Frontline Diary: Troya sends startling message
Danny Wayne Armstrong
Big time boxing was back in Europe’s biggest city in the form of Omsk slugger and 140lbs titleholder Eduard Troyanovsky defending his IBF and IBO belts against Japanese challenger Keita Obara at Krylia Sovetov, Moscow.
Krylia Sovetov is a rather cosy venue for a world title fight; its humble entrance offers nothing to suggest it is a coliseum of the noble art. It made its professional boxing bow 19 years ago, and canvases of Mike Tyson fooling around with a young amateur and Teofilo Stevenson rubbing shoulders with officials hint at some boxing affiliation, but the main stage’s dome interior and circular row seating lends itself to a lecture. All in attendance were about to witness a devastating seminar.
Anywhere Russian combatants gather is naturally a hotbed of virility. This usual hockey stadium was no different and featured a noticeable presence from the Caucasus, an area where almost every male is a wrestler or fighter of some description. Men with heavy faces framed by thick beards and cauliflower ears paced the stadium and cheered on their friends and brothers, some bearing flags of autonomous republics such as Ingushetia, which was carried as a mark of respect to the region’s president who was in attendance.
Cornermen wearing dazzling suits of camouflage and gold led their men into a neatly setup dome where fighters appeared from the side of a large screen displaying their image. They would then make a short walk down a red carpet to the ring with a canvas split diagonally into red and white halves, all under an eye-bending mesh design on the dome ceiling.
The first to make this journey were super middleweights Aslanbek Idigov and Karen Avetisyan. Muscled youngster Idigov relied on a swinging overhand right throughout the fight while the wily, seasoned-looking Avetisyan picked him off easily. His heavier built opponent was breathing ever heavier in the middle parts of the six rounder and, although the older Avetisyan (9-15-2) was caught at the very end, the veteran held firm. Idigov got an extremely fortunate nod to improve his unbeaten record to 10-0 with 4 KOs.
Next was Sergey Gorokhov (8-2, 6 KOs) vs Artem Karasev (8-27-2, 6 KOs), two stylists, warriors and gentlemen who produced a brilliant eight-round war which Gorokhov won on points. The bullet-domed Gorokhov dropped a decision to world title challenger Valery Brudov in just his second fight, and can go onto greater things at 26.
Ruslan Kodzoev then secured the first stoppage of the night against Latvian opponent Reinis Porozovs, who delayed the opening bell by forgetting to bring his mouthguard to the ring. Kodzoev delivered a hammer right to the head which sent Porozovs down and recorded his second pro win and first stoppage victory in the fifth when Prozovs quit after rising.
Following Kodzoev was proud Chechen and IBO international welter champ Viskhan Murzabekov, facing former Belarusian champion Andrei Dolhozhyieu (10-17-2). The miniature Murzabekov is nicknamed 'Little Tyson' and the compact, bearded bruiser didn’t disappoint with an all-action assault to hammer his Belarusian opponent into a second round defeat following four knockdowns to move to 13-2 with 7 KOs. Murzabekov’s use of angles and explosive pressure particularly impressed.
Then it was the turn of slick welterweight prospect Sergey Lubkovich who faced an Argentinian foe in Luis Gaston Montiel. Lubkovich produced some beautiful footwork, impressive range and punch combinations as coruscating as his luminous boots to outwork and outscore the game Montiel. The Argentine was naturally tough and hung on to the end, showing the sticking power which hauled him from the streets to the ring. The last 30 seconds of the fight saw a gunslinging brawl erupt and both fighters landed big shots, with the crowd reacting by standing and cheering. It was a good learning fight for Lubkovich, who moved to 3-0, 2 KOs with the win over Montiel (8-5).
Cruiser Alexey Papin (4-0, 3KOs) KO’d Uruguayan veteran Jorge Rodríguez Olivera, who entered the ring wearing a 'Forlan 10' national football team shirt. He removed it before the fight but was wearing it again seconds later when he was downed and outed in round one. Papin’s fellow cruiser Rakhim Chakhkiev (26-2, 19 KOs) followed and stopped two-time Argentina champion Alejandro Emilio Valori (21-11, 15 KOs) with a crushing shot to the ribs in round 2 to complete the undercard.
