In a Fight of the Year candidate as well as a major upset, 41-year old Panamanian Guillermo Jones reclaimed his WBA cruiserweight title against Denis Lebedev in a hellacious slugfest that came to an end in the 11th round when referee Stanley Christodolou stopped it after Lebedev climbed off the canvas.
From the opening bell, Jones slugged it out with Lebedev, often getting outlanded at a two-to-one clip. But for every two shots Lebedev landed, it came at a price. Jones battered Lebedev’s right eye into mush, producing one of the most grotesque cases of swelling since Hasim Rahman’s golfball-like bruise he suffered against Evander Holyfield.
The difference between the two is Rahman’s injury came from a headbutt, while Lebedev’s nasty swell job was courtesy of a high number of hard right hands. Though Lebedev was winning rounds, Jones was inflicting more punishment as the fight wore on.
Round seven stands out as the best of a very good bunch. Early on, with his eye already a slit, Lebedev rallied hard, landing multiple combinations that seemingly had Jones on his way out. However, in the final thirty seconds, Jones battled back, pushing Lebedev back on his heels.
Lebedev had a nice run of small victories in the middle rounds as Jones seemingly was awaiting his second wind. That came in the ninth, when Jones began to outland Lebedev. All of a sudden it was Jones who was landing in combination rather than one shot at a time.
With the fight taking place in Lebedev’s home of Moscow, nobody took a look at the eye until early in the 11th round, when referee Christodolou brought Lebedev over to the doctor. The doctor insanely immediately called for the fight to continue, which it would until Lebedev took a knee following a sustained beating. Though Lebedev made it to his feet, Christodolou wisely waved it off at 1:54.
Lebedev was being afforded every opportunity to keep the WBA title he assumed when Jones became the champion in recess. In the tenth round, the two wrestled each other to the ground, and Christodolou failed to call time out, allowing the final thirty seconds of the clock to run off while the two scraped themselves off the mat.
Jones was a pretty sizable underdog heading in, and for good reason. Heading in, Jones had fought just twice since claiming the belt against Firat Arslan in Hamburg back in September 2008 via 10th round TKO. Arslan just recently challenged Marco Huck for his cruiserweight belt, giving him all he could handle in a close decision loss that could’ve gone either way.
Jones is a former junior middleweight title challenger who twice went twelve rounds with Laurent Boudouani, drawing and losing a split decision. He is the last of Don King’s stable to maintain any relevancy, and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here on out.
For Lebedev, hopefully the loss is just a setback and not a career ender. The eye injury he suffered is on par with some of the worst in recent memory; worse than Pawel Wolak’s against Delvin Rodriguez, worse than Erik Morales’ against Marcos Maidana, worse than even Vitali Klitschko’s against Lennox Lewis.
In the co-feature, heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin took a tune-up bout against undeserving, unheralded, and undefeated Andrzej Wawrzyk, totally outclassing him to a third round stoppage. The win will likely setup a well anticipated showdown with Wladimir Klitschko later this year.