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Denis Lebedev returns September 7th against Hizni Altunkaya

Lebedev is the WBA cruiserweight “champion-in-recess”

Amir Khan v Andreas Kotelnik - WBA Light-Welterweight Championship Photo by John Gichigi/Getty Images

One of the WBA’s four cruiserweight champions, “champion-in-recess” Denis Lebedev, will return to action after more than a year away next month when he faces Turkey’s Hizni Altunkaya in Chelyabinsk. According to Ring Polska, Lebedev and his camp had targeted a bout with Tomasz Adamek at a 213-pound catchweight, but Adamek instead signed on to fight Jarrell Miller in October.

Lebedev (30-2, 22 KO), who turns 39 today, is arguably the #1 cruiserweight to not appear in the Super Series tournament, having fought Murat Gassiev to an extremely narrow split decision loss in 2016. He’d be my pick for Oleksandr Usyk’s first defense as unified champion, which should still be on the table if he crushes Altunkaya (30-2, 17 KO) as expected.

Though Altunkaya is still in the WBA top 10, the Turk bowed out after nine rounds against Beibut Shumenov last month and his only other major fight saw him stopped in five by Krzysztof Głowacki. He did not win a single round on any scorecard against either man.

BoxRec also lists Dmitry Mikhaylenko and a bout between unbeaten Zaur Abdullaev and Hank Lundy among the day’s attractions.

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