Ilunga ‘Junior’ Makabu outpointed previously undefeated cruiserweight Alexsei Papin via majority-decision with a solitary scorecard of 113-113 overruled by tallies of 115-113 in his favour.
Although the fact that both fighters between them had stopped 34 of their combined 36 victims meant that a decision verdict was considered a profoundly unlikely prospect in this encounter, Makabu was able to overpower his opponent and generally keep him honest en route to a narrow albeit well-deserved win on the road.
After dramatically felling Dmitry Kudryashov in a hellacious slugfest earlier this year, the Congolese southpaw ventured once again to Russian soil in a bid to secure a second world title shot; after falling victim to a devastating Tony Bellew left hook in their showdown for the vacant WBC title in 2016.
Neither fighter was ostensibly dominant throughout the early proceedings, but it was Makabu who took the initiative in landing the markedly harder single shots, despite being visibly staggered by a Papin counter right hand at the end of the opening stanza.
After that, however, Papin struggled to put a dent in the obstinate Makabu, who continued his relentless forward march, digging in spiteful shots to the midsection coupled with destructive power shots upstairs.
In the face of the consistent pressure applied from the Johannesburg-based southpaw, the Russian former kickboxer elected to circle his counterpart, attempting to pepper him with combinations in several closely-contested rounds; although rounds that were ultimately determined by Makabu’s more significant and seemingly more powerful punches.
The fight degenerated into an increasingly scrappy affair as both fighters inexorably tired, and the final round was pure drama as an exhausted Papin succumbed to Makabu’s concussive punching and stumbled to the canvas.
Nevertheless, the Russian fired back furiously, stunning Makabu with a venomous volley of punches, but ultimately was left to rue the conservative approach in the early stages, as the final bell sounded before he could capitalise on his momentum.
Heavyweight hopeful Evgeny Romanov also extended his unblemished professional record to 14-0 with an effortless first round stoppage victory over Dario German Balmaceda.
Volgograd-native Romanov, who stopped Deontay Wilder in the amateurs, appeared to barely break a sweat in clinically dispatching of the patently overmatched Balmaceda. Romanov was content to patiently stalk his counterpart, driving him back with solid jabs, complemented by some choice combinations that dropped the Argentinian twice, before a solid left hook sealed the deal before the end of the round.
Article by: Navi Singh