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Sunday, March 15, 2020

Chilemba to Face Chudinov

Isaac Chilemba is scheduled to face Fedor Chudinov in a crossroads fight on Saturday, March 21 at Manezh in the southern town of Vladikavkaz, Russia near the Georgian border. While professional sports in the United States has been shutdown due to the global pandemic coronavirus-2019, the same measures have not been taken in Russia. Officially Russia has 63 reported cases although there are concerns that Russian officials are under-reporting the number of patients. The number is expected to increase exponentially regardless, which puts the fight in doubt at this moment.

Chilemba (26-7-2, 10 KOs) is just 2-5 in his last seven fights, but he has faced almost all of the best light heavyweights of the post-Ward pre-Canelo era during that span. Chilemba lost a disputed decision to Eleider Alvarez in 2015. He next fought tough against Sergey Kovalev, who was a pound-for-pound top ten fighter at the time. Chilemba then lost to future lineal light heavyweight champion Olexandr Gvozdyk after breaking his hand.

Chilemba came back a year and four months later to defeat Blake Caparello before losing to the talented Dmitry Bivol by decision. Last year, Chilemba lost a rematch against contender Maksim Vlasov and then beat journeyman cruiserweight Alexander Kubich; both fights went to the cards.

While Chilemba is a masterful defensive boxer, Chudinov (22-2, 15 KOs) is a pressure fighter and volume puncher who looks to get inside and hit whatever he can in the hopes of wearing down the opponent. In May of 2015, the Russian warrior beat Felix Sturm by split decision in Germany to win a world title strap. After one defense, Chudinov lost the rematch to Sturm by majority decision in what many observers describe as a robbery.

After a fifteen-month layoff, Chudinov returned to face George Groves in 2017 for a vacant world title belt. Chudinov's pressure seemed to break down Groves through the first five rounds of the contest. In the sixth, Groves landed some hard overhand rights as Chudinov stormed towards him. Chudinov was wobbled and eventually fell. He beat the count, but referee Steve Gray waved off the fight despite the protests of Chudinov.

The Russian super middleweight has won eight straight fights since the Groves loss. His best win in that span was against Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam in his last fight in December. Neither man was able to land too many clean shots, but Chudinov controlled center ring as N'Dam moved along the perimeter. Chudinov swept two of the judges' cards.

Chudinov, who is listed as 5'9", doesn't jab on his way to the inside. Except against Groves, he's shown a good chin and tests it as he makes his way in. Once inside, Chudinov throws wide shots around the opponent's guard.

Two strategies for neutralizing Chudinov's relentless pressure is for a taller fighter to use their jab at range or slip and counter. Ezequiel Maderna, who doesn't possess the fastest hands, managed to keep Chudinov at bay with his long jab for the first few rounds of their bout last July. Eventually, Chudinov landed a big right uppercut that forced Maderna down and out in the tenth round. Nadjib Mohammedi started slipping Chudinov's pressure in the middle rounds of their fight in 2018, but he didn't counter enough and lost a split decision.

Chilemba, who is four and half inches taller than Chudinov but only has a one-inch reach advantage, typically potshots and jabs at distance though he will get drawn into a fire-fight on occasion. The Malawian man tends to be more of a perfectionist with his punches looking for the eye-catching blow, and thus throws at a lower rate than Chudinov. Chudinov is there to be hit when he comes in, but once inside Chilemba will likely need to hold or escape. The Russian is more than just a crude pressure fighter, however. He can box; he just rarely does. Defensively, he prefers to parry punches rather than slip and counter like Chilemba.

Though Chilemba started his career three and half years earlier and has eleven more professional matches on his record, he's actually nine months younger than Chudinov. Chilemba is the naturally bigger man, having vacillated between the super middleweight and light heavyweight divisions while Chudinov is a career super middleweight. Chilemba was a career high 188.25 pounds in his last fight on December 13, so it could be a challenge to make the 168 pound limit comfortably as he hasn't done so in nearly ten years.

This fight is scheduled for ten rounds.

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