Just a few weeks after Lebedev's loss Russian pride was again on the line in the Cruiserweight division as the highly ranked Rakhim Chakhkiev, dubbed "The Machine" went up against WBC champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk.
Going in to the fight Chakhkiev looked to be the emerging star of Russian boxing. He was unbeaten (16-0, 12), a highly decorated amateur and had seemingly everything a fighter could want-skill, power and a fantastic style built around his explosive aggressiveness.
In the opening round Chakhkiev showed off all the traits that had made him so highly touted. He drummed Wlodarczyk to the head and body, was relentless in his assault that appeared to shake up the defending champion and actually cut Wlodarczyk. It appeared that Chakhkiev was telling the boxing world "here I am, I deserve to be in world title fights".
Chakhkiev's aggressive style seemed to be working wonders in the rounds that followed his excellent opener. He dropped Wlodarczyk in the 3rd round and was clearly ahead on the scorecards going in to the 5th round.
With his lead looking comfortable on the card Chakhkiev's work rate seemed to drop. It seemed as if he was becoming more conservative knowing that he had never been the 12 round distance before. He was still the more visibly active in the 5th round than Wlodarczcyk but he was no longer thoroughly dominating the champion like he had been.
In round 6 the bout suddenly flipped on it's head as a short hook by Wlodarczyk sent the Russian to the canvas. Chakhkiev got up quickly and seemed to be irritated by the fact he had been caught by what some may have felt was a shot on the break. Despite the controversy of the knockdown the shot was clearly a turning point and the following round Chakhkiev was down again.
Going into round 8 the Machine was certainly starting to stutter. His 6 point lead after just 5 rounds was now cut to 2 points following successive 10-8 rounds for the Pole and it appeared that the slow down in Chakhkiev's work rate wasn't so much him being conservative but him being spent after the very quick start. His shots no longer had the snap on them that they'd had earlier in the bout and his nose was now bleeding notably.
Sadly for Chakhkiev he lacked the heart of Lebedev and after being dropped again in round 8 it was clear he was wanting to quit. Although he recovered to his feet after being dropped for a 3rd time in the bout he was much slower to his feet and appeared to shake his head. The referee seemed to ignore the signs of Chakhkiev wanting to quit but when the Russian went down again just seconds later the bout was quickly called.
Aged 30 it appeared that "The Machine" either wasn't fueled for 12 rounds or simply broke down. By the way he appeared to quit mentally in the 7th it appears that this machine may need some repairs if he's ever going to reach the heady heights he seemed destined for when he turned professional.
Now with a record of 16-1 (12) Chakhkiev has dropped from being one of the worlds premier Cruiserweight contenders to being a man with a huge amount of questions hanging over his head. Does he have stamina problems? Is it an issue of heart? A poor chin? Is he just a bully? Does he have the mentality to even come back from this loss?
For Wlodarczyk (48-2-1, 34) this result does add to the legitimacy of his title reign though many would be calling for a fight between him and Denis Lebedev, a fight that would allow Lebedev a chance at redemption and another major pay day for Wlodarczyk