Last night at the Dynamo Palace of Sports in Moscow, WBC cruiserweight king Krzysztof Wlodarczyk withstood a hard challenge from 2008 Olympic heavyweight gold medallist Rakhim Chakhkiev.
Chakhkiev had won all 16 of his pro bouts thus far, ripping through a variety of American and eastern European opponents enroute to capturing the WBC baltic belt and retaining it on two occasions.
The Germany based Russian was engaging in his first world title contest and facing the far more experienced Wlodarczyk of Poland, who over two world championship reigns, had gone 6-1-1 in WBC and IBF title bouts.
Wlodarczyk was putting his WBC crown at risk for the fifth time, but was taking quite a risk by traveling to the opponents home country.
Southpaw Chakhkiev started the fight by going right after Wlodarczyk, slugging his way in, mixing in body shots to great effect. Wlodarczyk's trunks were almost up to his armpits, which was probably a good thing for him as Chakhkiev was throwing hard to the midsection.
Chakhkiev drove the champion back as Wlodarczyk shelled up on ropes behind high guard, blocking most shots but some were getting in.
Wlodarczyk was hardly throwing anything in return until the last minute when he began to slip in right hands and was jabbing to keep Chakhkiev at bay.
By round's end, the right side of Wlodarczyk's face was already red from the left hands he's been hit with.
The champion was going on the offense a bit with 1-2 combos at the start of the second, using the left to disrupt Chakhkiev until the challenger started to wade in and land big shots again.
The action slowed down, with the boxers trading occasional shots, until, near end of frame Chakhkiev started to step in again, with Wlodarczyk patiently trying to use footwork and blocking to nullify the rushes.
The third started with a bang, featuring good exchanges, Chakhkiev slugging away with wide swings, Wlodarczyk boxing, throwing straighter shots. Wlodarczyk was trying to time Chakhkiev as the challenger tends to drop his defensive hand when he throws punches.
When the action moved to closer quarters, Chakhkiev surprisingly shoved Wlodarczyk away. Chakhkiev landed a big right to the champion's ear and Wlodarczyk appeared shaken. Chakhkiev followed up with a right/left combo and Wlodarczyk sunk to his knees with 24 seconds left and was counted.
Wlodarczyk beat the count and on shaky legs he kept the challenger off with right hands until round's end.
Wlodarczyk appears to have recovered by the start of the fourth as Chakhkiev bashed away, looking for openings amid the visitor's high guard. Wlodarczyk began to throw and land rights while Chakhkiev was using angles to try and get off good shots, some of which got in but many were blocked.
Chakhkiev got in a good left but the seasoned Pole took it well. Chakhkiev continued his advance, backing up Wlodarczyk with hard hooks. Chakhiev started to rest in spots and while he was putting a lot of power into his wide swings, most were missing.
Up to this point, Chakhikev has definitely been more active but Wlodarczyk has had the better accuracy.
Wlodarczyk opened up the fifth frame by throwing more shots, perhaps trying to give Chakhkiev something to think about on defense. Chakhkiev started jabbing more, trying to set up big lefts. A hard uppercut from Chakhkiev connected and the Russian was suddenly on the move, landing a combo and snapping back the head of the retreating Wlodarczyk.
Wlodarczyk ducked his way out of further punishment and cracked the eager Chakhkiev with a nice right. The challenger went back to the body but then started to stand on the outside where Wlodarczyk began to connect with long rights.
A frustrated Chakhkiev backed up, dropped his hands and clowned a little before finding success with some good shots to the body before showing off some flashy footwork.
Wlodarczyk didn't seem bothered by the punches or the display and continued to patiently stalk Chakhkiev, who landed a series of lefts upstairs and down, backing off the champ.
The pair tried to leap in and potshot the other before engaging in decent exchanges until the end of the round.
The sixth opened in contrast; Chakhkiev swinging wide, Wlodcarzyk throwing straight. The more traditional boxing skills of Wlodarczyk allowed him to make Chakhkiev miss and pay for those mistakes.
The fighters alternated in backing each other up, taking turns on offense and defense with each landing hard power shots. Chakhkiev got in a spearing left to the body and followed up with good combinations when Wlodarczyk went on retreat.
Chakhkiev caught up to his quarry but appeared winded and clinched instead of handing out more punishment. A few good exchanges followed but the clinches became more frequent.
Wlodarczyk sniped in a couple of rights but Chakhkiev continued to be busier, getting in hurtful shots but definitely looked like he needs a breather and now has a cut above his right eyebrow.
With just seconds left in the round, Wlodarczyk tagged Chakhkiev with a short but sharp left hook during a clinch. Chakhkiev sagged to the canvas but is back up a few seconds later before the bell ends the round.
Chakhkiev looked okay by the start of the seventh, employing jabs and body shots. Wlodarczyk cracked Chakhkiev with another left hook but the former Olympic hero shook it off, going back to work with both hands.
The pair got tangled up in a clinch and Wlodarczyk tries the same trick twice but this time, Chakhkiev blocked the sneaky left hook. Wlodarczyk the belted Chakhkiev with a nice left hook before the hamburg resident retaliated with a fusillade of shots that got in.
Wlodarczyk got in closer, hitting Chakhkiev with rights as the challenger's punches no longer had the steam to keep his antagonist off. Wlodarczyk shelled up as Chakhkiev went back to work, banging with both hands to the head and body but the champion doesn't seem to care, just now waiting for a good opening.
Wlodarczyk missed a huge right before Chakhkiev shoved him off. During clinches, Chakhkiev gasped for air and is clearly starting to flag from his earlier efforts.
The veteran Pole came forward, exchanging hard rights until with 45 seconds left, Chakhkiev found the reserves to go on a tear, as he ripped into Wlodarczyk and backed him around the ring.
However, Wlodarczyk maintained his composure and scored some good combinations in close, as Chakhkiev tried to stand and trade. Wlodarczyk suddenly reeled off a right to the back and a left hook to the jaw and Chakhkiev was down again.
He got right back up and was counted, landing a combo at the bell. Replays showed that Wlodarczyk inadvertently stepped on the challenger's foot twice during the knockdown sequence.
Wlodarczyk landed a meaty right to start the eighth but Chakhkiev fired back with a salvo. Wlodarczyk retreated, letting Chakhkiev throw while looking for an opening to lash out.
Again, Wlodarczyk punched his rival with a right, causing Chakhkiev to stand off a bit. Good exchanges in the center ring erupted with the local man landing more but Wlodarczyk's successes had more bad effect.
Wlodarczyk smelled blood and stepped in with a right that wobbled Chakhkiev, who immediately started reeling off punches in response. A nice close quarters firefight ensued until Wlodarczyk unloaded a hard right and Chakhkiev again hit the deck.
He was much slower in getting up this time and wandered over to the corner as referee Daniel Van de Wiele tried to assess his condition. Wlodarczyk wasted no time in zipping in a sharp left and Chakhkiev grabbed hold.
Wlodarczyk just shook him off and dropped the exhausted Chakhkiev on his face with a compact left hook. The fight is immediately waved off at 2:03 of the eighth.
Wlodarczyk improves to 48-2-1 (34), retaining the WBC title. After a brave and spirited effort, Chakhkiev now stands at 16-1 (12).