Yafai keeps world title after tight er than expected fourth defence
Kal Yafai is pushed hard and Frank Buglioni has his last fight in Monaco
SOME armchair observers felt that
Kal Yafai was lucky to keep hold of his WBA super-flyweight title after a spirited 12-round challenge from Mexico’s Israel Gonzalez inside the Salle Médecin at the Casino de Monte Carlo. In truth, the undefeated Brummie did just enough to keep his belt. The scores that favoured Yafai – 116-112 twice (Gustavo Padilla and Jean Robert Laine) and 117-111 (Giuseppe Quartarone) – were likely too wide but, in a close fight with close rounds, such tallies are justifiable.
The champion struggled at times in the early going with the tenacious Gonzalez, whose work to the body was particularly impressive. Credit Yafai, who has been champ for nearly two years, for picking up the pace and measuring his Los Cabos opponent well after a taxing start.
Gonzalez’s own body came under attack in the sixth as Yafai’s jab started to create openings. The challenger showed signs of tiredness in rounds seven and eight, before an eye-catching Yafai left scored in the ninth. The blow only served to enliven Gonzalez, who roared forward in the final quarter to keep the contest – officiated by Luis Pabon – in the balance. Yafai was disappointed with his performance at the end, but his cleaner shots ensured his unbeaten record remained intact. Promoter Eddie Hearn spoke of unification fights for Yafai in 2019, but they should be wary of IBF titlist Jerwin Ancajas, who defeated Gonzalez far more conclusively in February. Enfield’s Frank Buglioni made the decision to retire from the ring after being halted in five rounds by China’s unbeaten Fanlong Meng. A deep gash on Buglioni’s right eyelid, seemingly opened by a left hook, presented referee Timo Habighorst with little choice but to call it off at 1-58 (set for 12). The cruel ending was tough on Buglioni, who was rallying in the early part of the round, but
Meng appeared to be crafting a winning performance long before the blood poured.
The slick southpaw, quick of hand and foot, measured the former British lightheavyweight champion’s attacks perfectly in the opening two rounds. Buglioni had some success in the third, roughing up Meng on the inside and digging to head and body, but the man from Chifeng was far from being overawed. This time last year, Russia’s Alexander
Ustinov was handed a shot at a secondary WBA heavyweight title, which tells you all you need to know about that organisation’s shambolic championship system. But surely even the WBA won’t be able to rescue Ustinov’s career following a decisive ninth-round loss to
The Las Vegas-based Californian, fresh off an upset win over Martin Bakole in October, dominated from the start of this scheduled 12-rounder with his looping right hand again a troublesome weapon. Ustinov, now fighting out of Minsk, was all at sea at the end of the fourth, but showed some pluck to last as long as he did. That right hand decked him in the eighth, before a sustained attack in the ninth saw referee Padilla accept surrender from Ustinov’s corner at 1-52. It was Hunter’s fourth victory in a row since stepping back up to heavyweight following an April 2017 loss to cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk.
Chekhov’s ex-unified world cruiserweight champ Denis Lebedev marked his return to 200lbs with a one-sided beating of Mike Wilson, of Medford in Oregon. Wilson, 35, was 19-0 going in, but the leap in class to Lebedev was enormous, and so it proved from the third round until the last.
The Russian’s left hand couldn’t miss, whether aimed at the ribs, stomach or head of Wilson, and by the fourth, blood dribbled from his nose. One only has to look at Lebedev’s features for evidence of his long and punishing career but here, at 39, the southpaw likely secured a title shot when Usyk makes his expected jump to heavyweight and leaves all four world cruiserweight belts behind. The scores in Lebedev’s favour were 119-109 twice (Aurelien Pena and Alexandre Laine) and 117-111 (Stephane Nicolo). Jean Robert Laine refereed. Touted Kazakhstan starlet Daniyar
Yeleussinov cruised to 5-0 as he impressively thrashed Nicaragua’s
Marcos Mojica in three rounds (scheduled for eight). Brooklyn-based southpaw Yeleussinov found the target with ease, stepping inside and cracking Mojica with his menacing left hand. The same mitt dumped his prey on the mat in round two.
The fight was all but over, yet the Managua underdog hauled himself to his feet only to be whacked off them via a punch to the body. Another knockdown followed in the third. Again he rose. This time he was greeted with an uppercut which at last persuaded referee Nicolo to end the slaughter. The time was 1-10.
THE VERDICT Yafai grinds out result, but is made to work hard.
STRUGGLE: Gonzalez makes it dif cult for Yafai
CUT SHORT: Buglioni’s loss to Meng will be the last bout of his career
ALL ACTION: Hunter topples Ustinov while Lebedev [above] and Yeleussinov [below] enjoy wins