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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Chilemba Falls to Vlasov in Grueling Rematch

Isaac Chilemba lost by way of unanimous decision to Maksim Vlasov Saturday night. The light heavyweight bout took place in the open air of Gelendzhik's windy Central Square in Vlasov's home country of Russia and was a rematch of a 2011 contest in which Chilemba won on all three judges' scorecards in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Chilemba showed his defensive mastery throughout the fight, but his offense started slowly. Chilemba blocked, slipped, and used the shoulder roll technique to avoid much of Vlasov's early aggressiveness. Isaac mostly jabbed in the first three rounds though, and thus an observer would have difficulty giving him any of those opening three stanzas. His timing was off and his hands looked as if they were stuck in the mud.

Vlasov used herky-jerky movement at times to prevent Chilemba from landing his trademark right leads from distance. On occasion, Vlasov kept his hands stretched out to keep Chilemba at bay. At other times, the Russian kept his gloves down trying to goad the Malawi-native into a firefight. But Chilemba is a cerebral fighter and didn't fall for the trap. Instead, by the fourth round Isaac started landing the lead right. He had found his timing and the usual quickness in his punches.

Beginning to press the action for the first time, Chilemba, trained by legend Roy Jones Jr., kept landing pot shots from distance in the fifth. He also dug the body with the right and kept the momentum two minutes and thirty seconds into round six. But Vlasov turned the fight back in his favor at the end of the sixth with a couple of crisp jabs late and clean head shots from both hands with about thirty seconds left .

In the seventh, Vlasov landed the best punch of the fight, a leaping left hook that buckled Isaac's knees. Isaac was defensive for the rest of the round  and had a bloody nose to for his trouble but showed resilience by coming back in the eighth with his usual arsenal of overhand rights and rights to the body. He was also willing to exchange with Vlasov and got the better of it.

Vlasov finished the fight strong. He landed several clean left hooks. He had switched to southpaw for a few moments here and there earlier in the fight, but he did so more often in the final four rounds. Vlasov didn't land much as a lefty, but the move served to neutralize Chilemba's offense. The Russian veteran landed some hard right uppercuts in the tenth.

The eleventh round saw Chilemba suddenly fail to keep  the mouthpiece clenched between his teeth. Referee Yuri Koptsev, a countryman of Vlasov, did a fair job in the fight despite taking a point away from Chilemba for losing his mouthpiece three times in the penultimate round. Even an alternate mouthpiece wouldn't stay in. The loss of a point was a bit harsh because Isaac gained no advantage from the guard repeatedly slipping out.

As it turned out, the point deduction became irrelevant when the judges tallied their scores. Chilemba came out firing in the twelfth, but it wasn't enough. Vlasov won with scores of 117-110, 116-111 twice. His record improves to 44-3 with 26 KOs. Chilemba is now 25-7-2 with 10 KOs. Isaac has lost five of his last six fights, but four of them have been to the four best fighters in the division.

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