IBA / IBA Champions Night

Ataev defeats rival Alfonso at Dushanbe IBA Champions’ Night for IBA World Professional title

February 17th, 2024 / IBA, IBA Champions Night

IBA Sharabutdin Ataev claimed the inaugural 86kg IBA World Professional title at the Dushanbe IBA Champions’ Night at the Dushanbe Tennis Court and Water Sports Complex in Tajikistan, defeating his long-time nemesis Loren Alfonso in the main event.

Competing for Azerbaijan, the Havana-born fighter Alonso came into the main event with a 2021 world title, a 2023 world silver, and a bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The Russian Ataev was the man to defeat Alfonso in that 2023 world final, meaning this could be an opportunity for retribution.

The early stages of the bout had a low frequency of punches, but those that landed were often those of Alfonso. However, Ataev came alive out of the corner for round five, landing several punches to Alfonso against the ropes. A fantastic right hand in the sixth round was one of the best strikes of the bout, giving the Azerbaijan boxer more favour with the judges. As the bout wore on, Ataev looked more comfortable and was able to pick up points in bunches.

While some matches tonight saw competitors refusing to give space to each other, this was all about avoiding the opponent and getting the clean strikes. After much deliberation, it was Ataev who was deemed victorious with the judges and the recipient of $300,000.

The opening bout of the night Uzbekistan’s Mirazizbek Mirzkhalilov defeated Mexico’s Luis Rodriguez Ocana at 57kg to set up an IBA World title match with Vsevolod Shumkov.

The eliminator match started dramatically and the final moments of the first round was much of the same. Mirzkhalilov stunned Ocana within the first 20 seconds, forcing the Mexican to fight back with all his might to avoid an early finish.

However, the southpaw would bite back against the Uzbek, finding the better of his opponent by the end of the second round – a contrast that looked unlikely just minutes before. It was a fight of the highest quality, with neither athlete looking dominant over the other. Mirzkhalilov and Ocana would share the spotlight going back and forth during rounds, until the fifth round when the 2019 world champion was able to absorb the pressure piling on him from Ocana against the ropes. From this position, he defensively attacked, ending the halfway point with a stunning blow, stamping his authority.

Dealing with a cut, Ocana would continue to hunt down the Uzbek and would find his moments – but it was Mirzakhalilov who dictated the pace, the stance of his opponent and eventually would dictate the footwork of the Mexican. By the ninth round, it was a case of Mirzakhalilov being careful and not allowing his opponent – who has won 14 of his 15 matches by knockout or technical knockout – to drop him to the floor.

Mirzakhalilov would have his arm raised and in a post-match sequence, and would come face-to-face with his next opponent, Shumkov in an intense stare down that followed a heated exchange between the two at the official weigh in on the previous day.

Another eliminator match took place between Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov from Tajikistan and Eduardo Nunez of Mexico.

Competing for a title shot for the IBF Super Featherweight crown belonging to Welsh boxer Joe Cordina, there was a lot of testing each other out. Nunez shook Rakhimov in the second round with a strong right hand and bringing him into the ropes, but the Tajik boxer replied with an equally stunning left uppercut.

Rakhimov was the boxer with momentum on his side early, pinning his opponent into the ropes, but Nunez dominated the fifth round, stringing together combination punches, topped off by a left hook to the chin. Rakhimov had to endure the offence for the rest of the minute, just making it to the bell having spent much of that time with his gloves up.

Akin to a scene in a boxing movie, both traded parts of the eighth round where they would strike their foe with unprotected combinations, all while holding their feet. The roar of the crowd would come when Rakhimov had Nunez unable to reply, followed by a deafening silence when the Mexican had the momentum.

Eduardo Nunez would ruin Shavkatdzon Rakhimov’s homecoming, starting the 11th round on the front foot. A clear blow was followed by several shots to the head without response, forcing the referee, ending the match by technical knockout. Nunez is expected to face Cordina in May.

Despite Rakhimov’s defeat, it was a night to remember for local fans, with three home boxers winning.

Bakhodur Usmonov was victorious in the 63.5kg contest against Javid Chalabiyev of Azerbaijan in the other title match.

Competing for the IBA Asian Continental Championship belt, both fighters were nimble on their feet from the start, but it was the home favourite who landed the quality jabs. The opening round saw Usmonov catch his opponent out while in a back foot stance. Chalabiyev struggled to return the favour at first but had more fortune once the bout progressed.

However, Usmonov’s best skill is his evasiveness. While the Azerbaijani boxer was aggressive and pushed the Tajikistan athlete into small pockets of space, he was not able to match the shots of Usmonov. The fifth round saw Usmonov land a clean strike coming out of the clinch.

Behind on points, Chalabiyev resorted to distraction tactics, trying to reel Usmonov in, in a bid to land a decisive blow. After eight rounds, Usmonov was named the unanimous winner, rewarded for effectively covering the whole ring, landing incredible shots, and dodging those of his opponent.

In the first of the matches tonight featuring home boxers, Shamsher Saidov was welcomed to the arena by a feral crowd, prior to his 67kg match against Mirzomakhmat Mirzabekov of Uzbekistan. The energy fed him well, starting with an intensity that startled the larger Mirzabekov. The Uzbek saw many of his jabs ducked by his foe.

Such speed can lead to a boxer tiring quickly, but Saidov was not letting up. Mirzabekov found his aggression, holding his position and sending the fans into a frenzy as the pair flung punches at each other. So fired up, Saidov was so eager to go into the fourth round that he had to be recalled to his corner to put his gumshield in. The fifth round caused a wall of noise as it seemed the Tajikistan boxer forced Mirzabekov to fall, but it was ruled a slip, not a knockdown.

There was no doubt about the winner in the end as Saidov chased his opponent around the ring for the final stages, claiming victory after six rounds.

Finally, Akmal Ubaydov defeated Kazakhstan’s Assylzhan Serikbay at 57kg.

A right-hand lead halfway through the second round sent Serikbay backwards on his feet and made the referee deliver a standing count. It came after the Kazakh had Ubaydov up on the ropes.

Serikbay may have looked relieved to hear the bell and have a minute’s rest going into the third round, but by the time it ended, he looked as if he did not want to stop. A remarkable turnaround put the visiting boxer back in contention for the win. Ubaydov looked more passive as the match went on but was effectively evasive.

Ubaydov would face a points deduction with little more than a minute to go due to the mouth guard coming out on three occasions. Now, facing a potential loss, the Tajik boxer charged at his opponent for the final minute, knowing he had nothing to lose.

On home soil, Ubaydov would remain undefeated with his sixth career victory. Serikbay would be the first to last the length of the bout against the Tajik fighter, showing his resilience against a strong opponent.

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