By: Ste Rowen
In the slightly surreal surroundings for boxing at Casino de Monte Carlo, former WBA & IBF cruiserweight champion Denis Lebedev scored a unanimous decision victory over the unbeaten Mike Wilson to improve his record to 32-2 (23KOs).
Also on the card, American Michael Hunter scored his second knockout in consecutive months with an impressive stoppage of Alexander Ustinov. WBA super-flyweight champ, Kal Yafai scored a controversial decision over Israel Gonzalez, Fanlong Meng took a stoppage win over Frank Buglioni and Kazakh Thunder, Daniyar Yeleussinov stopped no-hoper, Marcos Mojica inside three rounds.
It was Lebedev’s first fight outside of Russia since he lost a split decision to Marco Huck in Germany in 2010, but he started tonight as if he was the home fighter, making the most of the middle ground, punishing Wilson if he dropped his guard even slightly. Wilson was holding his own though, the former US amateur standout might’ve been being beaten to the punch, but it wasn’t stopping him from trying to get on the front foot as it headed into the middle rounds. In the 5th, the Russian landed a huge left hand which the American sucked up but his already bloodied face was getting increasingly redder.
Photo Credit: Matchroom Boxing Twitter Account
19-0 (8KOs) heading into tonight, Mike was up for the fight and prepared to take some to land one, the problem was in the landing, specifically that he wasn’t. Lebedev stalked around his foe, measured in his approach, constantly chipping away at the taller man from his southpaw stance. In round 7 Wilson tried to switch it up, countering a lot quicker than before but still struggling to significantly dent the iron-chinned, Lebedev.
As the fight drew on into the final few rounds of the scheduled twelve, Denis began to tire a little, relying more heavily on single power punches. His movement was however good enough to keep the American from creeping back into contention, until he slipped on the canvas in round 11 and took an unforced tumble.
The last time Lebedev fought an unbeaten fighter he was knocked down en route to a decision loss to Murat Gassiev, tonight there seemed no chance of that happening again. As the bell for round 12 rang, it was now or never for Wilson. He had no other choice but to opt for the latter because though Mike came out knowing he needed the stoppage, the 39-year-old was too slick and too wary of getting into a fire fight this late into the bout. Both made it to the final bell, and we went to the scorecards; 119-109 (x2), 117-111 all in favour of Denis Lebedev and he spoke post-fight,
‘‘I would put myself at 4/5, like a big 4. I did everything my coach said. I think I performed well and overall, I’m glad’‘
And who does he want next,
‘‘There are a lot of fighters in my division who want to fight Usyk and I am one of them. I will follow the resolution of the WBA and I hope my side and Usyk’s side can make that happen.’‘
Michael Hunter vs. Alexander Ustinov
Michael ‘The Bounty’ Hunter yet again fought and won on the road for the second time in just over two months with a 9th round knockout victory over Alexander Ustinov.
‘The Bounty’ Hunter isn’t exactly small, it was obvious which of the two had recently moved up from cruiserweight, but it didn’t stop the American from making the more aggressive start; cleanly landing on multiple occasions with long right crosses. Early on, Ustinov’s only success was coming when he tied Hunter up, despite the Russian’s reach, Michael was countering brilliantly with short left hands.
Photo Credit: Matchroom Boxing Twitter Account
Alexander the great has lost twice as a pro but only stopped once when he was knocked out by an unbeaten Kubrat Pulev back in 2012, and tonight his chin looked as if it was holding up against the power of the smaller man.
The prize on offer was the WBA ‘International’ belt, previously held by the Russian and most recently wrapped around the waist of Dereck Chisora after his KO victory over Carlos Takam this year, and in round 8 Michael went all out to grab the title early. He fired and landed two huge right hands dropping Ustinov who rose but only just made it to the end of the round.
By the start of the 9th the Russian looked as if he had regained his senses but with just over a minute left of round 9, Hunter once again landed a huge hook, this time with his left hand, and Ustinov slumbered to the ground and his corner threw in the towel.
