Lebedev retains title with wide decision over Flanagan
Denis Lebedev returned to the win column with a wide unanimous decision over Mark Flanagan Sunday at Divs Arena in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Two judges had it 119-109 while the third had it 120-107 for Lebedev, who retained the WBA cruiserweight title with the win.
Lebedev (30-2, 22 knockouts) lost his IBF cruiserweight belt last December with a split-decision defeat to mandatory challenger Murat Gassiev, but held on to the WBA belt because it wasn’t at stake in the fight. “Bam Bam” Flanagan (22-5, 15 KOs) of Rasmussen, Australia, saw his 11-fight win streak come to an end with the loss in his first fight outside of his homeland.
After a slow open to the fight, Lebedev began making Flanagan pay in the third round, countering a left jab with a straight left down the middle, as well as picking off a right hand and countering with a left to the ribs. Lebedev’s confidence grew as he took advantage of Flanagan’s lack of balance to land two lefts to the head and body in the fourth round.
Flanagan got involved in the counterpunching party in the fifth, drawing a left cross from Lebedev and landing to the body, but Lebedev landed heavier with his own body shots later in the round, plus a left cross up top. Flanagan found his target with the right hand in the sixth and seventh rounds, particularly as a counter to Lebedev’s right jab, but was unable to stop Lebedev’s pressure.
Lebedev stepped it up another level in the eighth, buzzing Flanagan with a straight left and popping his head back with a pair of right jabs. Lebedev scored the fight’s only knockdown in the ninth as a jab and hook upstairs concealed a left cross to the midsection, which sent Flanagan into the ropes and down to a knee.
Flanagan answered his corner’s enjoining to be more aggressive “or he’s gonna walk through us,” opening the 10th with a determined rally, letting go a four-punch combination punctuated by a right to the chin that knocked Lebedev back.
Flanagan came out looking for a knockout in the 12th but was kept at bay by the heavier punches of Lebedev.
“This was my first ever trip outside of Australia and it won’t be my last,” Flanagan wrote on his Facebook page afterwards. “Hopefully I can get some more big fights overseas and another world title shot. I’ve got a lot to learn and I’m not giving up.”
Russian boxing luminaries Sergey Kovalev, Ruslan Provodnikov and others were in attendance for the fight.