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Crimea Recap: Felix Valera upsets Stanislav Kashtanov in Crimea – Can an interim title be seen positively?

By Liam Lawer: On Sunday night, August 23rd, a rather quiet and unspectacular card of boxing drew itself out languidly and without inspiration. Despite the best efforts of future Hall of Famer Roy Jones Jr, who performed a few of his tracks in the interval, the Vlad Hrunov promoted show struggled to take off – a stark contrast to the recent events in the area the fights were held; the political fire-storm of Crimea.

Leading up to the main event, the televised portion of the card – shown on Boxnation TV in the UK – first saw the undefeated Super Featherweight prospect Nikolay Buzolin (2-0-1, 1KO) retire the game but limited Ilya Reutski (6-5-1, 3KO’s) in the 4th round. The fight was was fought at a decent pace and was competitive, until the more talented Buzolin began to accurately pick off the stalking, but defensively deficient Reutski after a portion of the second round; eventually leaving him bloodied and unable to continue. Unfortunately, the action stopped following this opener and the subsequent bouts before the interim title fight failed to excite in any real manner.

Proceeding this, Ranses Payano (19-2-0, 8 KO’s) from the Dominican Republic, suffered a deserved 3rd round disqualification loss, caused by repeated low blows towards home fighter Ramal Amanov (9-0-0, 0KO’s.) Although unpleasant to see, the powerful illegal blows saved the viewer from a lacklustre fight which showed no signs that it would heat up. The win gives unbeaten Amanov the WBA International Super Lightweight title, a small consolation for what must have been a painful and frustrating night’s work.

Next up was the Kyrgyzstan born, Crimean based Dilmurod ‘Little Mike’ Satybaldiev (9-1-0, 2KO’s,) who took on recent Light Heavyweight title challenger Dmitry Sukhotsky (22-4-0, 16KO’s) in a 12 round fight for the lightly regarded WBA Continental Super Middleweight title. Satybaldiev, 21, upset the favoured Sukhotsky by dancing around and pot-shotting the older, slower man, while also holding his own in the few exchanges that arose during the contest. Only the 12th round was home to any action, which may have woken any viewer who had failed the endurance test which the previous 11 rounds provided. The final scores were a too wide 120-108 and a closer to the mark 116-112 to Satybaldiev, with a 115-113 card in Sukhotsky’s favour; handing Satybaldiev a fair split decision victory.

The penultimate fight on the bill saw Dmitry Chudinov (15-1-2, 9KO’s) struggle to a laboured points win over talented but past his best Serbian gatekeeper Geard Ajetovic (26-13-1, 12KO’s.) Chudinov kept up a decent work-rate throughout the fight and threw hard punches all night, however they were well blocked by Ajetovic who covered up adequately and frequently came back with the more accurate, telling blows; even hurting Chudinov early in the fight. The Russian never looked close to handing Ajetovic his first stoppage defeat and despite his hand being raised – without points given – at the end of the bout; it was perhaps the Serbian who impressed the most with his short bursts.

Finally, after Roy Jones Jr had left the stage and the seemingly extended national anthems had been sung, the action improved immensely. Unknown quantity Felix Valera (13-0-0, 12KO’s) fought fiercely supported home fighter Stanislav Kashtanov (33-2-0, 19KO’s) for the interim WBA Light Heavyweight strap. Kashtanov seemed bemused by the Domincan’s crude, awkward style early on, but took the middle rounds through a combination of warming into the fight and a sense of doubt from his opponent who had never previously gone past 4 rounds. Valera’s power appeared legitimate however, and though Kashtanov didn’t fall over as the unheralded names on his record had done before, the Russian certainly felt the sting in his shots and was repeatedly buzzed throughout. Kashtanov, who had only previously suffered one defeat (Split decision) to the Hungarian Karoly Balzsay for the vacant WBA ‘regular’ Super middleweight belt, kept his shape throughout, which allowed him to land solid shots on the tiring, or uncertain Valera after weathering an early storm. However, as the championship rounds began it was the Dominican fighter, perhaps buoyed by the realisation that lasting the distance would not be an issue, that pressed the fight; even managing to showboat often. This strong finish is likely what earned him the split decision win, with scorecards in his favour of 116-112 and the more accurate 115-113, while Kashtanov was favoured by one judge 117-111. Although by my card it was a draw, Kashtanov has a right to feel hard done by in his home country, however no one can begrudge the entertaining and enigmatic Valera this life changing victory.

Such an interim belt is quite rightly condemned by the boxing public, after all here we have an interim belt where there is not only a champion in Sergey Kovalev, who is very much active, but a 2nd tier champion in Juergen Braehmer who also fights regularly. However, in this instance perhaps it can be forgiven. Were this match not for such a seemingly meaningless belt, it is unlikely that such a fun fight would have been televised in the UK, and most importantly, a tough fighter who travelled many miles for the opportunity would not have experienced the elation which led him to tears of joy as his hand was raised in victory. If we look at this from Felix Valera’s point of view, this proliferation of titles can lead to something positive, and in this instance may certainly be forgiven.

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