The Red Corner: Troya on top as Kovalev-Ward approaches
Danny Wayne Armstrong
Danny Wayne Armstrong's latest round-up of everything in the ring from the world’s biggest nation, as Troyanovsky destroys Obara, Lebedev and Gassiev prepare to square off and Provodnikov and Troyanovsky make their Kovalev-Ward predictions ...
We begin in the second week of September with Eduard Troyanovsky's savage beating of Japan’s Keita Obara to defend his IBF and IBO super lightweight titles at Moscow’s Krylia Sovetov. Troyanovsky is deemed the dark horse in a division teeming with talent as little is known about the extent of his ability. Less still was known about 16-1 Obara.
Troyanovsky predicted Obara would 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.
Both fighters shook each other in round one, but it was Troyanovsky who ended the bout early with a combination forty-four seconds into the second that sent Obara through the ropes and sliding out of the ring. Obara made it back but Troya battered him with clean combinations and gave the referee no choice but to intervene with the Russian landing at will.
The stoppage, at 1 minute 35 seconds of round two, was Troyanovsky’s third successive stoppage in a title bout. After the fight the boxer, who is affectionately known as 'The Eagle' told BM: “My message is simple and clear: I am ready for the big fights.”
He and manager Andrey Ryabinsky had hoped to fight either WBA king Ricky Burns or IBF/WBO belt holder Terence Crawford, but it was announced in November that the 36-year-old will instead take on unbeaten Namibian and WBO Africa champion Julius Indongo (20-0, 10 KOs).
“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,” said Ryabinsky, amid news Stateside that potential superstar ‘Bud’ Crawford was interested in a Troya match-up.
“Crawford’s team are interested in the fight,” said Lee Chambers, who is part of Top Rank, who represent Crawford, without specifying when a potential bout may take place.
But first Troya will take on 33-year-old Indongo, who has never fought outside of his native country. The fight is the chief support of the mouth-watering all-Russian cruiserweight clash between Denis Lebedev and Murat Gassiev on 3 December at Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow.
Gutsy hardman Gassiev stunningly KO’d American Jordan Shimmell in round one last time out and was rewarded with a shot at veteran Lebedev’s WBA 'super' and IBF world crowns. WBA regular champion Beibut Shumenov had previously petitioned the organisation to face Lebedev but his appeal thankfully fell on deaf ears; the match-up between Lebedev and Gassiev, who have a combined 39 KO wins from 55 fights, is much more appealing.
Interestingly, the card's only other home fighters are five other cruiserweights, including Rakhim Chakhkiev, who continues his journey back to world level. They will all fight as-yet-unknown foes.
Elsewhere, amateur 52kgs fighter Misha Aloyan has denied reports of substance abuse. The 28-year-old was part of the Russian boxing team at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Silver medallist Aloyan was the only Russian athlete to feature in WADA leaks posted by hackers ‘Fancy Bears’ in September, which alleged he took the banned drug tuaminoheptane.
Aloyan has vehemently denied the allegations. “I have never taken any banned substances - this is my principle of life, this is impossible when being under this watchful eye,” he told Russian media.
The Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward super fight creeps ever nearer, surrounded by no lesser itching anticipation than when it was first mooted. Rumours that Kovalev was put down in sparring by Kazakh terror Gennady Golovkin have been a constant of the buildup.
But the fighter, who is not undeservedly nicknamed ‘Krusher’, laughed off the allegations, telling reporters: “Did you see it for yourself? Don’t believe it then. In sparring, sparring happens. We are not swimmers, we are boxers. Anything can happen.”
Boxing Monthly spoke to a couple of Russian boxers to gain their opinions about how the fight will unfold. Ruslan Provodnikov and Eduard Troyanovsky gave somewhat diplomatic responses.
“I never make predictions, it’s dirty work, more so in boxing,” said Provodnikov. “Ward is a class boxer, he is talented, but then again so is Sergey. Sergey is my friend who I support and worry for. Therefore I will support my friend. For Sergey, although I’ve got nothing against Ward, he’s a really good guy and a great boxer, I will be wishing victory for my friend but let’s leave it at this: may the best man win.”
As for Troyanovsky, he told BM: “It’s not the first time I will say I don’t want to make a prediction. I will be supporting Sergey Kovalev. I’m a friend of his, he’s a really good guy. But Ward is also very strong, very experienced. I won’t weigh it up or say who will win or lose because I don’t like to make predictions.”
“I will support Sergey. The best will win. It’s a super fight. You can get it wrong when you try and guess what will happen. I don’t like to be wrong and so it’s better not to make a prediction. We will see ourselves who wins."
This edition of The Red Corner now stretches to Spain with the news that Madrid-based lightweight Petr Petrov retired New Jersey’s Michael Perez in six rounds after a fight riddled with cuts and accidental headbutts. ‘El Tsar’, who splits his time between Spain and California, has now had six straight fights Stateside and is knocking on the door for a title shot, with new WBA champ Jorge Linares in his cross-hairs.
On Tuesday 20 September in Vladikavkaz, hard-hitting Roman Andreev made a huge statement on the lightweight scene to improve his record to 18-0 with 13 KOs with a fifth-round knockout of Rolando Magbanua for the WBO inter-continental title. Thirty-year-old Andreev dropped the experienced Filipino for the count with solid body shots in the Caucasus foothills.
Light-heavyweight Dmitry Bivol had probably the toughest test of his short career when he faced rugged 8-5 journeyman Yevgeni Makhteienko in Ekaterinburg on 29 October. The Kyrgyz-born WBA interim champion moved to 8-0 with six knockouts on his fledgling slate and now seems destined for big things
Beverly Hills-based brawler Artur Akavov will fight Billy Joe Saunders in Cardiff, Wales, on 26 November for the Englishman’s WBO middleweight title. The 16-1, 7 KOs Akavov will be hoping to do better than stablemate Andrey Klimov, who was beaten by another Englishman, Liam Walsh in October. Klimov was knocked down in round six on the way to a 12-round unanimous decision defeat. The duo form part of the Alex Vaysfeld stable Union Boxing Management in the US. Akavov was a surprise name for Billy Joe’s next fight, especially given the Hatfield traveller’s calling out of ‘Triple G’.
And finally a new boxing television programme aired in Russia in October. 'Boi v bolshom gorode' (Fight in the Big City) features a similar format to the popular US series 'The Contender' and invites fighters to try out for selection for a televised tournament.
The would-be champions auditioned at trials held in Moscow in front of a panel of boxers including Provodnikov, Troyanovsky and David Avanesyan. The hopefuls were all aiming to gain a place at the tournament, where the top prize is a contract with Andrey Ribyanskiy’s promotional giants ‘Mir Boksa’ (World of Boxing).