It probably won’t go down in history among boxing’s greatest robberies, but Magomed Kurbanov’s unanimous decision win over Liam Smith today in Russia is certainly not without controversy.
Kurbanov (22-0, 13 KO) took the fight on scores of 115-113, 115-113, and 117-112 over 12 rounds, winning a minor WBO belt and putting himself likely in line for an eliminator with Tim Tszyu, should Tszyu beat Michael Zerafa in their fight on July 7.
Bad Left Hook scored the fight 116-112 for Smith (29-3-1, 16 KO), whose corner were predictably frustrated and unhappy with the decision. The two cards of 7-5 in Kurbanov’s favor could possibly be defended round-by-round; a lot of the rounds were competitive. But the 117-112 card for Kurbanov is pretty egregious, giving him eight rounds is very tough to do, let alone eight plus one even.
With the win, the 25-year-old Kurbanov moves forward, and it’s highly unlikely the “Black Lion” and his team will want anything to do with a rematch against the 32-year-old Smith, nor is it a decision so shocking or anything that the WBO would likely order one. And Smith surely wouldn’t want to go back to Russia for it, anyway, and Kurbanov probably wouldn’t want to do it in the United Kingdom.
It wasn’t really a fight where Kurbanov was “exposed,” he just met the best opponent of his career in Smith, the solid, sturdy veteran. You get the sense Kurbanov will struggle against a puncher like Tim Tszyu if he gets to that point; styles make fights and all that, and Smith hit him with some shots that, were Smith a bigger puncher, might have been big time difference makers.
To give Kurbanov the credit he does deserve, this was a competitive fight, he gave a good effort, and he showed the ability at times to keep Smith from landing flush. He also landed some good right hands and nice combinations now and then, a few of which did shake Smith, but the veteran stood his ground and came back for more, looking to land in return.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Liam Smith, who by rights should probably be back in the WBO title mix at 154 lbs, but he won’t be. He could get sort of a make-good order from the sanctioning body later, but he’s not getting any younger and certainly won’t be getting better from this point in his career, either.
On the undercard, 30-year-old Ukrainian Eduard Skavynskyi, now based in Russia, took a clear points win over long-faded former prospect Joel Julio.
Julio (39-6, 33 KO) is a shadow of the fighter he used to be, and he never got over the prospect hump in the first place. But the 36-year-old Colombian showed the type of ability to stink it out and survive, without being a huge threat to win, that should get him half-hearted prospect checker dates with guys at 147 and 154 for a while.
Skavynskyi is now 14-0 (7 KO), but not looking like any real threat to the welterweight division.