MATCHROOM staged its annual show at the Casino in Monte Carlo (Salle Medecin), topped by an all-Russian contest for the vacant WBA welterweight title. This is the body’s regular, secondary belt at 147lbs, with Manny Pacquiao holding its “Super” title following his July victory over Keith Thurman. At least Alexander Besputin and Radzhab Butaev put on a good fight, won unanimously by the former on three scores of 116-112 for judges Stan Christodoulou (South Africa), Pawel Kardyni (Poland) and Jean-Robert Laine (France).
It was an intriguing contrast in styles. Besputin, based in Oxnard, California and signed with Top Rank, is a stocky (5ft 7ins) southpaw with fast hands and good movement. Brooklyn-based Butaev, taller by 3 1/2ins, boasts a powerful dig but is rather one-dimensional.
The 12-rounder went in phases. Besputin boxed smartly to take the opening two sessions, moving in to score and getting out before Butaev could respond.
Butaev finally got going in round three, working his way inside long enough to score with hooks and uppercuts. He won that and the fourth, then in round five enjoyed his best moment yet when a big right made his Kamensk opponent stumble.
But Radzhab failed to maintain his momentum, dropping the next three sessions to his smart-boxing rival. Besputin moved well and piled up points while Butaev who had gone to sleep.
When Butaev did let his hands go again, in round nine, it was from the southpaw stance that he had landed hard shots to have Besputin under pressure on the ropes.
Yet once again the Khasavyurt man couldn’t sustain it. Besputin, despite now being cut on the right eye (near the nose), outworked him with combinations in the 10th and maintained his high energy levels in the next.
And even though in the last Butaev opened another, much worse cut on his opponent’s right eye (this time on the eyelid), Besputin kept boxing neatly on the move to seal a clear, deserved victory.
Guillermo Perez Pineda of Panama refereed.
After winning the British and Commonwealth titles at lightweight, Cardiff hope Joe Cordina decided to move down to super-feather.
He made a winning debut in the 130lbs division when he unanimously outscored Mexico’s Mario Enrique Tinoco in a 10-rounder for the vacant WBA Continental belt.
Judges Christodoulou and Perez Pineda had him winning clearly at 98-92, while Kardyni had it closer at 96-94 after a bout refereed by Laine.
There didn’t seem much doubt that Cordina, 28, was usually in control and doing the better work; with height and reach advantages the slimmer Welshman held the upper hand as long as the action was at range.
Given how Tinoco’s best win was stopping unbeaten Jordan Gill with body punches in May, it was probably sensible for Cordina to clinch and shut Tinoco down whenever the switch-hitting Tijuana man got close.
It made for a frustrating spectacle at times, until Cordina found the time and space to land a left uppercut (in the fourth), a sharp right-left combination (fifth) or singles to the body (round seven).
Tinoco did finish strongly, marching in to win rounds eight and nine, but it was too little, too late to stop Cordina making it 11 wins from 11.
There was a showcase for Norway’s Cecilia Braekhus, possibly the world’s leading female boxer, as she outscored Victoria Noelia Bustos from Argentina over 10-twos. Scores were 99-91 and 98-92 twice. Braekhus, who scored her 35th win, retained her welterweight belts from the WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO.
The Colombian-born champion is getting on at 38 but hanging around for a 2020 superfight with either Ireland’s super-lightweight champ Katie Taylor or New Yorker Amanda Serrano.
So this was really just a keep-busy exercise for Braekhus, who landed left jabs and right crosses at will against an opponent whose punches were often sloppy swings. The much shorter Bustos, really just a blown-up lightweight (Taylor beat her in 2018), was down from a left hook in round six but referee Diana Milani didn’t pick up the count.
Hughie Fury was unable to box Pavel Sour on the undercard when the former world heavyweight title challenger was laid low by illness on the day of the show.