The second set of WBSS tournaments begin this coming weekend in Yokohama.
The first bout in the competition is mouth watering clash at 140lbs as we get pressure fighter against puncher with Kiryl Relikh (22-2, 19) facing off with Eduard Troyanovsky (27-1, 24). On paper this has the potential to be a very explosive encounter, with both fighters being aggressive, both fighters looking for earlier finishes and both men wanting to advance in the WBSS. Not only is this a WBSS bout but also a contest for the WBA Light Welterweight title and a chance for both men to shine in front a Japanese audience in the arena.
Relikh, a Belorussian 28 year old, is the defending champion and the betting favourite. He's an aggressive pressure fighter dubbed the “Mad Bee” because of his aggression. He was a very good amateur before turning professional in 2011. As a professional his career was a bit of a slow burner, with no massive backing in Belarus for boxing. Despite the slow burn he was developing well in his homeland and stayed busy during the formative years of his professional career. He would begin to get chances outside of Belarus in 2014 and linked up with Ricky Hatton. Hatton would guide Relikh to his first major international fight in 2016, a narrow and ultra-competitive loss to Ricky Burns. Despite being a loss it put Relikh on the boxing map and has since lead to two bout with Rances Barthelmy. The first of them was a very controversial loss for the Belorussian who avenged the defeat in clear fashion when the two men had their rematch earlier this year.
In the ring Relikh lives up to his “Mad Bee” moniker. He's incredibly busy, buzzing around his opponents and throwing a lot of heavy leather. He's not a big hitting single punch KO artist, despite his 19 stoppages, but he's a busy fighter with every shot taking it's toll on his opponents. His work rate is a bigger issue than his power and at 28 years old he is just getting fitter and stronger. Sadly though is defensively not the tightest and he was dropped in the first bout against Barthelmy. So he can be hurt, especially to the body, and can find himself taking shots that her perhaps doesn't want to take. It's actually, also, worth noting that despite his average bout being just over 4 rounds he has got great stamina to do 12 rounds, which he's done in his last 3 bouts.
At 38 years old Troyanovsky is an older fighter but he hasn't had too much wear and tear. In fact if anything the Russian has done really well in avoiding taking any sort of prolonged damage due to the fact he is a frightening puncher. His 24 stoppages in 27 wins has seen him average just 3.4 rounds a fight and has seen him score some sensation victories, including his memorable stoppage win over Japan's Keita Obara in 2016. He's been a professional since 2009 and made an impact after just a year of being a professional, stopping veteran former world title challenger Matt Zegan in December 2010. He would later score notable mid-level wins over the likes of Walter Estrada, Jose Alfaro and Aik Shakhnazaryan before fighting unbeaten IBF champion Cesar Rene Cuenca in 2015. He would stop Cuenca in 6 rounds then defend his belt against Cuenca and Obara the following year before suffering an upset loss in 40 seconds to the unheralded Julius Indongo. Since then he has bounced back with notable wins over Michele Di Rocco and Carlos Manuel Portillo.
Whilst Relikh is a pressure fight Troyanovsky is a pure puncher. His boxing skills are very limited but his power is really a game changer and even talented boxers need to be wary of him connecting, just once. At 38 years old he is still very dangerous due to his limitations. There isn't much speed or defense but he's not a fighter you should take risks against. If he clips you you're either going down, or going to be serious buzzed as he tries to finish you off. Despite hitting hard his ability to take a shot is questionable. Whilst his loss to Indongo did come to a peach of a punch, he has been rocked a few times, in fact Obara seemed to hurt before being stopped himself. Coming in he will know that this will be his last chance, and a loss here likely spells the end of his career, at least as leading contender in a division that has warmed up a lot in the last 12 months or so.
It's clear that Relikh will look to get inside, grind down the older man and take him out whilst Troyanovsky will be trying to load up his big right hand and take him out with a single shot. We suspect Relikh will be fully aware of how Troyanovsky sets up his power and will be tactically avoiding it, whilst grinding down the dangerous challenger. There is always going to be a sense of risk for Relikh, but we suspect he will come out on top in the middle rounds, with Troyanovsky's 38 year old body simply being worn out and beaten down.
We don't see many Japanese fighters making their name above Super Featherweight, this Friday however we get the chance to see Light Welterweight Keita Obara (16-1-1, 15) challenge unbeaten Russian Eduard Troyanovsky (24-0, 21) for the IBF title, in a mandatory title fight.
The Russian won the title last November, stopping the then unbeaten Cesar Rene Cuenca for the belt in 6 rounds. That was Cuenca's first defense, following his title win against Ik Yang, and the Argentinian was simply unable to ever get Troyanovsky's respect. A rematch this past April followed a similar patter with Troyanovsky stopping Cuenca in 7 rounds, to record his first defense.
In the ring the Russian is a somewhat limited boxer blessed with frightening power. He can be out boxed and out moved, with his 36 year old legs not being the most sprightly, however he does cut the ring down well and if a fighter can't get his respect he doesn't mind taking one to land one. He key strength however is his power and it is vicious, with his last 14 wins all coming by T/KO, and in fact he has stopped 20 of his last 21 opponents.
Although powerful the champion is 36 years old, his work rate isn't great and he certainly hasn't got a high energy level or lighting speed. Also at 5'8” he's not naturally a big fighter at 140lbs. He's just very strong and very powerful
For Obara the bout will be only his second bout outside of Japan, with the first being his very controversial draw with Walter Castillo, in what was an IBF eliminator. In that bout he showed his skills to an international audience and clearly deserved the win over 12 rounds, most of which were clearly won by the Japanese fighter. Prior to that bout Obara had claimed the Japanese and OPBF title and had ran up 15 straight wins following a loss on debut back in 2010.
Like Troyanovsky the key strength of Obara is his power which has been responsible for 15 of his 16 career wins. He keeps that power late into a fight, as seen in his 12th round TKO win against Shinya Iwabuchi, but doesn't actually depend on the power and is instead a decent all round boxer who has solid boxing skills to go with his power. He's not defensively the best but he isn't clumsy when it comes to protecting himself.
Obara's sole loss came on debut when he ran out of stamina, after actually dropping his opponent. It was a humbling loss and one that has seen him really work on his flaws. In many ways it was the perfect loss and has lead to him becoming a better fighter faster in his career. Since that loss no one has really troubled him and he has rarely shown what he can truly do. Here we're expecting him to show his best and, hopefully, come home with the title.
The key for Obara will be using his size, speed and movement to not only get the respect of Troyanovsky but also to land the heavy leather needed to beat the Russian. For Troyanovsky the key is patience waiting for the opportunity to land his fearsome power shots. If Troyanovsky can land clean then there is a really serious chance he will be able to stop Obara, if he can't stop him we suspect the score-cards will favour the Russian. With that in mind we suspect that Obara will be looking for a stoppage, probably in the second half of the fight, making the most of the fact Troyanovsky has little experience going beyond 7 rounds.
The odds are in favour of the Russian but we suspect Obara will score the upset here, with the bout being unlikely to go the distance either way.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.