…And the Up-And-Coming Heavyweights Keep Rising
6’71/2″ Alexander Ustinov Beats Michael Sprott Over 10 by Philip H. Anselmo (Reporting from Ringside)
On the undercard of Wladimir Klitschko’s recent pugilistic masterpiece, stopping previously unbeaten, former WBA king and #3 rated southpaw Ruslan Chagaev in less than 10 one-sided rounds for the long overdue right to be named “The Ring Magazine” undisputed world champ, another heavyweight took a step toward contention.
Towering 3073/4 Lb Alexander Ustinov, (16-0, 13 KO’s) Minsk, Belarus via Paustovo Russia, took a half-decent step in his career by cruising to a relatively easy 10 round points victory over 237Lb British warhorse Michael Sprott (31-14, 16 KO’s).
Although this news may be dated a few weeks by the time you read this, (I’m on the road in Europe, hung-over and wrapping this report up in Greece) there’s a specific reason for taking second glance at this particular fight: if Alexander Ustinov continues to improve with each outing, he could prove to be a tough guy to beat outside of the Klitschko brothers.
Ustinov, fighting out of an upright position, much like Vitali Klitschko, showed decent hand speed and footwork early, pumping out a good left jab, whilst an in shape Sprott circled left, respectful of the Russians right hand.
A solid jab seemed to stun Sprott early in the second and Ustinov attempted to capitalize with a nice follow-up of multi-combos to the body and head, but Sprott survived the onslaught with a tight defense and lateral movement.
At the the start of the 3rd, Sprott, knowing he’d lost the two previous heats, started more aggressively, occasionally backing the hulking Ustinov up with hard jabs over the top of the Russians low left hand. To Alexander’s credit, whenever Sprott seemed to be outworking him with cagey, veteran tactics, he’d even things up with 3, 4, and 5 punch combinations; most hitting gloves, but some hard shots getting through. Both men traded right hand shots in the 4th, to no great effect however. I had the fight 2-1-1 in favor of Ustinov heading into the 5th.
Midway through the round, Ustinov was cut around the right eye, apparently from a clash of heads from my viewpoint, because although Michael was still game, his efforts came spuriously and one punch at a time before initiating clinches. With blood still painted around his damaged eye, Ustinov scored with a triple-jab into a three-punch combo along the ropes that stunned Sprott again in the 6th.
Ustinov’s size and superior activity looked to be wearing the Brit down, but the 7th round was probably Sprott’s most impressive. For the first time in the fight, the Russian looked a tad gassed, and Sprott, perhaps recognizing it attacked with some vigor. Using nice in-and-out movement, Sprott began to take chances, throwing wild right hand bombs (which missed for the most part) over Alexander’s dangerously low positioned left glove: his most glaring flaw. Sprott’s gamble paid off at the 10-second mark, as a solid right bounced off Ustinov’s head to end the round.
With swelling around what looked to be both eyes, Ustinov came out for the 8th with a slight second wind, but Sprott was still game and obviously inspired due to his success in the previous round. Michael landed a right hand halfway through, only for Ustinov to fire back once again in multi-combination, landing a nice, short uppercut on the inside along the ropes.
Both fighters landed in the 9th; Sprott scoring with sticking jabs and landing two nifty left hooks to the jaw of Ustinov, while the Russian responded with two right hands upstairs within a cluster of punches. It was Ustinov’s quicker-handed spurts of activity that nicked these close rounds.
In the 10th and final, Ustinov looked to be tired and out of any fresh ideas to do the damage required to destructively penetrate Sprott’s cagey defense, while Michael seemed content to cover up, tie up, and hear the final bell. All in all, Ustinov’s superior work rate throughout won him the contest rather easily, and although Sprott may have seen better days, he came to fight, and for that fact alone, Ustinov claimed a legitimate scalp in only his 16th pro fight.
Yes sir, Alexander Ustinov is yet another big, still-raw fighter amongst dozens, but with that said, he’s no Tye Fields. He can actually fight a bit and he’s hungry to throw punches with real contenders to prove his mettle. It’s the style he brings to the table that’ll drive the majority of moderate sized contenders crazy. Ustinov fights big, similar to Vitali, but with the punching power of say, WBA champ Nicolay Valuev.
But for my buck, Ustinov, with about 35 fights less than Valuev, has a more natural boxing style and talent than Nicolay, and with that said…I guess the point is clear.
It’s not saying a whole heck of a lot, but Alexander is definitely a fighter to watch for as the heavyweight landscape changes over the next few years. Ustinov carries his left hand low on purpose as a tactic, but he might want to reconsider that particular chink in his armor, as well as planting his feet and setting down on his punches more as he climbs the ratings and meets more formidable opposition. Is he ready for a top 10 fighter? I guess it depends on which alphabet organization’s list you’re staring at.
And just to add a little insult to an already injured reality… just check the WBA’s top 10. With a list like that, Ustinov could easily be in contention next week if he beat Kali Meehan in an arm-wrestling match or outwitted John Ruiz in a game of “Go Fish”! I’ve written it before, and I’ll keep writing it till I’m blue in the fingertips: The WBA heavyweight title means about as much as the whole MMA thing… and in my world… that amounts to zilch.
Lets hope the new blood like Ustinov, Denis Boystov, Tyson Fury and Tor Hamer realize the same sad thing and fight their way towards the Klitschko sweepstakes, because that’s where the real deal is, and will remain for a long while.