By: Steven Galeano
Magomed ‘Black Lion’ Kurbanov (22-0, 13 KOs) took a significant step toward a world title shot, defeating former world titlist Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith (29-3-1, 16 KOs) on Friday in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Kurbanov won the WBO International Super Welterweight title, but more importantly, positioned himself closer to a world title opportunity against the winner of the upcoming unification between Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano.
Scores were – 117-112, 115-113, 115-113, all for Kurbanov.
Russia’s Kurbanov (WBA/WBO #5, IBF #15) secured the type of signature victory that would announce himself on the world title stage. England’s Smith’s (WBO #2) previous defeats came in world title fights. In 2016, Smith suffered his first defeat (KO9) to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs), losing the WBO 154lb belt in his third title defense. Then in 2018, Smith lost a unanimous decision to Jaime Munguia, in an attempt to regain the WBO title. Smith had previously won three straight since losing to Munguia.
Kurbanov now figures to move up to #2 in the WBO behind Tim Tszyu (18-0, 14 KOs), of Australia. Tszyu is the son of Hall of Famer Kosta Tszyu.
The WBO champion, Castano (17-0-1, 12 KOs), faces WBC/WBA/IBF champion Charlo (34-1, 18KOs) on July 17 to determine an undisputed champion at 154lbs. As other organizations sort out mandatory challengers, it seems natural that the WBO orders a final elimination bout between Tszyu and Kurbanov. Nonetheless, with all four belts being contested, top contenders at 154lbs figure to wait lengthy periods of time before receiving a world title shot.
With this big victory, Kurbanov at 25-years-old is destined to see his WBA and IBF rankings dramatically improve as well.
It didn’t come without a tough night. The bout between Kurbanov and Smith was hotly contested, the Russian native pulled ahead early, winning the first few rounds before Smith ultimately rallied during the midway point. While at times it seemed like Smith was ready to take over, Kurbanov responded with his own flurries until the final bell.
Smith, 32, will certainly make another title run as he again proved himself as a world-class operator. At this stage, a world title fight seems distant but at the domestic level, there will undoubtedly be lucrative opportunities for him.
The 12-round bout was promoted by RCC Boxing Promotions, who currently handle Kurbanov.
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