IBF cruiserweight king Yoan Pablo Hernandez returned to action after a year out due to injuries, facing the challenge of ex-European titlist Alexander Alekseev in an all-southpaw battle last night at Stechert Arena in Bamberg, Germany.
Russian born, Hamburg based Alekseev won the first two rounds with a razor sharp jab and good footwork, backing up Cuban born, Halle and der Saale based Hernandez while keeping the champion at a distance. Hernandez appeared thrown off by the jab, and was forced to take chances lunging in from the outside.
Once inside, Hernandez would do good work to the body and while his big, winging shots from the outside mostly missed, he struck paydirt in the closing moments of the second round with a quick right jab, hard overhand left combination that dropped Alekseev. The challenger got right back up but was a bit wobbly before being saved from further punishment by the bell.
Alekseev worked himself back into the action, again controlling the pace with his jab. The challenger managed to avoid the big shots of Hernandez, mixing in body shots that had the champion low in energy by the fifth.
But by the end of that frame, Alekseev was also tiring and flatfooted when floored by the same combo that downed him in the second. This time, the Russian was much slower in regaining his feet, but seemed to have good composure as he weathered the followup assault of Hernandez, absorbing several big shots over the last 20 seconds of the round.
By the seventh, the pace had slowed with Alekseev showing more caution and Hernandez looking very nearly spent. Hernandez came to life, catching the challenger with two good right hooks but was countered with a meaty left cross that had him hurt and backpedaling to the ropes., where he managed to clinch himself through the final 30 seconds of the round.
Hernandez was still seriously out of energy and cut above his right eye in the eighth and ninth rounds, marshaling his reserves to rip off occasional combinations to the head or body but Alekseev was marching forward and punishing the champion with the ever present jab.
The Cuban was a bit more active in the tenth, adopting a tighter defense and putting more pop into his shots. The effort paid off as Alekseev was shaken by another right, left combination but used good defense and a hard left to the body to back off Hernandez.
Alekseev continued to pressure Hernandez but was suddenly caught by the best punch of the fight as Hernandez whipped off a snapping right hook that landed flush on the jaw and had the Russian badly dazed on the canvas, prompting referee Lindsey Page to wave off the proceedings at 1:35 of the tenth.
Hernandez makes the third successful defense of the IBF crown, improving to 28-1 (14), while Alekseev falls to 24-3-1 (20).
The undercard saw heavyweights Denis Boystov, 33-1 (26), of Russia and Alex Leapai, 30-4-3 (24), of Australia, tangle with Leapai posting a career best victory, handing Boystov a first career loss on cards of 98-90 and 96-92 (twice) in defense of the WBO Asia Pacific title.
Ex-European light heavy champ Eduard Gutknecht, 25-3 (9), of Germany was halted in the fifth by Russian slugger and former WBO title challenger Dmitry Sukhotsky, 21-2 (16).