Ismayl Sillakh had his sights set on gold in the light heavyweight division, but “The Pirate” raided his ship on Friday Night Fights.
THE RING’s No. 10-rated 175-pound fighter was knocked out by unheralded Denis Grachev in the eighth round of the main event of an ESPN2-televised card on Friday. Without question, Grachev’s KO victory will wind up in contention during the year-end Upset of the Year voting.
From the opening bell, Sillakh, 27, of Zaporozhye, Ukraine, controlled distance and countered Grachev with ease as the Russian marched forward without throwing a jab. The much-hyped contender easily landed left hooks, and was beginning to look disinterested with his opponent, who was an 11-1 underdog on some sportsbooks.
Late in the third round, Sillakh doubled his jab and brought a straight right hand directly behind it, sending Grachev to the floor.
It looked like it might be the prelude to victory for Sillakh, but it turned out to be foreshadowing instead.
Grachev, 29, of Chaykovsky, Russia, hung around and continued to march forward, finally engaging his opponent in an exchange in the eighth round. When Sillakh went to flurry, Grachev came straight down the pipe with a right hand, not unlike the one that knocked him down. The Ukrainian staggered to the corner, and never got off the ropes, as he proceded to eat lefts and rights until referee Rocky Burke stopped the bout at 2:18.
Throughout the contest, ESPN commentator Teddy Atlas insisted that Sillakh was susceptible to right hands, and his prophecy rang true. He had climbed his way into THE RING ratings through dominant showings over pedestrian competition, and a victory over Yordanis Despaigne. Fans, analysts and Sillakh’s camp all insisted that he was ready for top-flight competition, with the fighter even calling out the winner of Saturday’s bout between Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson.
Instead, he was knocked out by a former kickboxer.
It turns out everyone looked a little too far ahead.
In the broadcast opener, Javier Fortuna scored a massive first-round TKO over fellow featherweight prospect Yuandale Evans.
Evans (16-1, 12 KOs), who has a reputation as a knockout puncher with the nickname “Money Shot,” opted to stand and brawl with Fortuna, and found out he has a similar skill set. Midway through the round, Fortuna landed a left hand on Evans’ temple, sending him off balance. Rather than tie up and avoid further trouble, the Cleveland native tried to uncork wild hooks, and was drilled with a left hand that sent him crumbling to the canvas.
After the knockdown, Evans was too brave for his own good once again, backing himself into the ropes in search of a home run counter, rather than closing distance and smothering. Fortuna took full advantage, opening up with combinations and sending his opponent to the canvas for the second, and final time.
With the win, Fortuna improves to 19-0 with 14 knockouts, and will likely move upward in the rankings, where he is already positioned in the top 10 of three different sanctioning bodies.
After back-to-back victories over a gritty gatekeeper in Miguel Roman and now a young gun in Evans, one would assume Fortuna is ready for a significant test the next time he steps between the ropes.
Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman