Again in five weeks, the fights returned on Saturday night to the Seebuehne in Magdeburg, Germany. It was the second successive card held at the venue by SES Boxing since the lockdown and the main event was a return, this time at heavyweight, for the Cuban former IBF cruiserweight champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez.
This was his first time in the ring since 2014, and he was now going for a run amongst the heavyweights. His dance partner for the night was former contender and current gatekeeper Kevin Johnson of Asbury Park, US.
There were seven bouts on the card and in the crowd was WBA interim and IBO champion Dominic Boesel who is slated to defend his title in September against Australia’s Zac Dunn. He was on hand to be interviewed for German television.
Not the main event, but the fourth fight of the evening was Robin Krasniqi, returning after fifteen months against journeyman Stanislav Eschner in a bout scheduled for six.
Krasniqi is best known internationally for his wide points loss against Arthur Abraham in 2017 and was arguably the second-bigest name on the card. He looked in good shape, despite the break, his age (33) and the wear-and-tear of 55 fights. Never a puncher, he was fighting one class above his usual zone and the bout seemed set as a test, to see what was in the closet after such a long break and to knock loose some of the accumulated rust.
Krasniqi had weighed in the previous day at 186.25lbs, a big jump up from his usual super-middleweight, and he struggled against a gamer-than-expected opponent. Never a big puncher, with only seventeen knockouts in forty-nine wins, he abandoned smart boxing and slugged with the shorter, balder, and heavily-tattooed Eschner. It was a slippy, sweat-filled, slapping brawl between the two and Krasniqi, in a weight class so far unknown to him, tried to Gatti with a fighter living up to his self-labelled nickname of ‘Bull’.
Class began to tell in the sixth with hooks to the body and head. The referee stopped the bout. Eschner, his gumshield hanging from his mouth, walked in cirlces around the ring and complained to his corner and into the evening air that the stoppage had been unfair. He was brave, but wrong.
Krasniqi was followed in the ring as the ‘home fighter' by Juergen Uldedaj, who comes from Magdeburg, was fighting at home for the first time since May last year. Uldedaj is one of those rare creatures for whom popularity outside of his friends, family, and locality may lie beyond his grasp. He is a light-punching, defensive, switch-hitter at 200lbs, five things that are near-kryptonite to a discerning audience. That is a shame because he is now undefeated in twelve, and handsome–see below–and wants to be a puncher.
A shot to the body emptied his opponent in the second round, although with a record of 4-1, there may not have been much in there in the first place. That opponent, Robert Grguric, went to his knees, his feet splayed and his gloves firmly against the floor. His forehead was red and there was a gash on it, and he did not protest when counted out, and taken back to his corner where his coach struggled to pull off his left glove.
Next on the card was Peter Kadiru vs. Muhammed Ali Durmaz. Kadiru was returning to the ring after a somewhat-disappointing showing there in July. Kadiru is obviously popular with his fans and is being positioned for a run at stardom. The problem is that his performances are somewhat lacklustre.
Durmaz’s presence in the ring suggested that somewhere that night a nightclub was missing its doorman. His face is remarkable in that it is almost flat at the front as if hammered into that shape over many years and rounds of fighting. The fifty-seven fights on his record before the night underlined that suspicion.
Durmaz had a smile on his face before the fight and his hair, gelled and swept to one side, along with that smile, made him look the main character's best friend in a thirties gangster film. He came into the ring with 29 wins and 28 losses, a symmetry in his record that made one wonder if he has won fights, then in a sense of fairness lost the return, and made his career in the ring that way.
Kadiru looked a little fleshy in the chest and stomach, and when he swung, these two areas stopped moving a split second after he did. He went slowly in the first round, coming directly to Durmaz, and he kept his hands up and high and looked to put his own punches into the odd gaps his opponent left open.
Durmaz went down early in the second round. There was not much in it and it looked as if he could get back up. He may have done, may even could have done so if he wanted, but he was not there for that.
The main event was the match between Hernandez and Johnson.
The 35 year old Hernandez was setting out for a run at heavyweight, the 40 year old Johnson was there to perform his role as gatekeeper. The latter had lost his previous five fights, including one in the middle of June against fellow gatekeeper Mariusz Wach. That fight had been fought before a small crowd at a hotel in Poland.
It was a bout characterised by Johnson moving forwards and Hernandez moving away and throwing looping left hands from his southpaw stance. Not all of them got through, but enough did for him to be winning on the scorecards. The second round was as awkward as the first and Hernandez went over for the first time, although it was a slip, before getting up and putting pressure on Johnson.
It was back to business in the third round as Hernandez jolted and darted, throwing that left hand, while Johnson plodded towards him. Hernandez slipped again in the fourth and, once up, went back down to the canvas. It was legitimate this time, but messy, and the two traded once he was back up.
Johnson was cut by the end of the fifth and the doctor was called in. It looked to be in the corner of his eye and when Johnson went back out, there was a thick glob of Vaseline stuck on top. Both men concentrated on the cut in the round, Hernandez threw his jab at it and Johnson, feeling the tapping of blood, touched at it throughout.
The fight ended in the seventh. The deciding factor was Johnson was born to be a heavyweight but Hernandez had had to build himself up into one. It was not sophisticated or beautiful, but Johnson’s barging into Hernandez was enough. The end came messily and it was a right hand that Johnson threw while walking that set it in motion. It took a small left hook, delivered almost square-on, to put Hernandez down.
Johnson was interviewed in the ring after the fight and spoke about a fight in Russia. Hernandez did little. He smiled and seemed okay, and he spoke with his team. Johnson, meanwhile, left the ring first and disappeared into the dark and hard night.
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