Shavkat Rakhimov scores comeback stoppage against Azinga Fuzile in IBF eliminator
EAST LONDON, South Africa — In a battle between a heavy handed pressure fighter and a sharp shooting boxer, Shavkat Rakhimov came from behind to stop Azinga Fuzile in brutal fashion at 2:26 of the eighth round.
In a matchup between two unbeaten southpaws, Rakhimov ventured into the lion’s den to take on local hero “Golden Boy” Fuzile at a packed-to-the rafters Orient Theatre in a final IBF eliminator for the right to challenge champion Tevin Farmer.
The Russian started off aggressively, pushing forward against the awkward Fuzile, who likes to box on the fly in a sideways stance. It was a feeling out round with the Russian making contact with three hard straight lefts from the southpaw stance while Fuzile landed a couple of jabs.
Some heated exchanges kicked off in the second round where it became clear that Rakhimov was struggling to penetrate the Philly Shell defense of Fuzile who blocked and parried exceptionally well while landing some good body shots. One of those strayed low which drew a warning from the referee and a time out for Rakhimov. When the action resumed, Rhakimov bullied Fuzile to the ropes and got his own back with a head butt which also elicited a stern warning.
The battle lines were drawn as Fuzile blocked Rakhimov’s blows and ended the round by landing some good body shots.
Fuzile landed some quick jabs and a double right hook to kick off the third while Rakhimov retaliated with a solid straight left-right hook combo. Rhakimov walked Fuzile into a corner and they exchanged blows before Fuzile turned him around, laced him with combinations, a jab and a one-two before Rakhimov got inside again with some hard, short shots of his own. Fuzile ended the round with a right hook-left uppercut combination.
In the fourth, Rhakimov simply kept pushing forward, despite some swelling on his right eye, forcing Fuzile into a corner and just working him over. Most of his blows missed and were blocked but some landed. Fuzile looked uncomfortable for a moment but fought his way out. A straight left to the body from Fuzile stopped the forward march of Rakhimov momentarily and a straight left to the head of the Russian seemed to stagger him.
In the next round Fuzile seemed to outfight Rakhimov, responding to his attacks with rapid shots to the body and then dancing away. He landed a double left, consisting of a hook to the body and an uppercut to close the round.
The South African boxed well on the back foot in the sixth, a straight left-right uppercut making the sweat fly off Rakhimov’s head and stirring the crowd into a frenzy. When the Russian trapped him in the corners, he blocked and parried, turned him around and flurried.
Fuzile was clearly the faster guy and seemed to be winning rounds but Rakhimov’s pressure was relentless, making for a tense situation.
Fuzile landed a double jab and a hook to the body while moving around the ring in the seventh. Rakhimov kept chasing but Fuzile scored with an eye catching combination of hooks and uppercuts on to close the seventh.
Then things took a turn in a different direction in the eighth round. Rakhimov started hitting Fuzile with short cuffing punches around his guard when he, once again, trapped him in the corner. Fuzile fought back, spinning Rakhimov around and landing a series of three left hooks but then, as Fuzile retreated, Rhakimov nailed him on the button with a perfect straight left which deposited the South African flat on his back.
He made it to his feet on unsteady legs but Rakhimov was on him like a shark on a seal and landed a torrent of blows. A final left uppercut planted Fuzile face first on the canvass where he remained for an uncomfortable amount of time, the partisan crowd shocked into momentary silence.
Fuzile got back to his feet and left the ring on his own steam. He is young, fought well and can still come back, depending on how he deals with the psychological aspect of a heartbreaking first defeat.
Shavkat Rakhimov becomes the IBF mandatory challenger. The Russian is as tough as an overdone steak, throws bricks and brings fiery pressure when he gets going. Standing up to him for twelve rounds will be a tough task for anyone in the division. He takes his record to 15-0 (12 knockouts) while Azinga Fuzile drops to 14-1 (8 KOs).
The main supporting bout between hot flyweight prospect, Luyanda “Pretty Boy” Ntwanambe and Fikile “Fear Fokol” Mlonyeni was supposed to be a showcase but turned into yet another war before Ntwanambe finally prevailed by scores of 118-111, 117-114 and 116-112 over twelve rounds, picking up a regional WBO belt in the process.
The sharp shooting Ntwanambe started off well in the opening rounds, displaying a versatile jab, which he would double and alternate to the head and body while following up with a laser like straight right.
Mlonyeni kept pressurising Ntwanambe with combinations consisting of hooks to the head, which Ntwanambe ducked and responded to with sharp uppercuts and deft side steps, forcing Mlonyeni to reset.
By the end of the fifth, however, Mlonyeni found a target for his left hook and some body blows. For the first time it started to look as if the pressure was getting to Ntwanambe.
Ntwanambe started the sixth round well, drilling Mlonyeni with straight shots but then Mlonyeni backed Ntwanambe to the ropes with a left hook-right hook combo where he proceeded to pound him with a variety of body shots, staggering a tiring Ntwanambe with a right uppercut. Things seemed to be going wrong for the young upstart when the bell came to his rescue.
It was more of the same in the seventh with Ntwanambe taking a shellacking and hovering perilously close to a stoppage before he dug deep and landed a series of rights, stepping around his opponent after each one. At the end of a nailbiting round, he had turned the tables and now Mlonyeni was in trouble!
The fight ebbed and flowed in the later rounds between Mlonyeni adminstering a rib roasting and Ntwanambe retaliating with flashy combinations and angles whenever he could get some space.
Although Luyanda Ntwanambe passed a baptism of fire to bring his record to 8-0-1, Fikile Mlonyeni, who dropped to 14-6, gained many new fans with his gritty display in a fight that really did not deserve a loser.
The performance of the night belonged to Ayabonga Sonjica who took his record to 9-0 and added the South African junior featherweight belt to his collection by widely outpointing Innocent Mantengu by scores of 120-108, 119-109 and 118-111.
In another battle between southpaws, Sonjica boxed very well behind his jab and landed his shots at will.
Mantengu, who drops to 14-4-1, hung tough and tried everything to hang onto his belt but Sonjica simply neutralized him while continueing to box in cruise control.
Sonjica, trained by Sean Smith, who along with his brother Peter, have a stable that include names like Kevin Lerena, Thulani Mbenge and Thabiso Mchunu, is definitely someone to watch in the future.
Another young, undefeated fighter, junior lightweight, Khanyile Bulana, served notice that he wants a place in the spotlight as well, by outspeeding and outworking Phila Mpontshana over 12 compelling rounds for a regional IBF belt.
It was a good fight with Mpontshana landing some hard shots of his own but his work rate seemed too low to warrant a card of 114-113 in his favour which was overruled by two cards of 116-111 for Bulana who scored a knockdown in the final round.
Bulana improves to 12-0 while Mpontshana drops to 16-2.
Although the result of the main event left many in tears, this was an excellent card with quality boxing and great matchmaking put on by Teris Ntutu and Nomfesane Nyathela of Rumble Africa Promotions
Siphosethu Mvula W12 Michael Mokoena (IBF Africa lightweight title)
Ronald Malindi W12 Michael Daries (South African bantamweight title)