You know there’s money involved when the promoters have flown Michael Buffer in, but in fairness Artem Dalakian, born in Azerbaijan and now fighting out of Ukraine, 16-0 with eleven knockouts going in, is a flyweight deserving of some pomp and ceremony. His opponent tonight was the Thai Sirichai Thaiyen, at twenty-seven years of age the younger man by three years but with an impressive 50-3 record very much the ring veteran. Both men entered tonight’s contest ranked in the lower reaches of the TBRB top ten at flyweight.
This was a legitimate contest between two top-drawer 112lb athletes.
Dalakian (pictured) was defending the alphabet strap he won impressively against Brian Viloria on HBO last year while Thaiyen sought to reclaim the belt he had worn for a year in 2014. A homeboy with the traditional Thai appetite for activity against limited opposition, it is to his great credit that he was willing to travel to Ukraine in search of redemption. A sixteen fight winning streak stretching back to his losing that strap suggested he was serious about it.
Dalakian is a prestigious body puncher and he was not shy about leading with right hands in the very first. Thaiyen has a Muay Thai background and for those seeking conditioning to the body, no more strenuous program can be imagined. Meanwhile, the Thai set about trying to establish his jab while the Ukrainian continued to look for the body and feinted by dipping the knees and shaping to throw.
Ominously for Thaiyen, Dalakian opened the third cleanly out-jabbing him; moving beautifully he was already in total charge of the real-estate and the “when” of the exchanges. Stronger in the clinches, he also began throwing beautiful combinations off the step-in and in half-clinches, twice punctuating these fluid cavalcades of punches with booming left-hooks to the body. At the end of the round Thaiyen was briefly overwhelmed; at the beginning of the fourth, once more, Dalakian began to rip to smother him with class-apart punching.
It was my feeling, at this point, that it could be wondered if Ukrainian boxing hadn’t scared up some company for Oleksandr Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko. That is a little premature but this was some impressive boxing.
The fifth was painful to watch. Dalakian dropped Thaiyen early with a long right hand from the outside as he turned him ring center and when Thaiyen reclaimed his feet, Dalakian dropped a minute of hurt upon him that would have seen the fight stopped in many other territories. He slung in wayward long uppercuts but many accurate jabs, bodyshots, right hands, left hooks; Thaiyen remained organized if not unhurt and despite the fact that he was not firing back, the referee can be excused for not stepping in. By the final seconds of the round, Dalakian was moving away, moderately punched out and presumably as astonished as me that Thaiyen had survived.
But he did survive, not just the fifth but also the sixth, a testament to his inherent toughness and will. Yet to win a round, he was still, technically, in the fight.
Thaiyen took a quick count at the end of the seventh, just to underline the hopelessness of his situation on the cards, and another in the eighth behind a straight right. A creeping fear for the Thai fighter’s safety began to creep up on me at this point and as he stood ring center while Dalakian circled and tormented him, I wondered for what reason his corner allowed him to continue to absorb such punches when he was so absolutely chanceless.
When the referee stepped in to end affairs in the eighth it was not too soon.
I have been unable to decide whether or not Dalakian is a puncher. I think now that he is not. Thaiyen is so tough as to be freakish but still, Dalakian landed numerous flush punches to limited affect and the same could have been said of his domination of Brian Viloria.
What he is, though, is fast of hand and foot and very difficult stylistically. If he is like anyone it is Lomachenko, working angles, working a tightening circle, but without the pound-for-pound king’s scent for a punch, perhaps, nor his technical equal.
He is on his way to flyweight pre-eminence, however. Donnie Nietes is ageing and the likes of Cristofer Rosales and Daigo Higa do not have his raw talent.
After the fight, he spoke of unification. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the little man from Azerbaijan on HBO again sometime soon.
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