio (a future two weight World Boxing Council (WBC) title challenger) over 12, at tomorrow evening’s venue.
In his next start, ‘Zaur’ picked up the vacant European crown with a tight but unanimous decision over decent Frenchman Hussein Bayram in Cologne and he twice retained that honour with stoppage wins.
The sole blemish on his slate came back in December 2008 when Detroit’s Cornelius Bundrage, now the International Boxing Federation (IBF) title holder, smashed him in five in Mannheim.
He re-grouped and is unbeaten in eight since, capturing WBA InterContinental, IBO, WBO interim and WBO belts en route. He required just 51 seconds to dispatch veteran Brazilian southpaw Mike Miranda to garner that ‘interim’ bauble (July 2011) and upgraded to the full WBO crown ten months later, when climbing off the carpet in round two to conquer France’s previously unbeaten Michel Soro over 12. Currently trained by Abel Sanchez over in California, his record presently rests at 27-1 but lacks marquee names.
Home fans might be more familiar with Czech challenger Konecny. The 34-year-old smashed Manchester’s Mathew Hall in six for the vacant European title at Birmingham’s NIA in September 2010, then became the first Czech in history to deliver a ‘world’ title belt to the Republic by impressively bashing up French Algerian Salim Larbi in seven rounds to nab the WBO ‘interim’ crown at his homeland’s Vodova Arena, Brno last April. He had previously been scheduled to challenge Bansangurov in Kiev last March but the Ukrainian withdrew with a back injury.
The Czechs may have a rather shallow fistic history but there is no mistaking that Konecny is a top grade operator. A 257 bout amateur career saw him collect a European Junior silver medal plus bronzes at two world championships (Budapest 1997 and Houston 1999) prior to competing at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Since turning pro with Ulf Steinforth’s SES operation over in Germany in June 2001, where he is coached by Dirk Dzemski in Magdeburg, the father of three has compiled imposing 48-3 stats en route to collecting the German International, EU, European plus WBO and IBF InterContinental and WBO ‘interim’ belts at 11 stone. Twenty-three victims have fallen early.
All three reverses on his card came on foreign climes and in good class. In 2004, Spaniard Ruben Varon, who gave Matthew Macklin a very stiff argument for the European middleweight crown, edged past Konecny on a 10 round split in his home city of Madrid. Two years later, Italy’s Michele Piccirillo, a one time IBF welter champ, climbed off the canvas to unanimously outscore the Czech over 12 in a European championship fight in Lombardia, Italy.
Konecny’s most recent setback came in April 2008 when, in a prior crack at the WBO belt, Serhiy Dzinziruk, a 6ft southpaw born in the Ukraine but based in Hamburg, edged past him on a contentious 12 round majority in Dresden. The compact 5ft 8in Czech has been victorious in 12 straight since, including three European championship affairs plus that WBO ‘interim’ spat. British fans shall be aware of his quality from the manner in which he sucked Hall’s sting then wiped him out with a serious of very clinical volleys.
There is plenty to admire about Konecny and he is certainly a very ‘live’ challenger. However, age, size and location all favour Baysangurov and I expect him to retain by decision, just, after a dozen hotly debated rounds.