The first four winners on the Day Of Reckoning undercard were in the ring in Riyadh for a strong time, not a long time. All four scored knockout wins, with an upset capping off the first half of the card.
Kabayal Crushes Makhmudov in Four
Agit Kabayal of Germany had the same undefeated record as his opponent, Arslanbek Makhmudov of Russia, now a resident of Montreal. But Makhmudov had the size, height, reach advantage, and all the buzz. Makhmudov talked about how he would destroy Kabayal all week.
Kabayel (24-0, 16 KOs) wasn’t listening to anyone but his own team. His team, including trainer Sükrü Aksu, put together an ideal game plan, and he executed it to perfection, stopping Makmudov (18-1, 17 KOs) after scoring three successive body shot knockdowns. Referee Mark Lyson wisely waved off the fight at 2:03 of round four.
“I give my best and win the fight. We training for this you know. I shock the world maybe, huh?” smiled Kabayel. “If you talk with ten guys, nine guys say I could never win. Today, Alhamdulillah, we win!”
Kabayel wasn’t intimidated by Makhmudov. He outfoxed him with footwork and handspeed. Kabayel landed uppercuts to rattle the big man and, while he was getting his wits about him, moved in with the body shots. Kabayel proved he had more than enough power, along with his accuracy, to break Makhmudov down. As the barrage continued, you could nearly see Makhmudov’s soul leaving his body.
Kabayel has now gotten the world’s attention. “When you give me the next opportunity, I’m ready!”
Cruiserweight King Jai Opetaia Blitzes Ellis Zorro
Fans saw lineal cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia of New Zealand (24-0, 19 KOs) for just 2:57 against Ellis Zorro of England (17-1, 7 KOs). It was more than enough to seal Opetaia’s status.
Bouncing on his toes and stinging Zorro in the opening minutes, Opetaia closed the round with a picture-perfect straight left to Zorro’s head, dropping him to the canvas for a lights-out knockout at 2:57 of round one. No count was necessary. Zorro was a deer in the headlights.
“I trained for 12 rounds. I was prepared for 12 rounds. If the knockout comes, it comes,” said Opetaia. “(Zorro) was very hesitant. He wasn’t engaging much. He was a bit too hesitant and got clipped. That’s just how it goes.”
Opetaia had been inexplicably stripped of his IBF World Cruiserweight title belt before the fight. But the boxing world knows who the top man is. Opetaia used the slight as fuel Saturday. “Man, I’m pumped. First-round knockout. I’m ready for the next fight.”
The next step? “Put the people in front of me, and I knock ‘em out. That’s all I do,” said Opetaia, which should put fear into every one of his opponents. Matchroom Boxing chairman Eddie Hearn said he would like to see Opetaia follow in Oleksandr Usyk’s footsteps and unify the cruiserweight division before moving up to the heavyweight division.
“I believe Jai is going to do exactly the same thing,” said Hearn. “He should be standing here as IBF world champion. But it doesn’t matter. Every fight fan knows he’s the number one cruiserweight in the world … This is one of the most exciting fighters on the planet.”
Hrgovic Wins Mismatch Over De Mori
Shame on the matchmakers who allowed Filip Hrgović of Croatia (17-0, 14 KOs) to face the completely unequipped, overwhelmed Mark De Mori of Australia (41-3-2, 36 KOs).
Hrgović stood before De Mori, aimed, and fired a hard right hand, dropping De Mori within the first minute of the bout. De Mori got up, with his back turned to the referee, and already mentally checked out of the fight. The fight could have been stopped there. Instead, Hrgović pursued him for the knockout, with De Mori ducking and covering. At 1:46 of the round, the fight was waved off for a TKO win.
“To be honest, I expected this kind of scenario. It was a stay-busy fight,” admitted Hrgović. “He’s a brave guy. Thanks to him and his team for accepting the fight.” There was no point to this bout but a paycheck for both men.
Hrgović said he’s ready for a title shot. “IBF declared that I’m next in the line. I should fight the winner of Tyson Fury Usyk. If they go for a rematch, I fight the next best in the ranking.” When American Jared Anderson was mentioned, Hrgović said, “Jared Anderson is for breakfast. For this kid, it’s not smart to fight with me.” He also expressed interest in the winner of Joshua vs. Wallin.
Frank Sanchez Opens Day of Reckoning Undercard With KO Win Over Junior Fa
There wasn’t much action in the opening bout through the first five rounds of the scheduled 10-round fight between Frank Sanchez of Cuba (24-0, 17 KOs) and Junior Fa of New Zealand (20-3, 11 KOs). Just as fans were thinking about what to eat for lunch or pouring another cup of coffee, Sanchez turned up the heat and delivered a perfectly placed hard right hand on Fa, who dropped hard to the canvas. He beat the count to end the round, but the end of the line was in sight.
Sanchez dropped Fa twice more in round seven. He wobbled and knocked down Fa at the end of a combination series of punches. This time, Fa had more trouble getting up. Fa repeated the same hard right hand for the third knockdown. Fa beat the count again, but referee Kevin Parker had seen enough.
It was the performance Sanchez needed to stay viable as a top opponent after developing a reputation as a boring heavyweight. It also got viewers wondering if the card would go eight for eight in stoppage wins. So far, so good.