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)
Courtesy of Boxrec.com
Historically the Cruiserweight division has been one of the most over-looked divisions in the sport. In recent years however things have started to change thanks to the exciting fights and wonderful fighters that the division has been turning out.
One man who will be hoping to add himself into the mix in the division is Russian Rakhim Chakhkiev (16-0, 12) a fighter who has long been tipped for major professional success.
Prior to turning professional in 2009 the Russian had recorded an excellent career in the amateur ranks. He had not only claimed a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics but also a silver medal in the 2007 World Amateur Champions and multiple medals in the Russian National championships. His trophy cabinet certainly had a nice collection of medals.
Standing in Chakhkiev's way this coming Friday is Poland's Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (47-2-1, 33), the current WBC Cruiserweight champion who will be looking to make his 5th defense of the belt.
On paper this is an excellent match up between two fighters who carry thunderous power though one of whom is far more experienced than the other. Sometimes however, as we all know, the professional records of the two men don't tell the whole story in terms of experience, especially not when a fighter has an amateur career like Chakhkiev.
The 31 year old champion maybe the more experienced professional with 50 bouts in the paid ranks but this will just be his 7th fight outside of his homeland. On the road Wlodarczyk is 4-1-1, a much less impressive record than his 43-1 record when fighting in his homeland.
Just a year younger than the champion Chakhkiev is oddly fighting in Russia for the first time having been based in Germany for much of his career. Despite this it's unlikely than he will be anything but the crowd favourite with the Moscow crowd likely to be well behind a man who represented them on the amateur stage.
The Polish fighter has had a genuine career of ups and downs. He's a 2-time world champion having claimed the IBF Cruiserweight title back in 2006 in controversial fashion over Steve Cunningham though lost it in his first defense (a rematch with Cunningham). In 2009 he was unfortunate to only draw with Giacobbe Fragomeni for the vacant WBC title (needing a rematch with Fragomeni in Poland to finally get the title) and was fortunate in his second defense to claim a victory over Francisco Palacios.
Following the victory over Palacios there was reports that Wlodarczyk had attempted to commit suicide and that he was having serious issues out of the ring which saw him fighting just once in the following year.
Going in to this bout Wlodarczyk has actually just fought once in a year and with ring rust as well as well as fighting away from home he may have a number of problems.
For Chakhkiev things haven't been as up and down, just more frustrating than anything else.
After turning professional in 2009 it was assume that he would be fasted tracked to a world title fight in just 2 or 3 years. Instead his career has been slowly bubbling rather than exploding and instead of being fast tracked he has been forced to slowly work his way up the rankings with promotional issues really slowing him down over the last year.
Going in to the fight it's easy to see that Wlodarczyk has fought better opponents. Fighters like Cunningham, Fragomeni, Palacios and even Danny Green are better than the likes of Alexander Kotlobay and Zack Page (arguably the second best result on Chakhkiev's record) however he's also struggled to impress.
In terms of the Pole's style he can be made to look like a lazy and disinterested fighter. He has genuinely hurtful power, a lovely jab when he chooses to use it and a toughness to him that will always make him difficult. He has plenty of experience of the 12 round distance and has what appears to be a solid gas tank (though there are questions regarding whether he can actually step it up when needed as he really can be lazy). Notably however Wlodarczyk is a slow starter having only stopped 4 opponents in the first 5 rounds since his first bout with Cunningham.
Chakhkiev, like Wlodarzyck, is heavy handed, every shot he lands hurts. Technically he's very solid and doesn't appear to really have any out and out weakness to him though he can occasionally take a shot that he should have avoided. So far in his career he has shown to be aggressively minded and his power carries through in any round. Although he is an offensive fighter he certainly has the boxing ability to fight on the back foot if necessary, though so far in his professional career we've never really seen too much of that.
In a number of interviews leading up to the fight Chakhkiev has said that he won't go out to stop Wlodarczyk early. Although he's said that, it's hard to imagine him not going for the kill early if he manages to hurt Wlodarczyk. If he can't hurt him then
The video below shows some of Chakhkiev's highlights and is thanks to Piotr Miazgowicz.
World Title Previews
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