Just two months ago Hunter, as professional, was famous for going the distance with Usyk, two fights later he’s defeated an unbeaten prospect in Martin Bakole, and a respected fringe contender in Ustinov. No doubt big fights await in 2019 for the 30-year-old. Hunter, now 16-1 (11KOs) spoke immediately after the fight, as did his trainer and former heavyweight champion, Hasim Rahman.
‘‘I want that USBA title (last held by Vyacheslav Glazkov in 2015), it’s very important to me. It’s in my lineage, my father held it…I want all the names, but I want that title.’’
‘‘He is the future of the heavyweight division. He’s beating these guys with power…Did you see him? He went down like, TIMBERRR’’
Kal Yafai vs. Israel Gonzalez
WBA super-flyweight champion Kal Yafai made the fourth defence of his world title with an underwhelming and controversial 12-round decision over Mexican, Israel Gonzalez.
Yafai, now 25-0 (15KOs), came into tonight off the back of an impressive stoppage win over David Carmona in May, and his intentions were clear early on as he concentrated his efforts on landing a stiff single jab to deter the Mexican from marching forward. Gonzalez was relying on quick spurts of hooks and was seriously lacking anything substantial enough to give the champion anything to worry about through to round 4.
Into the middle rounds and Gonzalez was doing well to tie Yafai up and limit his outside game, where Kal was having the most success in the early stages of the night. With two minutes left of the fifth the two boxers clashed heads, Israel came off worse, lifting his head to reveal a long cut above his left eye. The ring doctor was called in to take a look but allowed the challenger to continue.
Wearing white-gold shorts and gloves, the champion began to pick up his pace as the fight headed into the 8th but his output was lulling. Gonzalez’s energy was good as he bounced in his corner at the end of the round, Israel fought for the IBF strap held by Jerwin Ancajas in February where he was stopped in the 10th round. Tonight, the Mexican made it to round 11 and his punch output increased as Yafai’s hesitancy to land creeped up. Even if it did little to force Kal onto the backfoot, Gonzalez’s accuracy had improved as the fight went on, but he lacked the heavy-handedness needed to overcome a more technical opponent.
Both boxers made it through to hear the final bell and it felt in the balance. Gonzalez jumped up and raised his arms whereas Kal had the look of a defeated man. It was tense as the judges counted their scorecards. They returned as, 117-111, 116-112 all for Kal Yafai. Ridiculously wide scorecards in favour of the Matchroom fighter. Israel immediately stormed out of the ring in anger. Speaking post-fight Kal was self-critical,
‘‘Very sloppy, I’m a bit embarrassed with my performance. I thought the scores were a bit wide but 100% I thought I’d won. I was the aggressor throughout the whole fight, I just wasn’t busy enough…I never made the statement that I wanted to. I’m disappointed in my performance. I’m not happy with that at all.’’
Fanlong Meng vs. Frank Buglioni
Southpaw, Fanlong Meng earnt a 5th round TKO over Frank Buglioni, to claim the IBF Inter-continental light-heavyweight belt.
Buglioni, though lacking accuracy, made an energetic start which kept the former Olympian at bay through to round three where Frank put his foot down and sensed an opportunity to finish things early. But Meng’s credentials were on display in spots. His counter-left hand catching the Brit on numerous occasions.
For the first 90 seconds of the fourth, Buglioni appeared stunned and unable to block the power punches coming his way. However, he regained his composure before the end of the round and fired off his own arsenal to slow down Fanlong’s attack. The two went for it at the beginning of round five of ten, firing 1-2’s then taking 1-2’s and repeat.
The former British champion sustained a deep cut above his right eye, seemingly from a punch rather than a clash of heads, and on two occasions in the fifth the referee called a timeout for the ring doctor to inspect, unfortunately for Frank on the second timeout the doctor called an end to the bout meaning Meng picked up a technical stoppage victory improving his record to 15-0 (9KOs).
Daniyar Yeleussinov vs. Marcos Mojica
2016 Olympic welterweight gold medallist, Daniyar Yeleussinov moved to 5-0 (3KOs) with a third-round stoppage victory over Marcos Mojica.
It was evident from the first bell that there were quite a few levels between the two boxers. Mojica, 16-2-2 (12KOs) who’s fought almost the entirety of his pro career as a lightweight, did his best to evade attack and did reasonably well in the 1st round to avoid the ‘Kazakh Thunder’s’ heavy left hook. However, in the second, Daniyar dropped his Nicaraguan foe with a fast-left hand that partially landed on the back of Mojica’s head, knocking his balance.