Then came the main event. Eduard Troyanovsky versus Keita Obara for the IBF and IBO light welterweight titles. Troyanovsky is deemed the dark horse is a division teeming with talent, and little is known about the extent of his ability. He faced an unknown in Obara, who by definition also harboured the air of the unexpected, and boasted an 83% KO record.
Both fighters entered to identical, rehearsed routines shown on the big screen before making their short ring walk. Each routine ended with a proverb delivered from the fighter to the fans by breaking the fourth wall. "Self possession is the only true way to greatness", was Obara’s, "Victory is the reward of the resilient,” was Troyanovsky’s.
The fighters trod the red carpet and assembled in the middle of the ring for the national anthems. The Japanese Kimigayo was as easy on the ears as it sounds and particularly well saluted by a small pocket of Japanese fans occupying a row nearby. Russian fans stood to meet their anthem and its melody was carried on by a folk band in a corner to the left of the screen during the fight.
Troyanovsky said before the fight that he had expected Obara, who has 15 knockouts from his 16 wins, to come looking for a fast finish.
“I know that he is considered a KO artist, that won’t be a secret for me,” he told Boxing Monthly at his open workout at Moscow’s World Class gym. “I know that he will want to knock me out and I am ready for it. The main thing is to concentrate and not miss his punches.”
In the opening moments it seemed he was acting on the predicted plan. The first round began with both men establishing hard straight shots. Obara sent a jolting right onto Troyanovsky’s cheek to send the champion stumbling. Troya replied almost instantly with one of his own and visibly shook the Japanese fighter.
Round one ended with both fighters winning the respect of the other. Forty four seconds into the second round, Troyanovsky suddenly landed a glancing straight right hand to the top of Obara’s head which gave away a murmur he was hurt. Sensing he had gotten to his man, Troyanovsky followed up with more hammering rights to send Obara crashing into the the ropes and slumping out of the ring.
Obara slid limply off the apron and into a row of photographers and his own corner who eventually helped him up off the floor. Thinking the bout was over, Troyanovsky celebrated with a backflip and was mobbed by his corner, but their cheers were premature. A boxer who is knocked out of the ring and off the ring apron receives a count of twenty in which to make it back into the ring.
Obara made the count and, after he was directed back through the ropes by his corner and dusted down by the referee, the action continued. But Troyanovsky had blood in his nostrils. He stalked Obara and when he secured the wounded challenger in his crosshairs, he struck and battered Obara with clean combinations to force him into the ropes. The referee had no choice but to intervene with Troya landing at will and pulled the Russian away to save the defenseless Obara from further punishment.
The stoppage came at 1 minute 35 seconds gone of round two and this time the Russian corner could celebrate Troyanovsky recording his third successive stoppage in a title bout. After the fight, the boxer also affectionately known as “Eduard The Eagle” pondered his next step, and hinted he would like to make the leap to major venues.
“It happened how it happened and it’s great that I gave you something to cheer about again. Thank you to the fans for coming and giving me strength,” Troyanovsky said in the post-fight press conference.
“I hope that my next fight will be in a bigger stadium so there will be more fans and subsequently I can have an even more spectacular win. With every title defence it adds more pressure. I don’t have so much worry about the opponent but most of all I worry about this responsibility,” he added.
Speaking directly to Boxing Monthly, Troyanovsky had this to say when asked after the fight whether his performance had sent a message to future opponents: “My message is simple and clear: I am ready for the big fights.”
Troyanovsky’s promoter, Andrey Ryabinsky, said that the next logical step may be for his charge to make a defence in the West should the right offer present itself.
“I think we’ve already reached the point to go to Great Britain or America and that we have a very good chance. Recently [Troyanovsky] has come on strongly and I think that he is one of the best boxers in the world at light-welterweight,” Ryabinsky told Boxing Monthly after the fight.
Before the fight, Troyanovsky hinted that he might prefer to meet Terence Crawford or Ricky Burns if he was victorious against Obara, but his promoter remained tight-lipped when asked if either would be his next opponent.
“I won’t say,” Ryabinsky replied with a smile. “But of course it’s logical that at some point it will be Crawford, because it would be a fantastic idea - a fight to unify the titles.”
Where Troyanovsky’s next performance takes place and against whom is not yet clear, but if it is anywhere near as electrifying as his last, boxing fans are in for a treat from 'Troya'.