Former world champion, Liam Smith was defeated via unanimous decision in Ekaterinburg, Russia, as Magomed Kurbanov took the vacant WBO International Super Welterweight title in what was a questionable victory on Friday.
Smith (29-3-1, 16 KOs) was taking on a dangerous assignment against Kurbanov, and he was looking to catapult himself back into the mix at world title level, having lost his belt in a ninth round loss to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in 2016, and he then failed in a bid to win it back from Jaime Munguia in a points loss in July 2018.
The Liverpudlian rated #2 with the WBO was coming off three wins on the spin, the last a wide win on the cards against Roberto Garcia in December 2019. ‘Beefy’ had also been training with Manny Robles rather than Joe Gallagher, and his corner here were from his old Rotunda ABC days.
Kurbanov (22-0, 13 KOs) was a bit of an unknown quantity, having never fought outside his homeland, but the 25-year-old came into the contest unbeaten in 21 contests and ranked at #5 by the WBO.
Smith began behind a tight guard in the opening round, and he landed a right hand over the top, although Kurbanov had a solid first frame himself, working off a decent jab.
The Brit looked to have been denied a knockdown, as a short left hand landed while Kurbanov was off balance, but the referee allowed the action to continue.
Smith had his best round to date in the third, landing with authority, and the pair opened up to close the fourth. The two were again in the trenches in round five, where Smith landed another eye-catching right hand, while most of his opponent’s shots landed on his gloves.
The sixth was a quieter affair as Kurbanov tried to keep the action at range, until right at the end of the round, the Russian hurt Smith with a flush right hand to the head.
🏆🏆#AndNew Magomed Kurbanov
What did you think of the judge’s scorecards?#KurbanovSmith
— FITE (@FiteTV) May 7, 2021
A right hand from the 32-year-old seemed to buzz Kurbanov as the fight reached its second half, and he was boxing well, but every slight success that Kurbanov had was cheered to the rafters by his home crowd.
The ninth saw ‘Beefy’ try to press on, and a combination drove his man back in encouraging signs for the former world champion, who also landed several clean shots, especially with the right hand, during the round.
Kurbanov was showing signs of tiring, and Smith was repeatedly nailing him with combinations ending with a right hand, but the 25-year-old shook Smith up towards the end of the tenth with two hard rights of his own.
The two men were going for broke and although Kurbanov had the better of the penultimate stanza, he still had to eat a couple of Smith uppercuts.
Smith didn’t want to leave the contest in the hands of the judges, and both met centre ring for a shootout in the final round, which Smith got the better of by the final bell.
Two scores of 115-113 and a third at a way too wide 117-112 ensured a controversial victory for Kurbanov. It was always going to be a mountain to climb for Smith to get the nod on the cards, and he can feel aggrieved not to get his hand raised.
A fantastic performance from @LiamBeefySmith and most people watching felt he should have got the decision.
— MTK Global Boxing (@MTKGlobal) May 7, 2021
The vacant WBO European Super Bantamweight title was claimed by Muhammad Shekhov, as the Uzbek-based in Russia took a split decision win against Evgenii Liashkov in an entertaining scrap. Two scores of 96-94 for the former amateur standout, overruled a verdict of 97-93 for Liashkov.
The other scheduled ten rounder on the bill saw Eduard Skavynskyi improve to 14-0 as a professional, as he dominated against former world title challenger, Joel Julio.
Julio was having only his third fight in just over six years, and the Colombian showed little ambition after being floored towards the end of the fifth with a big left hook that forced him to backpedal and drop to the canvas via the ropes.
The rest of the fight pretty much saw the Russian stalking Julio around the ring, with the 36-year-old more intent on survival. The contest went the distance, and the home fighter took a unanimous win, with the scores not announced.
At Super Flyweight, Zafar Parpiev dealt out a one-sided beating to Alphoe Dagayloan before the Filipino’s corner pulled their man out after four of their scheduled eight rounder.
Another one-sided beating came at Super Lightweight, where Enriko Gogokhia made it thirteen wins from as many fights with a fourth round stoppage of Gustavo David Vittori.
Light Heavyweight Igor Ionov scored a fourth round knockout in the show opener, as he halted the winless Yevgeniy Logozha with a wicked body shot, while at Middleweight, Ivan Nikonov, took his record to 5-0 with a points win over six against Barikbay Nurymbetov.
Debutant, George Yunovidov was successful, as he took a unanimous decision over six against German Skobenko. At Featherweight, the favoured debutant, Shamil Askerov, was held to a majority draw by Annapurna Kalsynov, unbeaten in one contest before the fight, over six rounds.