Russian retains heavyweight title
December 12, 2006
RUSSIA'S Oleg Maskaev has retained his World Boxing Council heavyweight crown with a unanimous points decision over Ugandan-born Japanese Peter Okhello.
Maskaev dominated for much of the fight at Moscow's Olympic arena yesterday (Melbourne time) but failed to land a knockout blow despite throwing a series of powerful punches in the last three rounds.
US-based Maskaev, granted Russian citizenship by a special decree from President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, improved his record to 34 wins and five defeats. Okhello fell to 18-5. It was the first heavyweight title fight held in Russia.
Maskaev, who was born to Russian parents in Kazakhstan, won the WBC belt with a 12th-round victory over Hasim Rahman in Las Vegas in August.
In his first title defence, the 37-year-old fighter rocked Okhello with a powerful right to the head in the fifth round, then again in the eighth and ninth rounds.
But the 34-year-old challenger, bleeding from the mouth and with his swollen right eye almost shut, survived the barrage. Japan-based Okhello finally went down in the 10th but Maskaev, urged on by a partisan 12,000-strong crowd with chants of "Russia, Russia", failed to press the advantage.
"I really wanted to knock him out, unfortunately I just couldn't get that one punch," said Maskaev, who grew up in Uzbekistan before moving to the US in the 1990s. "It was my first professional fight in Russia, in front of my countrymen, so I was really motivated to win it."
On the undercard of the Maskaev-Okhello fight, Russia's 2004 Olympic champion Alexander Povetkin scored a third-round knockout over American heavyweight contender Imamu Mayfield.
■The rematch between super-middleweight boxers and Australian rivals Anthony Mundine and Sam Soliman has been locked in for March 7 next year.
The fight is listed the Sydney Entertainment Centre, but late yesterday, Soliman's manager Stuart Duncan was still trying to get the fight to Melbourne.
Mundine and Soliman will fight for the World Boxing Association super-middleweight title, made vacant when previous holder Mikkel Kessler, who beat Mundine last year, was elevated to the status of Super Champion after winning the WBC title.
The Australians met in September 2001, when Mundine won a contentious split points decision. Mundine, 31, has a record of 27 wins (21 KOs) and three losses. Melburnian Soliman, 33, has won 21 out of 22 fights since his loss to Mundine to bring his record to 33 wins (13 KOs) and eight losses.