Mojica rose and began to open up his own attack, but it was sloppy at best and on more than one occasion he lost his balance trying to get out of the way of the Kazakh’s quick handed combinations. Marcos was dropped for a second time just before the bell for the end of round 2, rising to make it to round three.
Just 30 seconds into the third, Yeleussinov dropped Mojica for a third time and it set up the finale as he unleashed a volley of punches as soon as Marcos rose, forcing the referee to step in and call an end to the fight. Daniyar now moves to 5-0 (3KOs).
By: Ste Rowen
Ever since Matchroom and DAZN USA have linked up, they’ve been crying out for a card that will really make its mark on the American scene. With its lack of hype and underrated fights, Saturday’s listing of matchups at Casino de Monte Carlo could be just that card.
Headlining in Monaco on Saturday will be former WBA cruiserweight champion, Denis Lebedev vs. American, Mike Wilson 19-0 (8KOs). Okay, hands-up you got me at the first hurdle. The headline act on paper is not one to catch the eye. Lebedev’s experience and accomplishments vs Wilson’s professional record, make this look somewhat of a mismatch however, ever since Denis was beaten on points by fellow Russian, Murat Gassiev in 2016, he’s fought and won twice in two extremely disappointing bouts.
Photo Credit: Kal Yafai Twitter Account
A decision victory over Mark ‘Bam-Bam’ Flanagan in 2017 and his only fight of 2018 so far, a third-round stoppage over 30-2-0, Hizni Altunkaya. The Altunkaya fight was the first time Lebedev has weighed in over the 200lb limit (212lb) since 2009, and it showed. For just over seven minutes, the boxer many viewed as the man to beat at cruiserweight just two years ago left himself wide open throughout, and although the Russian has one of the best chins in the game this seemed more of a reflex issue than anything else. The Flanagan bout last year was even worse, but the 39-year-old did get the win, and a stoppage although his Turkish opponent looked as if he wanted out after the first 30 seconds.
Mark ‘White Delight’ Wilson may be unbeaten but he’s going to need an already passed his best Lebedev to have entered the ‘washed’ stage of a boxer’s career. Wilson was a fairly accomplished amateur heavyweight winning national titles in the mid 2000’s and taking part but losing in the trials for the 2008 Olympics. The Oregon resident does have attributes that can make life awkward for Lebedev such as his superior reach and his willingness to shift and move rather than plod forward.
With Aleksandr Usyk currently in possession of every single belt at cruiserweight, and the second season of the 200lb World Boxing Super Series into its semi-final stage, there’s no guarantee that WBA ‘Champion-in-recess’, Lebedev or WBA ranked #11, Wilson will fight for the proper championship strap in the near future. And as Wilson himself said to the ‘Mail Tribune’ last month, Lebedev ‘‘…is long in the tooth now.’’ Let’s see if the American regrets saying age is in his favour when he fights the former cruiserweight king.
Khalid Yafai vs. Israel Gonzalez
WBA Super-flyweight champion of the world, Kal Yafai takes on Mexico’s, Israel Gonzalez which is setting itself up nicely for the gateway bout to unification battles that Yafai, 24-0 (15KOs) has spoken about so regularly.
‘‘Jerwin Ancajas and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai are obviously the two names that stick out.‘‘ Yafai told Sky Sports News. ‘‘Donnie Nietes and Kazuto Ioka are fighting for the vacant WBO title on New Years Eve so the winner of that is an option.‘‘
Challenger on Saturday, Gonzalez, 23-2 (10KOs) fought the aforementioned Ancajas for the IBF strap earlier this year where he was competitive in the early rounds, but the Filipino champion took over and scored a 10th round TKO. Yafai, who has fought just once this year (7th round stoppage of David Carmona), predicts a similar kind of effort from Israel this weekend,
‘‘I expect him to be looking to counter early on but then as the first three or four rounds go by, if it goes that far, he’ll realise that he can’t outbox me or counter me.‘‘
Kal enters as the heavy favourite and the prize-fights that await next year should be more than enough motivation for him to make the 4th defence of his WBA title. However, if he’s not at his championship best, the style of his Mexican foe will be perfect to make it a rough night.
