Around 15 months ago Poland's Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (49-2-1, 35) traveled to Moscow and over-came the extremely hotly tipped Rakhim Chakhkiev in a multi-knockdown bout to defend his WBC Cruiserweight world title. The bout was great though showed how experience in the pro ranks can be the difference between a win and a loss. For Chakhkiev a lack of experience saw him starting like a rocket and tiring himself out before Wlodarczyk came back to stop him. For the Pole the fight was about remaining calm under the storm, riding it out, and coming back strong.
This week we see Wlodarczyk back in Moscow as he battles against the very experienced Grigory Drozd (38-1, 27), a man who is fighting for the 40th time as a professional but only getting his first shot at a world title, a much over-due shot if you ask us. We know Drozd lost in his most significant bout to date, a TKO at the hands of Firat Arslan, though that fight was almost 8 years ago and the Russian has improved markedly since then whilst Arslan continues to prove that he's a world class Cruiserweight.
Wlodarczyk is a funny fighter in many ways. He's often the "forgotten man" of the Cruiserweight division. He's the only top Cruiserweight not to ply his trade in Russia or Germany and although he has been a 2-time world champion, and a long time belt holder, he still seems to slip off the radar of many fans. We know the Polish fans do enjoy watching "Diablo" and he has built much of his career at home, which possibly why he is so over-looked, though he's also proven his worth on the road with wins in Australia, Russia and the USA.
In terms of Wlodarczyk the fighter he's a lazy fighter and a very slow starter though he combines that with a great engine, heavy hands, solid skills, a real toughness and a great work rate when he finally going. His combination of being tough, calm and heavy handed is really hard to beat and if you try and stop the odds are you're going to tire yourself out trying. The best way to beat him is to box and move, tie up where needed and not get involved in a real fight. We know he has had some gifts but that has generally been down to his laziness as opposed to his skills and when on the road he does seem to find that extra gear when he needs it, in fact all 3 of his wins on the road have been by stoppage.
As for Drozd he is the most over-looked of the Russian Cruiserweights right now. He lacks the destruction of Dmitry Kudryashov, the amateur background of Rakhim Chakhkiev and the brutal wars of Denis Lebedev but he is still genuinely world class and a really talented fighter. Despite being 35 he is riding a great run of results with an outstanding win over Poland's Mateusz Masternak being the best of the bunch.
What we have in Drozd's is a man willing to throw lots of punches, a man with solid and respectable power and although far, far from a concussive puncher he's a fighter will do damage cumulatively over the bout, like Wlodarczyk in some ways. Sadly however he does have that stoppage loss to Arslan hanging over his head and some will question just how tough he really is. We don't doubt he's tough but just how tough?
Sadly for Drozd it's that loss to Arslan that makes us wonder if he can come out the winner here. We're not suggesting Wlodarczyk is the same as Arslan but the similarities don't bode well for Drozd. An on song Wlodarczyk has granite determination and willingness to throw shots, especially when his man is hurt. That is what won Arslan his meeting with Drozd. If Wlodarczyk is on fire we feel he probably stops Drozd. If Wlodarczyk is anything less than 90% of his best however Drozd could score the upset in what could go down as one of the truly exceptional fights of the year. It really does depend on which version of the Pole turns up, the lazy one that struggled with Danny Green or the gritty one that saw off a whirlwind assault from Chakhkiev to dismantle the Russian in the middle rounds.
(Image courtesy of ponominalu.ru)
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.