If Manny Pacquiao's rematch with unbeaten American Timothy Bradley is this weekend's main course for boxing fans then one of the best looking starters is the WBA Light Welterweight clash between unbeaten champion Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-0, 9) and unbeaten challenger Jessie Vargas (23-0, 9).
The fight, obviously lacking the high profile names of the Pacquiao/Bradley fight, is one we're expecting could be highly entertaining, arguably the most entertaining bout of the weekend, despite the fact neither man is blessed with amazing speed, skills or power. In fact both are pretty basic in what they do but their flaws, their issues and their relative lack of a stand out skill should mean they make for a special contest.
Of the two men it's Allakhverdiev who is the big betting favourite. The unbeaten champion from Russia is defending his belt for the second time and is on a run of decent results with victories over Nate Campbell, Ignacio Mendoza, Kaizer Mabuza, Joan Guzman and Souleymane M'baye. Of course they aren't murderers's row but they are all credible fighters and some of them, the Guzman one in particular, really were eye catching performances by a man looking to establish himself as one of the elite Light Welterweights.
When we talk about Allakhverdiev we talk about a man who seemingly can do it all at times. He can box, he fan fight and he can brawl. The flaw with him however is that he sometimes doesn't seem to know what he should be doing when. Against Guzman for example he had success in out working and out powering the Dominican though late in the bout tried to fight on the back foot with counters rather than taking it his opponents. Against M'baye he often looked disinterested, as if he knew he could stop the French veteran whenever and as a result looked poor for long spurts of the bout.
At his best Allakhverdiev is a genuine to 6 guy at 140lbs. He's a nightmare for pretty much anyone and versatile enough to give very good fighters a lot of trouble. At his worst he's mentally susceptible to turning off, giving rounds away and getting himself in to unnecessary trouble.
In unbeaten challenger Vargas we have a man who was once tipped by Floyd Mayweather Jr to be a star. That claim however seems to have been one of Floyd's most outlandish and looking from the outside in Vargas has nothing "star" like about him. He's bland, boring, lacks power and doesn't have anything that makes us want to watch him unless his opponent is an exciting type of fighter.
From his 23 fight career Vargas has had only a handful of mildly memorable bouts. One of those was his clash with Trenton Titsworth, which saw Titsworth stealing the show as he kissed Vargas and was deducted 2-points for "kissing" and for doing it "deliberately"-we kid you not, one was his fight with Josesito Lopez, which saw many feeling Lopez had been robbed due to Vargas's Mayweather links at the time, and finally his bout with Wale Omotoso, which saw both men going to war in what was a really good fight.
Vargas is a somewhat talented pure boxing with nice speed, nice heart and guts. Three very admirable traits. Unfortunately he lacks anything to really differentiate himself from 90% of other promising young fighters.
Against a fighter coming to fight with him, as Omotoso and Lopez did, Vargas can be dragged in to a dog fight. It's that that we're hoping to see here with Allakhverdiev hopefully coming with the intention of setting an aggressive pace, forcing Vargas to fire back and in the process give us 12 good, solid and entertaining rounds of action.
If the fight is fought as a boxing contest we think Vargas, a 2-1 underdog,could manage to do enough to spring the upset. If the bout is a battle though we can only see a successful defence from the Russian who will need to be at his best here in what is his toughest fight so far.
(Picture of Khabib courtesy of boxrec)
Courtesy of Boxrec.com
Russian Light Welterweight Khabib Allakhverdiev (18-0, 8) seemed to emerge from nowhere last year to become the WBA Light Welterweight champion courtesy of a technical decision over Juan Guzman.
Some 7 months after the victory over Guzman, Allakhverdiev returns to the ring to defend his title for the first time. His challenger is French veteran
Souleymane M'baye (40-4-1, 22), a former champion himself.
Allakhverdiev seemed to appear, to the wider boxing public, almost from nowhere with his victory from Guzman. To the hardcore boxing fans however many knew just how good the Russian was. He had started his quick climb to a world title fight in late 2011 with a technical decision over Nate Campbell and remained on a roll with stoppages of Ignacio Mendoza and Kaizer Mabuza before defeating the previously unbeaten Guzman.
Going in to the Guzman bout the casual fans, who had seen Guzman earlier in his career, expected the Dominican fighter to come out on top against the unknown Russian. A section of the hardcore fans expected Guzman to have one final hurrah in what was expected to be his last chance but Allakhverdiev was simply too young, too strong and too good, dropping Guzman several times before a knee injury forced an early ending.
What Allakhverdiev proved in the 4 bouts mentioned above (Guzman, Mendoza, Mabuza and Campbell bouts) was that he wasn't afraid of reputation. He was going to get in there, apply pressure, throw punches and grind down his opponents. What he also proved was that he hit harder than his record stated and was an intelligent fighter able to target fighters weaknesses.
In M'baye we have a challenger who maybe "at home" (the fight will take place in Monte Carlo, Monaco just on the outskirts of France) but at 38 is surely too long in the tooth to really be really a credible challenger.
Like Guzman, M'baye seems to have more lives than a cat and despite only scoring a single victory in the the last 3 years he has somehow managed to get yet another world title fight (in fact going in to this fight the Frenchman is ranked #2 by the WBA).
At his best M'baye was a talented fighter with excellent single shots. Not quite a fighter who lived up to his nickname of "The Sensation", but still a very good fighter. Sadly for M'baye his prime wasn't about lack of talent but more about his mental application inside the ring. He could often switch off for rounds at a time and that's actually how he lost his WBA Light Welterweight title to Gavin Rees back in 2007.
Despite boasting wins over Khalid Rahilou, Andriy Kotelnik, Ammeth Diaz, Colin Lynes and Antonin Decarie it's hard to really say that M'baye, even in his prime, would actually be favoured over Allakhverdiev (at least in a fairly judged contest).
In his current state, M'baye really doesn't have much of a chance against Allakhverdiev. The Russian will set a high tempo early (a bit like Gavin Rees did) and mentally, if not physically, break M'baye with pressure and hard shots.
The question for us isn't whether or not Allakhverdiev will retain his title, we're sure he will, but whether or not he can stop M'baye. The Frenchman has only been stopped once in his 45 fights (and that came via an injury to his knee) though with age, ring rust and questionable stamina all against him as well as the Russian, we'd certainly not rule a stoppage out.
...of course we could be wrong and M'baye could show off his sharp shooting skills and make Allakhverdiev look awful.
World Title Previews
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