The last time Ismayl Sillakh stepped up his competition the undefeated light heavyweight prospect stopped seasoned veteran Daniel Judah in two rounds last April.
It looked like Sillakh would equal that feat against an even better competitor when he dropped Yordanis Despaigne in the second round of their Friday Night Fights main event on Friday, but the Cuban Olympian survived to take the Southern California based Ukrainian the 10-round distance in a good fight.
Sillakh (15-0, 12 knockouts) won the bout by lopsided scores of 99-90 and 98-91 (twice), but not without a few competitive rounds from the game but outclassed Despaigne (8-1, 4 KOs).
The 30-year-old Cuban appeared to be on his way to an early rounds KO loss when Sillakh hurt him with a big right hand and then dropped him with a cross-hook combination in the closing seconds of the second round.
However, Despaigne survived to the bell and withstood a vicious assault that caused cuts around both eyes in the early part of the third round. The 2004 Olympian briefly rallied in the fourth and fifth rounds by bulling Sillakh to the ropes where he nailed his tormentor with overhand rights.
But Sillakh refused to be bullied by the more mature fighter. The rangy 26-year-old boxer-puncher took control of the fight with his smooth lateral movement and stiff jab, which set up accurate power punches to the body and head of the gutsy but outgunned Cuban.
The late rounds of the bout was mere target practice for Sillakh, who landed 15 of 25 power shots in the seventh round and 40 percent of his total punches through 10 rounds.
It was a fine showing power, skill and professional poise for the confident former amateur standout, one that could earn him a legitimate top-10 ranking.
Friday Night Fights commentator Joe Tessitore is so impressed with Sillakh he believes the up-and-comer belongs in the No. 4 spot of THE RING’s light heavyweight rankings, behind only champ Jean Pascal, former champ Bernard Hopkins, Tavoris Cloud and Chad Dawson.
In the co-featured bout of the ESPN2 broadcast from Lake Buena Vista, Fla., junior welterweight fringe contender Ray Narh dominated faded former featherweight titleholder Freddie Norwood to a lopsided unanimous decision.
Narh (25-1, 21 KOs), a 32-year-old Ghanaian boxer-puncher based in Pittsburgh, Penn., won by scores of 100-88 (twice) and 99-89. Norwood (43-4-2, 23 KOs), a 41-year-old veteran from St. Louis, was penalized two points in the ninth round for blatantly punching Narh behind the head.