Maxi Hughes’ August upset of former world title challenger Jono Carroll got him a contract with MTK Global, and the 30-year-old Brit made that decision look really good, scoring a minor upset win over previously-unbeaten Viktor Kotochigov today in Dubai.
Hughes (22-5-2, 4 KO) dropped Kotochigov (12-1, 5 KO) in the third round and took unanimous scores of 95-94, 96-93, and 97-92, claiming the WBC International lightweight title, which in itself isn’t worth much but means Hughes’ standing with the WBC will definitely improve.
The southpaw put Kotochigov, 27, down with a sharp left uppercut, and had Kotochigov reeling a bit after that. An odd decision by the referee to step between the two for no good reason late in that round might have ensured Kotochigov seeing the bell to end the third, but Hughes kept landing good shots and hurt the Kazakh fighter repeatedly in the bout afterward.
That said, Kotochigov definitely hung around and nicked a few rounds in the fight. He never had the look of being a superstar in the making or anything, but he has solid skills and Hughes had to stay sharp, even if he did seem to cruise a bit in the last two rounds, playing a bit of keep-away, so to speak, which turned out fine as he did indeed take the decision. But it’s now a big question as to how much Kotochigov can really do as a pro. He doesn’t have that top-level talent on a first glance, and if Hughes — who is not a very big puncher — can drop and hurt him this many times, better punchers could be a nightmare.
As for Hughes, he’s just looking really dialed in with these recent performances, and he might be a guy for whom things have started to come together. That’s a bit unusual at 30, but certainly not unheard of, and if he can keep winning decent fights, he could find himself with a good opportunity as soon as 2021.
- Hovhannes Bachkov UD-8 Samuel Gonzalez: A good and useful pro debut for Armenia’s Bachkov, a decorated amateur and former Olympian. Gonzalez (22-7, 13 KO) is a 32-year-old veteran, originally from Venezuela and now living in Italy, and he was an ambitious first opponent for Bachkov, who could easily have taken on a scrub, looked really flashy, and started his pro career that way. Instead, he faced a decent fighter, took shutout scores over eight rounds, and showed something deeper in is skills than he would have just bowling over some club guy. Gonzalez isn’t a great fighter by any means, but he knows his way around the ring, and he was able to give Bachkov rounds.
- Faizan Anwar UD-6 JR Mendoza: This was fought at junior middleweight, really, as both guys weighed in at 152, but India’s Anwar, 19, is probably going to fight at 140 if/when things get serious for him. He’s fought around 143-145 before this one, and he also just fought on Sept. 12 in Dubai, too, winning a first round stoppage over a debuting foe. He had no trouble here, sweeping the cards in a shutout across the board, but Mendoza (11-20, 5 KO) was able to give him some rounds and hang in there, despite the fact Mendoza is really a featherweight and hadn’t fought in five years.
- Mohamed Salah Abdelghany UD-6 Blane Hyland: A minor upset, with Abdelghany (4-2, 0 KO) out-pointing Hyland, who takes his first loss and dips to 3-1 (0 KO). The 25-year-old Hyland isn’t some blue chipper or anything, but the 30-year-old Abdbelghany — an Egyptian now living in Dubai — definitely wasn’t meant to win. Abdelghany was the aggressor throughout, and while he’s not exactly stylishly aggressive — some unsophisticated rushes, a lot of straight lines — pure fearless aggression got him scores of 58-57, 58-56, and 58-56 in this one, and he earned them, I think. Hyland got properly cracked a few times and his legs buckled at least a couple times, and while he tried to settle things down, he just didn’t make enough adjustments or come up with quite enough answers.