Dmitry Kudryashov vs Ilunga Makabu is a mouthwatering battle of bangers who can be hurt, observes Derek Bonnett
The two biggest punchers in the cruiserweight division will meet in a bid to drop the word “fringe” from their contender status. On June 16, Dmitry Kudryashov and Ilunga Makabu will step into the ring in Ekaterinburg, Russia for a scheduled 12-round bout, but the only ring officials necessary will likely be the referee and timekeeper. Kudryashov has scored a KO in each of his twenty-three professional victories while Makabu has only heard the final bell once in twenty-four wins. Both men have been stopped twice inside of three rounds. This match-up is for well-rested eyes only. Blink and it might all be over.
Kudryashov, 33, elevated himself into the cruiserweight ranks with two blistering performances against Juan Carlos Gomez and Francisco Palacios by early 2015. “The Russian Hammer” blitzed the one-time cruiserweight champion with 10 title defences in just 22 seconds. Palacios folded in 52 seconds after previously going 24 close rounds with Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in title fights. The seemingly title-bound puncher slipped up later that year though and lost a two-round shootout with Olanrewaju Durodola. Kudryashov would avenge the loss in five rounds in 2017, but his momentum was again snuffed by a second-round KO loss to Yuniel Dorticos. Riding a two-fight KO win-streak, Kudryashov meets Makabu with a lot on the line.
Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the South African-based Makabu has had a similar rise-and-stumble pattern in his career. Makabu, 31, lost his professional debut in just 28 seconds. He then put together a nice run which included victories over Dmytro Kucher, Eric Fields, Glen Johnson and Thabisu Mchunu. Makabu’s KOs came later in his fights as he broke his opponents down with heavy fire. Makabu, a southpaw, earned a world title opportunity against Tony Bellew in 2016. After dropping the Liverpudlian in the first frame, he himself fell in the third round to conclude the bout. Makabu has been victorious five times since against what one might call confidence-building opposition. With Kudryashov in his sights, he will need to strike hard if he is to see another world championship match.
Kudryashov, 23-2 (23), has crushed his opponents with right hands and left hooks alike. He carries a high guard, but loves to engage on the inside where he also becomes vulnerable. Kudryashov’s setbacks may have derived from a belief in his own power. Although considerable, his being too in love with his KO crunch, put him in danger against Durodola early in their first contest. Even though Makabu has been taken out early, the Russian may want to try breaking his opponent down before going wild for the finish.
Makabu, 24-2 (23), has used his left hook and uppercut to produce his biggest wins over Fields and Mchunu. “Junior”, as he is called, also keeps a high guard, but his hands are more open since he throws more jabs than Kudryashov. Under heavy pressure against Bellew in round one, Makabu was able to break through with his left hook to drop the future world champion. His KO of Mchunu also came after falling behind early. Makabu just might be most dangerous against the Russian once he is hurt. However, Makabu’s best bet is to throw combinations like Dorticos to keep Kudryashov hiding behind his guard long enough to find his KO blow.
Don’t ask for a prediction; I’ve already changed my mind twice regarding this tantalising match-up. I foresee a short night and both men down or in trouble, but the victor keeps changing.
Also on the card in quality cruiserweight action, Aleksei Egorov puts his unbeaten record on the line against veteran Mike Perez in another 12-rounder.
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