Russian tycoon and boxing promoter Andrey Ryabinsky continues to put on great cards in Russia featuring some of the best that the cruiserweight division has to offer.
At the Luzhniki Palace in Moscow yesterday (April 10th) Ryabinsky put on a stellar card that featured a mouth-watering world title contest and a plethora of knockout artists on the bill also.
The main event was the big one, but Bad Left Hook will take a look at the other important fights on the card as well.
Denis Lebedev UD12 Youri Kalenga
The long-awaited showdown between WBA titlist Denis Lebedev (27-2, 20 KO's) and mandatory challenger Youri Kayembe Kalenga (21-2, 14 KO's) was thought by cruiserweight aficionados (yes, they actually exist) to be a guaranteed slobberknocker.
Itt turned out they were right.
It could be argued that this was a true crossroads match-up; Lebedev has fought just once since his grueling war with Guillermo Jones back in 2013 (Lebedev was stopped in the 11th round and Jones later tested positive for a banned substance) and Kalenga--a knockout artist on the rise--was seen as the stiffest challenge Lebedev has faced since that loss.
In the first few rounds it looked like youth might prevail. Both fighters were looking to get their timing down and Kalenga was landing some thudding blows that caused the Russian's balance to look shaky on more than one occasion. Lebedev stayed with him and looked to utilise angles and force Kalenga into bad positions. The Congolese banger wasn't too perturbed by this early on, which wasn't too surprising as Kalenga is an unorthodox fighter himself, and he was at home throwing wide shots while off-balance.
This paid off in he fourth round when Kalenga caught Lebedev coming out of an exchange with a looping shot that dropped the Russian to the canvas. Lebedev recovered quickly and got back to his gameplan, but Kalenga was gaining confidence, with good timing to go with his brute strength.
This was until the seventh round. Lebedev timed Kalenga beautifully as the challenger was throwing a wide hook, and Lebedev's shorter left hand landed first and more accurately, dropping Kalenga onto his backside and turning the ebb and flow back in the champions favour.
Kalenga remained in the fight--which was closely contested and exciting throughout--but Lebedev punctuated a close but clear victory by out-landing Kalenga in the last round and showing he was the stronger man. The scorecards were 116-111, 115-112 and 116-110. The middle one seems closest to being justifiable to my eyes.
Both fighters displayed fight ending power throughout the fight, and only the combined level of chin in the same ring prevented a knockout. I strongly suggest that anyone who has cared enough to click on this article check out the fight as soon as possible, especially with the eclectic music between rounds with included AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck', Ray Parker Jr's 'Ghostbusters' theme and Robert Plant wailing 'The Immigrant Song'.
Lebedev may be thought of as a crude slugger, but in fact he's a very underrated and well-oiled offensive machine. While he's never going to be confused with a defensive artist, his deft head movements and counter punching--coupled with having sandbags for fists--make him relatively slick for his style and size. Kalenga acquitted himself well and can come again, but even at thirty five and with the brutal war with Guillermo Jones surely still in the back of his mind Lebedev shows no signs of slowing down.
So if Lebedev is still very much a man to look out for in the present day cruiserweight scene, his compatriot Dmitry Kudryashov is the guy to look out for in the near future.
Dmitry Kudrashov KO1 Francisco Palacios
And when I say look out for I mean run away as fast as you can if you hear from a friend of a friend's neighbour that Kudryashov is a few towns away.
Now sporting 17 devastating knockout wins and a 100% knockout record, Dmitry Kudryashov is the latest in a line of highly-touted destroyers from the former Soviet Union. As crazy as it sounds, the man known as 'Sledgehammer' might even hit harder than the likes of Gennady Golovkin, Sergei Kovalev and Artur Beterbiev.
In his last fight, Kudryashov blasted former cruiserweight champion and heavyweight title challenger Juan Carlos Gomez inside 20 seconds. Okay, I hear you, Gomez had seen better days.
Francisco Palacios however had been 24 rounds with former WBC champ Krzysztof Wlodarczyk and had never been down--let alone stopped--in 25 pro outings.
His game plan was clear from the get-go--stay the Hell away from Kudryashov. The Russian followed Palacios, and threw some half-hearted blows to warm himself up a bit. But what anyone who has followed Kudryashov's career will know is that when he means to land there is nothing half-hearted about his punches. What seems like a relatively slow handed fighter is actually scarily accurate and incredibly powerful.
40 seconds or so into the fight Kudryashov connected with his first punch, a left hook to the body. This moved Palacios to his left a bit, but not far enough to avoid Kudryashov's follow-up blow, which went high and sparked the durable Puerto Rican out.
Kudryashov has stepped it up in his last two fights and hasn't got one minutes worth of action. He is a terrifying prospect poised to take on anyone in the division.
If Lebedev, Kalenga and Kudryashov didn't pack enough combined power on one card Ryabinsky had another crushing knockout artist at hand to provide thrills for the audience.
Rakhim Chakhkiev KO4 Valery Brudov
When you think of fighters that came out of the last era of amateur boxing you think of point scoring stylists who needed serious work to transition to the pro game.
World silver and Olympic gold medalist Chakhkiev exploded onto the pro scene with a heavy handed style that reeked of a Mike Tyson fan boy.
The hot prospect was dampened somewhat when he capitulated in a challenge of WBC champion Wlodarczyk he was winning handily, but Chakhkiev seems to have learned from that loss somewhat and is conserving his energy now.
Not that it's made him any less of a dangerman, as poor Valery Brudov found out in four one-sided rounds.
Brudov was known for his years as a tough contender but a recent string of defeats have shown his best days are well behind him. Still, he was very competitive and gutsy against British contender Tony Bellew only recently, so Chakhkiev's performance is still something to be admired.
Whether you can 'admire' the worrying aftermath of the savage knockout blow Brudov was poleaxed by I'm not too sure, but you will surely admire the Olympic gold medalist helping Brudov up and back to his corner once it was clear he was going to be okay.
While his style may never be suited to having a good engine and his chin might not be sturdy enough to see him run the gauntlet in the 200lb division--home to more pure punchers than any other in the sport right now--Chakhkiev is a skilled puncher with the power to paralyse anyone and one of the most consistently exciting fighters out there. He's tentatively scheduled to face off with the skilled Ukrainian contender Dmytro Kucher in defence of his European cruiserweight title at the end of May, and that is a highly intriguing contest that you should keep your eyes out for
The Best of the Rest
20-0 Russian light welterweight Eduard Troyanovsky took his undefeated record to 21 when he scored a come-from-behind stoppage over once beaten Aik Shakhnazaryan. At 34 years old Troyanovsky is not likely to improve much, but he's a fun fighter who can get into exciting scraps with other warmongers around the 140lb limit.
In a relative upset, Manuel Charr lost a 10-round majority decision to Johann Duhaupas. Expect to see Charr--who has previously lost to Vitali Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin--being fed to Anthony Joshua or Joseph Parker sometime soon. He looked pretty bad and isn't going to be making waves anywhere other than his bathtub.
That ends our round-up of this card, which was pretty exciting from top to bottom. What did you think of the Lebedev-Kalenga bout? Is Kudryashov as scary as I'm making him out to be? Can Chakhkiev make another run to the top of the cruiserweight division? Do you care about 200lb fighters? If not, why not?