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Michael Hunter stops Alexander Ustinov – RESULTS

By Jim Dower: 2012 Olympian Michael Hunter (16-1, 11 KOs) had too much hand speed, youth and talent for 41-year-old Alexander Ustinov (34-3 25 KOs) in stopping him in the 8th round on Saturday night to win the vacant World Boxing Association International Heavyweight Title at the Casino de Monte Carlo Salle Medecin, Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Outweighed by 66 pounds, the 213 lb Hunter knocked the hulking 279 lb Ustinov down in the 8th after nailing him hard with two big right hands to the head. In the 9th, Hunter dropped the Russian Ustinov with a hard left to the head. Badly hurt, Ustinov made it back to his feet, but the referee Gustavo Padilla halted the fight anyway. The official time of the stoppage was at 1:52 of round 9.

The referee let Ustinov get away with a lot of holding throughout the contest, and only gave him one warning in the fight. There should have been additional warnings from the referee, and point deductions for Ustinov. He was holding all night long, and doing whatever he could to slow down Hunter to keep him from using his high work rate to dominate the fight. It’s seems obvious that the plan all along for Ustinov was for him to clinch frequently to keep Hunter from being able to overwhelm him with punches. It was a desperate game plan on Ustinov’s part, since he was never going to be able to win the fight by just spoiling for 12 rounds hoping that the judges would give him a controversial win.

Ustinov was able to slow the fight down with his frequent clinching in the first seven rounds, but that all changed in the 8th. Hunter started to tee off on the tired 6’7″ giant with power shots, snapping his head back with each punch. Ustinov was bleeding from his mouth, and he looked entirely defenseless at the time Hunter knocked him down with a right hand to the head. Ustinov made his back to his feet, and somehow survived to see the end of the round. It was surprising that the referee and Ustinov’s corner didn’t halt the fight in between 8th and 9th round. It was obvious that Ustinov wasn’t going to be able to stay on his feet when he came out for the 9th round. The referee and Ustinov’s corner let him come out for the 9th, and he was quickly dropped hard by Hunter. This time, the referee did the right thing and halted the fight at 1:52 of round 9.

“We here to stay,” said Hunter to Sky Sports. “There’s going to be a lot of critics. All the great heavyweights were a little small. I’m taking it one step at a time.”

It’s going to be really tough for the 6’2″ 213 lb Hunter to compete with the bigger heavyweights in the division, considering how small he is. It’s not just Hunter’s lack of size that makes him vulnerable at heavyweight. He’s not the most powerful former cruiserweight that has tried his hand at heavyweight, and he’s not super fast like David Haye was when he moved up to heavyweight a decade ago. Hunter is more of a blue collar guy that wins his fights by throwing a lot of punches. It’s worked so far for Hunter since he moved up to heavyweight, but whether it will continue to work when he starts facing better opposition is the important question. Hunter was good enough tonight to beat a huge fighter in 6’7″ Ustinov, but it’s going to be a lot tougher for Hunter to do the same thing against the 315 lb Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller, and the 6’6″ Anthony Joshua. The money Hunter can make fighting Joshua will be well worth the risk.

It was a good win for Hunter. As a replacement opponent to fill in for Zhilei Zhang, Hunter looked sharp and ready despite having a spare tire around his midsection. At cruiserweight, Hunter was well defined in and great shape. He’s clearly carrying around a little extra weight at heavyweight. Hunter showed that he’s ready to move to the next level in the heavyweight division to face the likes of Bryant Jennings, Adam Kownacki, Kubrat Pulev, Dominic Breazeale, Joseph Parker, Dillian Whyte, Carlos Takam, Charles Martin or Alexander Povetkin. Whether Hunter’s management can set him up to fight any of those guys is the major question. Hunter is a threat to all of those guys.

Hunter got the attention of the boxing world by his performance against Oleksander Ustinov in losing a 12 round decision in a competitive fight. Hunter gave Usyk so many problems that he forced the Ukrainian fighter to get on his bicycle to move for the last half of the fight. Hunter’s work rate and combination punching gave Usyk fits, and made him change his game plan.

It’s hard to know where Ustinov can go in his career. This was his second straight loss since last year. Ustinov was beaten by Manuel Charr by a 12 round unanimous decision last year in November 2017. Charr dominated Ustinov down the stretch, knocking him down in the 8th round. Ustinov looked tired, old and slow against Charr. But tonight, Hunter made Ustinov look far worse than Charr did in dealing him his second straight loss. The way that Ustinov looked tonight, it’s hard to reconcile this fighter to the guy that beat the likes of David Tua in 2013 and beat Denis Bakhtov in 2011. Ustinov isn’t the same guy any longer, and it might be a good idea for him to consider retirement.

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