The 32 year southpaw, originally from Uzbekistan, though now based in Germany via Russia, was tipped as a future professional star when he began fighting for pay in 2006. He had good reason to be tipped for success after claiming World Amateur gold (2005), World Amateur silver (2003) and European gold (2004). In fact his amateur credentials were nothing short of outstanding despite the fact he had failed to medal at the 2004 Olympics, where he unfortunately ran into Odlanier Solis in his first contest.
Alekseev began his career amazingly well with 16 straight wins, 15 of those by stoppage, as he cruised through the likes of Lee Swaby, Rob Calloway. The all changed as Alekseev came undone against his first notable opponent, Victor Emilio Ramirez, who stopped Alekseev in the ninth round of a WBO interim world title fight.
Unfortunately in the 10 fights following the loss to Ramirez it appeared that Alekseev was a different fighter. A man who was aware of his issues and a man who thought too much about them rather than fighting his strengths. These issues saw him losing, via stoppage, to Denis Lebedev and later being fortunate to get a draw against Firat Arslan.
Despite those set backs Alekseev was given his second world title fight this past weekend as he challenged Cuban Yoan Pablo Hernandez (28-1, 14) for the IBF Cruiserweight title. Some thought this would bring out the best in Alekseev, instead however we saw the same issues we all knew haunted Alekseev, his lack of durability.
The Russian looked sharp to begin with and utilised his crisp jab in the early portion of the fight though at times it appeared that the jab was the sole weapon that Alekseev trusted whilst Hernandez was more willing to vary his shots. It was the varied arsenal of Hernandez that seemed the more impressive with the Cuban happy to land stinging body shots, a vicious right hook and a wicked straight left. Alekseev took the shots well in the opening round though it seemed clear that he was working harder and achieving less than the champion who managed to secure a 10-8 round with an excellent straight that dropped Alekseev with seconds of the opening round left.
With Hernandez aware he had the power advantage the Cuban seemed to relax, even more than usual, as if he knew he could drop Alekseev almost as and when he wished. The power of the champion was once again evident in round 5 as a left hand over the top sent Alekseev down for a second time. This time Alekseev seemed to struggle to his feet and a different referee (such as the one who was refereed Carl Froch v George Groves in the United Kingdom) would have stopped the bout as Hernandez looked for the stoppage there and then. Fortunately for Alekseev the bell saved him though by now he was in a hole.
Having established a lead on the scorecards Hernandez seemed to drop his work-rate, picking is spots more carefully and almost inviting Alekseev in. It was clear Hernandez was looking for another bomb if he had the chance to land it, but wasn't willing to risk blowing himself out to find it.
By the end of round 9 Hernandez had gone from looking conservative to looking like a man who was clearly tiring. It seemed, at last, that there was hope for Alekseev. Unfortunately for the Russian it seemed that Hernandez had more in the tank than he was showing and in round 10 he picked up the pace slightly before landing an incredibly sweet right hook that sent Alekseev down for a third time. This time the referee had seen enough and stopped the contest before seeing if the Russian could get up.
Whilst it clearly took a lot of guts for Alekseev to get up from the previous knockdowns this was probably Alekseev's “final chance”. He is unlikely to get another world title fight and in fact he may well need to have a long, hard think about his future in the sport.