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Robin Krasniqi and 3 more dangerous fighters on the fringe

Derek Bonnett discusses the recent surprise victory for Robin Krasniqi over Dominic Boesel, and some other examples of unsung fringe contenders who still pose a threat

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Robin Krasniqi upsets Dominic Boesel
Robin Krasniqi upsets Dominic Boesel

One of the most overlooked victories of this past weekend saw Robin Krasniqi stop Dominic Boesel in a battle of Germany-based light-heavyweights. The fight itself was short, but sweet. Boesel, the favoured fighter, got off to an excellent start and reminded me of Corrie Sanders stepping his way inside of a young Wladimir Klitschko. He allowed Krasniqi to lead and would step to the back foot before advancing with quick counter jabs followed by his right. Krasniqi, for his part, pressed forward to initiate with a pawing jab and a plucky attitude for two rounds.

 

Krasniqi had been here before and this was a fight he did not want to let go. Just last year, the Kosovo-born Krasniqi was positioned as a stepping stone for once-beaten Stefan Haertel. Haertel passed the test. In 2017, Robin met a faded Arthur Abraham in a bout to determine how much the former world champion had left. The answer was, enough to beat Krasniqi. Going back to 2015 and 2013, respectively, Krasniqi was stopped by Juergen Braehmer and outpointed by Nathan Cleverly in a pair of bids for light-heavyweight titles. Krasniqi had finally gone from losing to only world champions to being a safe match for a rebounding contender.

 

Boesel had been rebuilding well after a 2017 defeat to Karo Murat and most recently had stopped Sven Fornling, who had just beaten Murat. This marked six victories since losing his unbeaten record and Krasniqi was his mark. As Boesel braved forward at the start of the third, Krasniqi caught him with an overhand right to stun him. Krasniqi feinted a jab and repeated the right and caught a defenceless Boesel square on the jaw. Boesel came to his senses at 30-2 (12).

 

Krasniqi, 51-6 (19), transformed into a ball of jubilation as soon as the count was waived. It could be argued that he has just scored his best victory as a professional. It is surely his most important because it saved him, a boxer who lost two of his first three outings, from fully falling over the edge into the role of an opponent. Instead of oblivion, Krasniqi now has a new life in his career and likely another big opportunity in the near future.

 

The Kosovar can keep doing what he’s been doing lately and hope to expose a less experienced foe and prove he’s still too green for the top ten. Highly touted Joshua Buatsi, 13-0 (11), represents such a calculated risk. Buatsi, 27, has several usable retreads on his résumé already, but Krasniqi would present a status-gaining challenge nonetheless. At this stage, a win arguably does even more for Krasniqi.

 

A fighter on the brink is no new concept. In fact, it’s a point nearly all pugilists come to in their careers. Most fall off the ledge and continue to descend further and further away from promise. The fortunate regain their footing and step back from the edge.

 

Here are three other top-10 rated boxers in their thirties, who have escaped falling over the edge and stand with Krasniqi in the hope of future ring glory.

  1. Robert Helenius – 30-3 (19)
    In 2019, “The Nordic Nightmare” looked ready to be settled on his fiery last bed and sent off to Valhalla following his eighth-round stoppage loss to Gerald Washington. It was not Helenius’ first time coming up short though as he lost to Dillian Whyte by decision in 2017 and was upset by Johann Duhaupas in 2016. In fact, going back to 2011, Helenius was among the most promising contenders in the heavyweight division after stopping three faded former titlists in Lamon Brewster, Samuel Peter and Siarhei Liahkovich. Following his disputed victory over Dereck Chisora, hand injuries and promotional conflict hampered Helenius’ unbeaten career.
    Helenius continued to win before running into Duhaupas and even afterward, but he failed to seize the big moments. At least not until just before the lockdowns ensued due to COVID 19. In March, Helenius scored one of the bigger upsets of this strange year by halting Adam Kownacki in the fourth round. Helenius entered the rim trim and very focused on the work ahead. Nevertheless, he fell behind on points slightly, but turned on the heat in the fourth round and stunned the Polish contender. A left dropped an on-charging Kownacki in the corner, but it was ruled a slip. Wasting no time, Helenius strung together a Foreman-esque combination that had little speed, but a lot of thud. Kownacki crashed to his back and rose wobbled, head full of cobwebs. Helenius opened up with a two-fisted attack to stop Kownacki on his feet.
    Helenius, 36, arguably has the power to stop any heavyweight in the division. His chin is another story; yet, it has not always failed him and in good shape with the right mindset he may be able to endure more than we have seen in his disappointing defeats. Helenius happens to be fighting in an era where all the best heavyweights are willing to fight one another. He’ll need to make some more noise. If Dereck Chisora is unsuccessful in upending the heavyweight rise of Oleksandr Usyk, that may be the route he wants to take. Beating Usyk would garner a lot of attention. Even if Chisora wins, there is a pretty good angle that match-up could take and there are usually a lot of eyes on the ring when “Del Boy” fights. If successful, Helenius might be able to secure that elusive title shot we expected him to have long ago.

