Jack Culcay extended his career on Saturday night in Berlin with a twelve-round unanimous decision over the previously-undefeated Jama Saidi.
It was a win that will do little to put Culcay back into contention on the world scene, following four losses at the higher and fringe levels. But it was enough to guarantee that he will still be the headliner for his next fight.
The evening was a another of the showcases taking place here, given the recent dearth of the domestic scene. The night was promoted by Agon Sports, which is looking to gain a foothold among the country’s promoters.
Originally slated to appear alongside Culcay on the card, in a separate bout, was former WBA champion Tyron Zeuge. Zeuge was to face the 19-3-1 (12) Yusuf Kanguel but it was reported on 10 November that he had pulled out due to illness. If it had gone ahead, the fight would have marked Zeuge’s first match since June and his third since losing his title sixteen months ago to Rocky Fielding. It is thought that Zeuge will appear on another Agon card in the first quarter of 2020. If he had appeared, it would have marked the first time he and Culcay had boxed together on the same night since September 2018, when they headlined in separate bouts at the MBS Arena in nearby Potsdam.
The evening was to build and maintain a following for Agon fighters. The Berlin-based company is rapidly positioning itself to become one of Germany’s premier promoters. Founded in October 2017, it has promoted six cards over 2018 and 2019.
The headlining fighters among its roster are Culcay and Zeuge, two guys at the top of Germany’s b-list of fighters. But, domestically, there is no longer much of an a-list since both Klitschkos and Felix Sturm retired, while we are seeing the last few gasps of Arthur Abraham’s, Marco Huck’s, and Jurgen Braehmer’s careers. As I have written about before, promoters here are positioning everyone they can to be the next big domestic draw.
The evening took place at Arena Berlin, a converted bus depot. Not usually used for large events in the city, it is smaller than the nearby Mercedes Benz Arena and the more-distant Max Schmeling Halle, Velodrom, or Tempodrom venues. However, it is a more-central stage than Agon’s last card in the capital, at the forementioned MBS Arena in Potsdam. That hall has about 2,600 seats. It is believed that Saturday’s crowd drew a similar number.
The main event was a marking-time fight for Culcay and despite four defeats on his record, he entered the ring as favourite. He was fighting at home and in front of a partisan crowd. His last fight, a UD over eight rounds against the 32-8 Stefano Castellucci, had been five months before and a win was the prerequisite for any bigger paydays down the line.
…is only a fringe contender at world level. And following points defeats to Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Maciej Sulecki, Demetrius Andrade, and Guido Nicholas Pitto, there was no margin for another loss. One more at this point would remove him from contention and put him on the other side of the bracket, making him the ‘name’ going on the record of younger, fresher fighters.
His opponent Saidi was an unknown quantity going into the fight. Despite being undefeated in sixteen fights, his record of just seven stoppages indicated he was not a puncher. It was also a record absent of notable names. But there is an unreplaceable cache in being undefeated. In fighting Culcay, he was hoping to set himself up with a ticket to bigger paydays. A victory, however, could be a ticket to massive ones. In other words, everything he stood to lose was much, much less than what he could win.
The first round saw Saidi advance and Culcay stay on the back foot, looking for openings for counters. The action sped up and grew more intense in the second, although they moved as if afraid to plant their feet, and skittered and jumped around each other. Saidi, with the tighter defense, began to find holes for his right hand to go through and a left hook, though, thrown from within a clinch, briefly shook Culcay.
The third and fourth rounds saw caution begin to ebb. Culcay punched more, but whatever he fired out did not land. And while they were not landing, Saidi threw little in return. The fifth saw a rhythm begin to form, where one threw a punch or two that hit the guard, then stepped back to allow his opponent to return the favour. A few big punches, mostly from Saidi, still landed.
A case could have been made for each after the sixth round had finished. Saidi was doing more, even if Culcay was showing more skill. The seventh began with Culcay switching briefly to southpaw. Seconds later, another right hand from Saidi landed.
There was little change in round eight. Saidi threw more in volume and Culcay had the quality. Round nine was more of the same, with Culcay managing to do more with his fewer punches than Saidi did with his many. There was the sense that the fight was beginning to shift now in favour of Culcay.
