The Red Corner
Danny Wayne Armstrong
A round-up of everything in the ring from the world’s biggest nation.
We begin this month’s round-up at the Yekaterinburg Sport Palace, the scene of Sergey Kovalev’s 11 July defense of his WBA, IBF and WBO light-heavyweight belts against slick contender Isaac Chilemba. The fight doubled as the champion’s homecoming, as Kovalev last boxed in his home country in 2011, also in Yekaterinburg. That night became enveloped in tragedy when his opponent Roman Simakov died from his injuries after being stopped in the seventh round of their meeting.
Since then, Kovalev has won and defended championships in the UK, the US and Canada and was expected to put on a show in front of vociferous home support. But Chilemba had other plans. The African’s anodyne style seemed to extract the sting from Kovalev’s feared fists that have iced 26 of his 31 opponents as he took the Russian KO king the scheduled distance for only the second time in his career.
The fight’s seventh stanza saw Kovalev land a left Chilemba’s body and backed up with a spiteful one-two which felled Chilemba with just over half a minute remaining. A ruffled but gutsy Chilemba rose tactfully at nine and, despite being visibly wounded, managed to smother and grab out the remaining 15 seconds against a champion intent on ended proceedings.
From then on Chilemba survived behind his prodding jab and backward shuffle. Kovalev managed to bloody the nose of the mohawked Malawian with hammer like jabs but was ultimately left frustrated by the bullet-domed Chilemba’s tricky style and critical counter punching. The fight ended with unanimous scores of 116-11, 117-110, 118-109 for Kovalev. Andre Ward now awaits ‘Krusher’, a deal is in place for the two to meet in Las Vegas in november in a highly anticipated bout.
Much of the post-fight discussion centred on whether the freight train-pace with which Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 KOs) had propelled his name to the P4P summits was just a bandwagon, such was most observers’ surety that he would win in style on his homecoming. But Chilemba (24-4-2, 10 KOs) is experienced and difficult to impress against. Press reports almost unanimously told the story of an uninspiring win for Kovalev, many of which were harsh towards a man who has provided them with ample column inch content of late.
The undercard brought wins for unbeaten duo Pavel Malikov and Magomed Kurbanov who scooped WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver lightweight and super lightweight titles respectively; both by third round stoppage; both move to 8-0.
On 2 July Denis Shafikov bounced back from his IBF lightweight title loss to Rances Barthelemy in December to stop Cincinnati native Jamel Herring on July 4th night in Pennsylvania. Shafikov, who Brits will remember as the man who truncated Scot Lee McAllister’s burgeoning career four years ago, further boosted his standing Stateside in a spectator-friendly fight.
Previously unbeaten Herring (15-1, 8 KOs) was down early from a springing, swinging right hook in the final moments of the second round. The shorter Shafikov used his low centre of gravity to maul the taller target, wearing him down with stinging overhand rights and sharp body work. Herring battled bravely against his fellow southpaw but with 36 seconds gone of the fight’s final round his corner sensibly called a halt to the proceedings with the former marine and Olympian taking a beating.
“I feel that I deserve another title shot. This time I will not let that slip away," Shafikov, who improved to 37-2-1 with 20 KOs, told ESPN after the fight.
Another US-based Russian former kickboxer Sergey Lipinets (10-0, 8 KOs) beat Nicaraguan Walter Castillo on by seventh round TKO at the Horseshoe Casino, Mississippi on 15 July. Southpaw Lipinets, who also has a stoppage win over fringe contender Cosme Rivera on his record, was fighting on the ESPN-televised card against the vastly more experienced Castillo (26-4-1, 19 KOs) in only his tenth professional fight. The Kazakhstan-born brawler, 27, believes his experience in the kickboxing arena will make up for his inexperience as he climbs up the pro boxing rankings. No doubt his work with revered trainer Buddy McGirt in Los Angeles, where he has been sparring and, by my account, doing well against contender Jose Benavidez Jr., will have the same effect.
July also brought news that Andrey Klimov (19-2, 9 KOs) will fight in Great Britain after being announced as the next opponent for Norfolk fighter Liam Walsh (20-0, 14 KOs) in what will be an eliminator for the IBF belt. The unbeaten Briton is making his first step on the unforgiving road to world honours after having cleaned up domestically at super-featherweight.
The fight is scheduled to take place on September 10 in Manchester, the same night Kell Brook takes on Gennady Golovkin in London, and represents a step up in class for Walsh, the eldest of the Cromer trio of boxing brothers alongside Ryan and Michael. Klimov’s last outing was a losing bid for the IBF 130 lbs strap against Puerto Rican Jose Pedraza in June 2015.
BoxingScene.com reported on 15 July that the WBA ordered a deal be reached for a fight between their welterweight champion Keith Thurman and Shane Mosley conqueror David Avanesyan (22-1-1, 11 KOs) in 30 days, otherwise the fight willl go to purse bids. Avanesyan earned his title shot by winning the interim WBA title against Venezuelan Charlie Navarro in November. The next few months should be fruitful for
Avanesyan manager Neil Marsh told Boxing Monthly recently: “[We are] still negotiating and will be ordered for purse bids in a couple of weeks. We were interim champion and boxed a top 5 contender in Mosley so they ordered it as a final eliminator in order to clean up the amount of champions they are doing. I don’t know how keen they are but David isn’t a big name so don’t know yet. If they don’t we take his belt!”
Elsewhere, Kazakhstan cruiserweight Beibut Shumenov has seen his hopes of facing WBA Super champion Denis Lebedev come no closer to fruition. Regular champion Shumenov petitioned the WBA in June to either declare a purse bid for the fight or strip Lebedev of his title. The WBA have twice failed to take action regarding Shumenov’s requests and he and his team are said to be extremely upset about the proposal
Ahead of the Rio Olympics on August 5, Russian amateur flyweight Misha Aloyan has said he “welcomes” pro boxers into the amateurs to the Rio 2016 Olympics, and the two-time world amateur champion and London 2012 bronze medallist had a warning for his paid counterparts - “Don’t underestimate us [amatuer boxers], we have a very good work-rate”. Russian boxers will be allowed to compete at the Games after the IOC ruled against a blanket ban on the Russian team because of widespread doping scandals. The Rio Olympics will be the first in which professional boxers are allowed to compete following the international Boxing Association's (AIBA) ruling to allow professional boxers to enter their qualifying process. However, the Russian team decided against allowing their own professionals to compete.
Aloyan is part of a nine-strong Russian boxing team in Brazil. They include: Vasily Yegorov (light flyweight), Misha Aloyan (flyweight), Vladimir Nikitin (bantamweight), Adlan Abdurashidov (lightweight), Vitaly Dunaytsev (light-welterweight), Andrey Zamkovoy (welterweight), Artem Chebotarev (middleweight), Petr Khamukov (light-heavyweight) and Evgeny Tishchenko (heavyweight). Russia also has two female boxers heading to the Games in lightweight Anastasia Belyakova and middleweight Yaroslava Yakushina. Boxing in Rio will begin on Saturday, 6 August and will conclude on Sunday, 21 August.
Aside from the Games in Rio, August brings a fairly lean schedule in Russian boxing, aside from a few small hall shows within the federation. Cruiserweight Maxim Vlasov, who knocked out former contender Ismayl Sillakh in June will fight in Pervomayskoye on August 5. The Samara fighter has only two losses on his slate, both decision defeats to Isaac Chilemba and current WBC super middleweight champ Gilberto Ramirez. The 29-year-old could still be capable of making a splash in his weight division.