Zaur Abdullaev moved himself back to the front of the line of WBC lightweight contenders with a 12th round TKO of Jorge Linares in Yekaterinburg, Russia. ESPN+ also suffered a very embarrassing 12th round technical knockout, but more on that later.
Linares (47-7, 29 KO) started off very well, looking sharp and fluid. His hand speed is still there, and he used it to frustrate Abdullaev (15-1, 9 KO) with consistent jabs and fast power shots to the head and body. The early rounds were his best, though Abdullaev did manage to do some good work of his own whenever he could corner or close the gap on Linares.
Abdullaev started making his power felt in the second half of the fight. He stormed out to an excellent start in the seventh before Linares managed to get things back at range and work off the sharp and often unblockable jab. Strong combinations landed for Abdullaev in the eighth, and he had Linares hurt to the body and briefly frozen on the ropes in round 9.
Linares fights often turn into a war of dermabrasion, with his increasingly fragile skin struggling to hold up all the way to the final bell. That wasn’t as much of a factor today, as Linares showed some facial damage, but never opened up and started bleeding.
In the end, viewers of the English language show saw 11 rounds of great action, and then several minutes of ESPN+ thanking us for our patience and promising to fix a lost feed “ASAP.”
It was the perfect end to a miserably poor technical presentation throughout. Commentary didn’t start until 15 minutes into the show. And when it came, it came at the expense of live sound from the arena. Both main support fights were not even visible, much less audible, when decisions were announced. The broadcast just happened to cut back to action to see fighters celebrating decisions that viewers didn’t hear official scores for, and didn’t see happen.
It’s nice for boxing fans that we live in a modern age where a live, high definition presentation of a fight from Russia is available worldwide on a major platform. It would be even nicer if we could actually see the whole thing, though. It wasn’t much of an advertisement for ESPN+, though it was an excellent advertising platform for the 4 or 5 commercials that ran repeatedly, often over the start of rounds or other important fight information. For anyone who watched Olympic boxing coverage on Peacock, you’ll have a good idea of what this show looked like.
Thankfully, the Spanish language feed held up, and on review it showed us a very aggressive 12th round from Abdullaev. Linares went down with 1:12 left in the fight, then went down again almost immediately after action resumed. The ref let things continue, but finally stepped in with a very appropriate stoppage as Abdullaev started abusing a turtled-up Linares against the ropes with 32 seconds left before the final bell.
It was a very good fight, whenever we could actually see it. Ultimately, Abdullaev earned himself a second shot against Devin Haney, who stopped Abdullaev in four rounds back in 2019.
Angel Rodriguez SD-12 Mark Urvanov
A very questionable decision in the co-main event, where hometown fighter Mark Urvanov lost a split decision to Angel Rodriguez.
Rodriguez (20-1, 10 KO) started out well, landing significant power shots in the second and third round. But when Urvanov (20-3-1, 10 KO) started circling and moving, Rodriguez struggled to land meaningful punches and Urvanov largely took control.
Two moments of note: Urvanov fought the first 30 seconds of round 8 with no mouthpiece, as the corner forgot to put it back in his mouth before the start of the round. And Urvanov suffered a cut to the back of his head sometime in round 9, possibly from a slapping punch or a wayward elbow in a clinch.
Viewers didn’t see it, but the final verdict was a split decision for Rodriguez on official scores of 116-112, 115-113, and 116-112 for Urvanov. I also had it 116-112 for Urvanov, who I felt narrowly but clearly won several rounds the judges obviously graded Rodriguez’s way.
A bit of fodder for conspiracy theorists looking for an explanation on the decision, with a tip of the hat to our live fight coverage commenters. This was a WBA eliminator fight, Rodriguez is a Venezuelan fighter, and WBA president Gilberto Mendoza is from Venezuela, too.
If you’re as mystified by the decision as I was? Maybe we should FOLLOW THE MONEY!!1!1!!
Ivan Kozlovsky SD-10 Zoravor Petrosian
The first of the headline bouts was a nicely matched show without any major fireworks, but plenty of give-and-take action. Kozlovsky (5-0, 2 KO) and Petrosian (12-2, 5 KO) both made a case for themselves, and I had it a 95-95 draw.
Kozlovsky suffered a cut in the fourth round, but it never really opened up or became a factor. It may have slowed him a bit, as I thought Petrosyan largely controlled the middle rounds. Kozlovsky was generally more active during the fight, but much of the work he did hit only hit Petrosian’s gloves and arms.
Kozlovsky took it on judges cards, earning a split decision on two very fair 96-94 cards in his favor. The third judge had it 99-91 for Petrosyan, which was nonsense, and extra surprising given that Petrosyan is a Ukrainian boxer fighting in Russia.
Without trying to mix tense geopolitics in with the much more civilized combat of boxing, it would have been interesting to know where that Petrosyan-loving judge came from. Geographically speaking, and also whether or not they happened to actually watch the fight.