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Foxwoods Ringside Report –  With undisputed middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin casting an ominous shadow over the entire 160 pound division, boxing’s history-rich weight class looked to a pair of Ukrainian Olympians tonight at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut for future consideration. Promoted by DiBella Entertainment under Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions banner, the Thursday night card, telecast live on ESPN, featured an IBF eliminator in the main event between 30 year-old Ukrainian “Technician” Sergiy Derevyanchenko 9-0 (7) and 42-year-old former champion Sam “King” Soliman 44-14 (18) of Melbourne, Australia.

In 2014, Soliman dropped the IBF title to former lineal middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, blowing out his knee in the process. The road back from injury has been slow for the aging but still physically fit Soliman. A member of Team Soliman assured me before the Derevyanchenko bout that their man’s ACL is A-OK. Astute readers will recall that it was Soliman who Dominic “The Blade” Wade defeated last year by decision to earn his mandatory title shot against Golovkin.

Wade, like most GGG opponents, was cut down quickly.

Soliman faced a similar fate at Foxwoods tonight.

Against the powerful and talented Derevyanchenko, Soliman tried to dance early but he was dropped late in the first round from a right hand to the temple after a herky-jerky exchange of punches. In the second, Soliman, 159, was knocked out by a devastating left hook after a series of clubbing right hands connected in the corner. Soliman was down on his back for a few frightening minutes before regaining his feet in the ring and congratulating the winner.

Derevyanchenko looks like one to keep an eye on. With just nine professional fights but lots of elite amateur experience, Derevyanchenko, 159, could be something like the Artur Beterbiev of the middleweight division, a youngish contender ready for the best in the world by the time he racks up a dozen or so wins. After the crushing loss, Soliman cited the long delay in getting his hands wrapped in the dressing room as the reason for why he wasn’t “warmed up” enough for the fight.

While Soliman hinted at retirement, Derevyanchenko is looking to the future.

“We will keep moving forward,” said the winner through a translator.

The co-main event featured an NABF middleweight title bout between Ukrainian titlist levgen Khytrov 14-0 (12) and challenger Paul Mendez 19-3-2 (9) of Delano, California. Nicknamed “The Lion,” Khytrov, 159, roared early, working his way inside behind a high guard and well-timed bobbing and weaving. The taller Mendez, 160, tried to keep Khytrov on the outside but his arm punches did little to stop the forward momentum of Khytrov as the rounds passed. In the third, Mendez was reeling around the ring from Khytrov’s punches, unable or unwilling to hold on. By the fifth, Khytrov was starting to tire and his punches lacked the same snap as earlier. His head movement was gone too. Try as he might, Khytrov lacked the energy late in the fight to knock his man down. A big right hand wobbled Mendez at the end of the seventh round and again in the eighth from a volley of punches. In the ninth, Khytrov pressed his power advantage and referee Joey Lupino stopped the fight at 1:20 when the ring doctor came up on the apron with Mendez hurt on the ropes by flush right hands.

Mendez impressed many a ringsider with his durable chin. As for Khytrov, the undefeated up-and-comer needs improvement before challenging the upper echelon of the middleweight division.  “I want to fight Golovkin,” Khytrov claimed after the win. As it stands now, Khytrov could well be the next Matt Korobov if he doesn’t tighten up his defense and work on his conditioning.

Foxwoods Ringside Report – On The Undercard:

In the ESPN swing bout, Ukrainian welterweight Ivan Golub 12-0 (10) defeated Mexican Ernesto Ortiz 10-4 (7) by knockout at 2:49 of the second round. Ortiz spent a while on the canvas in the first round after a low blow but he went out on his shield in the second off a hard right cross to the chops from Golub.

Female featherweights Shelly Vincent 18-0 (1) and Christina Ruiz 7-9-3 (4) entertained local fans in a dark bout that went off in the ring after the main event. As she always does, Vincent came forward for almost every minute of the fight and her opponent was feisty but simply overwhelmed. Official scores in favor of Vincent by majority decision were 77-75 twice for Vincent and 76-76 even. After the fight, Vincent proposed to her partner in the ring. She said yes.

Welterweight “Marvelous” Mykey Williams is handled by James Toney’s former manager Jackie Kallen. The 18-year-old East Hartford, Connecticut prospect improved to 3-0 (2) with a unanimous but competitive four round decision over Issac Johnson 2-4 of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The stocky Johnson didn’t look like much in the ring but he brought the fight to Williams and landed his left hook more than expected. In the end, Williams prevailed on all three scorecards 40-36. “It was a good test for him go four rounds,” said Kallen of her charge after the win. “You can’t go six until you know you can go four,” she told TSS while Williams looked on with sweat pouring from his mocha frame. “I like that he had to dig deep. That’s what a young fighter has to do to get to the next level.”

Middleweight Alantez Fox, 20-0-1 (9) from Forestville, Maryland, got all he could handle in the first round from tough Mexican “Chicho” Paul Valenzuela 17-4 (11) before making his adjustments in the second. When Fox used his superior height and reach, he was effective with the jab and follow-up right hands to the head and body. Valenzuela stayed in the chest of Fox in the third but he was getting ripped with left hands as he waded in face first. In the fifth, Valenzuela walked into a hard left hook after complaining about a butt to his right eye. After a short delay due to a borderline low blow from Fox, the fight continued with Valenzuela absorbing a bad beating to the body. Too tired to resist, Valenzuela’s team stopped the fight in the corner before the bell for the seventh round.

In the evening opener, New England Golden Gloves middleweight champion Christopher Davis-Fogg, Framingham, MA., made a successful pro debut, scoring a TKO 1 over Jeff Anderson 0-2 of Lincoln, Rhode Island. When Anderson suddenly dropped his gloves and exposed his chin after a brief feeling out process, the southpaw Davis-Fogg took him up on his foolish offer by punching non-stop with both hands until the referee stepped in and called a halt to matters at 1:24.

Foxwoods Ringside Report / photo by Ed Diller

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