From rounds ten to twelve, Culcay pulled ahead and stayed there. His quality shots continued to land on Saidi, and hurt him. And if Saidi realised at this point that he was falling behind, he still decided that retreating or moving laterally was the mark of a coward. He continued moving forward, even if that did not serve him.
A right in the twelfth from Culcay hurt and Saidi, lacking better ideas, pushed himself back into the fight. And although he was game, there was no dodging the big shots that were landing freely. It seemed for a few seconds as if the stoppage was imminent.
When the bell rang, both fighters raised their hands and stood on the ropes, motioning as if they had run. The noise from the crowd that travelled towards Saidi was full of derision and it was obvious that he had lost. A limited fighter, he had pushed and reached for something far beyond himself, and failed.
The fight was scored 118-110, 113-119, and 112-118 for Culcay, who picked up a spurious WBO belt. After the bout, it was reported that Culcay would be looking to fight again in March in an eliminator, before moving into a world title shot by the end of next year.
ON THE UNDERCARD
The chief support for the night was a match between Bjoern Schicke and Adasat Rodriguez for the European Boxing Union middleweight EU title. A cut appeared high on Rodriguez’s nose in the first round and he protested hopelessly that the blow had been illegal. It was a slight nick high on the bridge from which some blood trickled and fell in spots upon his white shorts, and it worsened in the second. Rodriguez has high cheekbones and an angular, sharp incline to his nose, features that make a fighter prone to bleed.
By the seventh round, the nose had entered a status quo where the bleeding neither improved nor worsened, but instead maintained its steady trickle. There was little between the two fighters, and whatever the margin was between them, it belonged to Schicke. In truth, it was a fight in which its participants never really mashed, coming at each other from odd and mismatched angles. There was seldom a punch in the fight, from either of them, that was not a jab. By the eighth round, the cut had widened and spread across the bridge, the blood was dark and thick, and the nose itself looked as if it was broken. Blood welled at its end.
The fight remained level all the way until the end and when it finished, both fighters stood on the ropes and waved to the crowd as if they had won it. Rodriguez gave a wry, pained smile when the UD was announced for Schicke and walked off to his corner, who nudged him back to the centre. He congratulated his opponent and then left the ring.
Also on the undercard, Haro Matevosyan moved to 10-0 (6) with a sixth-round stoppage over Frank Haroche, fighting out of France. With this loss, Haroche’s record fell to 45-18-5 (17). After being stopped with a bodyshot, Haroche walked across the ring and hugged Matevosyan from behind, kissed him, and rubbed his glove across the back of his head.
Two fleshy heavyweights met in an eight-round fight between Kostiantyn Dovbyshchenko and Evgenios Lazaridis. The Frankfurt-based Lazaridis was taller and less fleet of foot than his Ukrainian rival, and fought behind his jab, which would have been a good plan if he had a decent one. The two fought a messy, ugly, mauling fight that never took off. It took until the eighth—and final—round before Lazaridis showed any urgency; by that point, it became obvious that he thought he needed to do so in order to win. The decision went to him; it had never been doubtful that it would have been any other way. The fighters moved their records to 16-2 (10) and 6-6 (3).
Fabio Thiemke of Berlin extended his winning record to 4-0 (3), with a stoppage in the second round. His opponent, Achilles Szabo of Hungary, added another loss to a record that now reads 24-24 (13). Thiemke wears the name ‘German Dream’ on his trunks and their lustre, and the reception he received from the home crowd, indicate that he is being groomed for stardom. Szabo, meanwhile, spent most of the fight on the back foot, offering little else but air for Thiemke’s punches to whistle through. He flinched at everything that was thrown. An uppercut and a left hook in the second put Szabo down. He went down again a minute later in the same corner, sat for a few seconds as if to clear his head, then climbed to his feet so he could stand for when the referee waved it off. He smiled afterwards and shook out the tension in his legs, not unhappy for it all to be over and to get paid. Szabo has now lost his last five fights, all against undefeated opposition.