Boxing in Kazakhstan With the Slant Pattern

So I had an unusual opportunity this weekend to fly to Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, to cover a boxing card of up-and-coming prospects. All expenses paid. First class seating. Four-star accommodations. Caviar wrapped in truffles.

Ha! Just kidding. But I did get to watch said event on ESPN+, or rather, I am watching it now. Normally, ESPN+ does not bother with boxing events this insignificant, but the boxing promoter Top Rank is involved, and ESPN has a contract with Top Rank, and I think it has something to do with that.

It occurred to me that I haven't done a livestream column in years. So won't you join me on this Central Asian pugilistic excursion?

* I was going to do this livestream column with the U.S. Senior Open, but they are in a weather delay. This is why I hate weather.

* The play-by-play commentator, a British bloke, sounds, at least at first, like he's in a garbage can, and I can safely say he is not on location any more than I am.

* First up: Arman Rysbek (7-1, 6 KOs) of Kazakhstan against countryman Dauren Yeleussinov (8-1-1, 7 KOs). On paper, that's a great matchup, two guys with a loss apiece with plenty of knockout power. I will arbitrarily root for Yeleussinov.

* Rysbek is 30 and Yeleussinov is 35. They both live in the U.S. Yeleussinov is coming out with no robe, t-shirt, costume, anything, he's literally ready to fight. This is his first fight in his home country.

* It's an eight-round super middleweight fight, and the ring announcer is doing everything in English, a clear nod to Top Rank/ESPN.

* The venue is nicely lit in blue, but the fans are in folding chairs and it looks like venues I've done improv and open mics in.

* The ring girl is wearing what I'm assuming is traditional Kazakh clothing. Neat!

* Late in round two, the ref calls timeout so that Rysbek's corner can pull up his trunks, which had slipped down too far. I've never seen that before.

* Good trading of punches through two rounds, I think Rysbek is slightly getting the better of it, though.

* Through five rounds, my man Yeleussinov is starting to the tide. Commentators saying Rysbek is "blinking a lot," which I think in this case means he is visibly trying to shake out the cobwebs from Yeleussinov's harder shots.

* Rysbek did not look to be in particularly bad shape, but nonetheless his corner has thrown in the towel before the start of round six, possibly because his left eye has swelled up perhaps to the point he can't see out of it.

* To that point, the judges were split, with two giving Yeleussinov 3 rounds and Rysbek 2, and the other judge having is 3-2 Rysbek.

* Next up, Kazakh prospect two-time Olympic super heavyweight bronze medalist Ivan Dychko (9-0, 9 KOs) against Russian journeyman Denis Bakhtov (39-18, 26 KOs), who's 41. That seems to be a theme for this card: Kazakh prospects against beatable Russian ring veterans.

* Once again, it's an eight-round fight, and I have a feeling it will be a blink-and-you-miss-it fight with a rapid KO.

* Yep. Just after a minute past the opening bell of the first round, Dychko drops Bakhtov, who starts flailing around on his back. Kind of scary, but Bakhtov is quickly on a stool and seemingly alert. Remember the name Ivan Dychko.

* Here's the KO.

* Next up in Kazakh youngsters vs. Russian greybeards: Talgat Shayken (4-0, 2 KOs) vs. Alexander Sharonov (12-5-2, 6 KOs)

* If Shayken makes his way onto the global scene in boxing and doesn't get the nickname "Not Stirred," then I want my money back for everything I've ever purchased.

* Sharanov comes out in a t-shirt with a basketball hoop on it that says "Houston 1988 superior team." I don't know, either.

* This one's a 10-rounder, and I fear it will be boring.

* It wasn't boring. In three fights, we now have our second retirement, and Sharanov's jaw is possibly broken and he cannot continue. The fight was action-packed, but no knockdowns. Shayken's defense seems a little suspect, so I'm not sure he's ready for Errol Spence just yet.

* Now four fight 4 of 6: Russia's Isa Chaniev (14-3, 6 KOs) vs. Kazakhstan's Nurtas Azhbenov (11-0, 4 KOs). I think Chaniev is more of a live dog here than his Russian compatriots.

* And so he was. After Azhbenov forces Chaniev to take a knee in the first round, Chaniev answers with a one-punch knockout, a blistering right, in round 4.

Now for the penultimate fight of the card: Tursynbay Kulakhmet of Kazakhstan (3-0, 2 KOs) vs. Aleksei Evchenko of Russia (19-14-2, 8 KOs). Kulakhmet has less professional experience than anyone else on the televised card, but they are putting him in the co-featured bout. That means they have high hopes for him and want to showcase him.

* Kulakhmet cruises to a 10th round TKO. He dropped Evchenko in the first and tenth round, but Evchenko, while arguably not winning a single round, was stalwartly making his way through the fight, and it stopped standing. One fight to go, and so far we have not needed the judges.

* And now, the main event! Kazakh Sultan Zaurbek (10-0, 7 KOs), goes up against not a Russian, but a Scot, Ronnie Clark (21-4-2, 10 KOs). This is for the WBO European Super Middleweight belt.

* Judging by his Boxrec picture, Clark takes his aesthetic inspiration from the white guy from the Prodigy (RIP).

* I am not expecting Clark to win, but I did place a small bet on him at +900. I think a fairer price would be about +700.

* And we wrap the night with our first fight that goes to the cards. No knockdowns in the fight, which was comfortably controlled by Zaurbek, who wins by unanimous decision. Kind of a letdown at the end, as it was the most boring fight of the evening. Again, keep your eye out for Dychko, and also perhaps Kulakhmet.

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