  2. David Avanesyan – 26-3-1 (14)
    After an unassuming start to his career, David Avanesyan hit his stride in 2019 and should have been named Comeback Fighter of the Year. With any luck, the boxing shutdown for much of 2020 won’t stunt his rise. The Russian Avanesyan lost his second pro bout to Andrey Klimov in a six-rounder. He progressed up the ranks well enough to stop Charlie Navarro and took advantage of the timing in retiring Shane Mosley in 2016 with a unanimous decision. The win afforded Avanesyan an alphabet title of little value. Regardless, that belt was surrendered to Lamont Peterson on points in his very next fight in 2017. By 2018, Avanesyan was pushed to that very same precipice Krasniqi and Helenius faced following a TKO loss to rising Egidijus Kavaliauskas.
    Heading into his EBU title bout with Spanish power-puncher Kermin Lejarraga, few expected Avanesyan to re-establish his footing in the welterweight division. Lejarraga was used to blowing away his opposition as he had done with Frankie Gavin and Bradley Skeete. However, Newark’s adopted son stood his ground and weathered the storm as Lejarraga attacked. Avanesyan used the ropes well to absorb the assault until Lejarraga could barely tread water. In the ninth round, “Ava” came off his stool and drowned the Spaniard with a two-fisted assault which prompted the referee to stop the fight.
    Avanesyan, 32, caused such an uproar the two rematched six months later. Now the EBU champion, Avanesyan took a completely different approach this time around and blitzed Lejarraga in the opening round. He came out firing as the bigger puncher and stunned Lejarraga. The Spaniard rose, but did not shake off the force of the blows. A great left hook clipped the challenger on the chin for the second knockdown. The referee waved the contest off after examining Lejarraga once he rose. In his next defense, “Ava” stopped another Spaniard in Jose Del Rio in the opening frame as well. A right uppercut followed by a left hook to the body left Del Rio planked on the canvas gasping for air.
    Avanesyan, 32, has rebuilt himself into a highly deserving contender. He should be ready for a title fight early next year, but it would be nice if he at least shook off some rust in 2020. A twice-delayed clash with unbeaten Olympian Josh Kelly may yet be resurrected, but a showdown with newly crowned Yordenis Ugas makes a lot of sense. Ugas owns Avanesyan’ s old ‘regular’ belt and the two won’t likely get the attention of the some of the bigger prime time names for a while.

    3. Azat Hovhannisyan – 18-3 (15)

    Similar to Krasniqi and Avanesyan, Hovhannisyan lost early on. Along with his debut, he lost again before he’d had 10 fights. Until 2017, outside of winning, not much was going for Hovhannisyan. He stopped Sergio Frias, best known for adding the final defeat (I hope) on Vic Darchinyan’s resume. That positioned him for a great opportunity against Ronny Rios, who had recently lost a title fight to Rey Vargas and sought to rebuild. Unexpectedly, the Armenian fighter demonstrated why they call him “Crazy A”. From the start, Hovhannisyan loaded up on his power shots and caught Rios cleanly. By the third, it turned nasty and Rios was lucky to survive the round. Eventually, Hovhannisyan had too much and Rios needed to be rescued by the referee. The victory granted him his own failed attempt at Rey Vargas.
    Hovhannisyan, 32, stayed busy fighting thrice in 2018 and 2019. He’s won four in a row since the Vargas effort, including a fourth-round stoppage of recent world title challenger Franklin Manzanilla in his adopted home of Los Angeles. Another title shot is likely as many meaningful bouts exist in the exciting super-bantamweight division. Exciting match-ups with rising forces such as Angelo Leo, Stephen Fulton or Carlos Castro would be true crowd-pleasers.


Across the divisions there are increasing numbers of 30-plus fighters coming into their own after developing the hard way. Sometimes a shiny record hurts a fighter more because they get taken seriously all the time. A few losses sprinkled in often builds a false sense of security in the favoured fighter and on fight night boxers like Boesel, Kownacki, Lejarraga and Rios get a whole lot more than they bargained for and instead end up being the ones looking down from the edge of that frightening precipice.

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