Michael Hunter vs. Alexander Ustinov
Originally, Alexander Ustinov was set to be going up against unbeaten Chinese giant, Zhilei Zhang but due to visa issues, Michael ‘The Bounty’ Hunter has been brought in to arguably make an even more intriguing about.
Just over one month ago, former Usyk challenger at cruiserweight, Hunter shocked a packed-out York Hall when he stopped heavyweight prospect, Martin Bakole in the 10th and final round. Now 15-0 (11KOs), Hunter entered the fight as the underdog, viewed by many as a ‘stepping-stone’ fight for Bakole, who trains out of Scotland, to then move on to title fights in 2019.
That’s not quite how it went though as despite being equals going jab-for-jab, Hunter’s hooks and combination assaults were so much more effective and punishing to the Congolese fighter, who towards the end of the fight appeared to dislocate his shoulder and between rounds told trainer, Billy Nelson, that he wanted to quit.
He probably should of because the 10th was a complete onslaught from Michael who relentless attack, if sloppy at times, forced the referee into stepping in and calling an early end to the fight. As long as he avoids getting caught early on, the California native would do well to employ similar tactics when he faces off against Russian, Ustinov.
Hunter has faced the great and the good in the amateurs including Tyson Fury and Artur Beterbiev and the American isn’t talking down his chances as he looks to continue his heavyweight progress, as he told ‘Boxing News Online’ before the Bakole bout,
‘‘I beat Fury damn near to death in three rounds and actually he got the victory…I definitely thought I won that fight. I was very confident, I’m still very confident because I’ve already been in the ring with him…I heard that he (Usyk) was going to move up to heavyweight, so I hope to meet him there.‘‘
By the time Alexander ‘The Great’ Ustinov, 34-2 (25KOs) steps into the ring it will be one day shy of a year since he last fought; 18 months since his last victory. Last November Ustinov was out-fought and out-pointed by WBA ‘Regular’ champion, Manuel Charr. Consistently beaten to the punch by the smaller man that night means a lack of activity by Ustinov might not be his biggest issue when the first bell rings against Hunter. Before then, the now 41-year-old heavyweight was on a 7-fight win streak but, despite always being rumoured to be on the fringes of big heavyweight fights, the quality of his opposition has been subpar ever since he was stopped by Kubrat Pulev in 2015.
If Hunter comes at Ustinov with the same ferocity and fearlessness as he did against Martin Bakole, it could end being an early night for the aged Russian.
Frank Buglioni vs. Fanlong Meng
One of the most intriguing matchups of the weekend sees former British light-heavyweight champion, Frank Buglioni step in with former Chinese Olympian, Fanlong Meng for the IBF ‘Intercontinental’ title.
‘Wise Guy’ Buglioni, 22-3-1 (16KOs) heads into Saturday off the back of a run of the mill stoppage against the overmatched Emmanuel Feuzeu; Buglioni’s first fight since being knocked out by Callum Johnson last year. A victory over Meng on Saturday night, in Frank’s view, will see him not too far away from the best at 175lb,
‘‘The Light-Heavyweight division is buzzing and a good win over Meng will re-establish me as one of the top guys out there.’’ ‘Wise Guy’ told ‘RingNews24’. ‘‘A win would certainly put me back at the top of the pile domestically and possibly Europe too, I won’t be far off World level.’’
‘‘A shot at a World title is the dream…I like fighting southpaws and if an opportunity to fight Adonis Stevenson arises then why not?’’
Fanlong Meng, 13-0 (8KOs) is a southpaw who isn’t on WBC champion, Stevenson’s level just yet, but the former Olympian should be a good measurement of whether Buglioni still has what it takes to make a dent on the world scene.
Meng turned pro in 2015 and moved quickly and globally to boost his name in the professional ranks having already fought in the US & Puerto Rico, China and Macao. Victory over the former British champion would represent the first ‘big’ name on Fanlong’s resume and propel him up the rankings from the 11th position he currently resides with the IBF.