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Sunday, February 21, 2021

Judges Rule Split Draw for Chilemba and Chudinov

Isaac Chilemba and Fedor Chudinov battled to a split draw in front of a socially-distanced crowd at Vegas City Hall in Krasnogorsk, Russia earlier this evening. Chilemba boxed beautifully while Chudinov never stopped pressing forward.

For a boxing purist, Isaac Chilemba is a pleasure to watch. His combinations are so educated and fluid. He rarely fails to turn after landing a shot. He changes levels. His defense is slippery and slick. He'll even throw a feint just to land a jab.

Chudinov, conversely, eschews nuance. His game plan is to come forward and throw hard punches. He possesses some skill no doubt, but it's in the context of exchanging fire. He exudes grit.

After his name was announced, a big smile crawled onto Isaac's face as South African musician Big Zulu's hit song "Mali Eningi" reached his ears. His trainer, the great Roy Jones Jr., began nodding his head to the music which tickled Isaac greatly. Jodi Solomon joined them in the corner.

Throughout the fight Chudinov may have thrown more punches, but Chilemba clearly landed more, although Chudinov connected with the more influential shots. While Chilemba almost always boxes masterfully, he is sometimes too judicious with his punches. Considering that he often travels to the opponent's hometown, his low punch output has cost him some close decisions. That wasn't the case in this fight.

Chilemba's one major flaw against Chudinov was hanging on the ropes too often. While Isaac consistently fired back off the ropes, Chudinov held the advantage in that situation. Fedor often landed combos in that position as he did in the first to take the round.

Chilemba showed his boxing brilliance in the second round. He landed a double jab and then turned to get out of dodge. He picked his shots expertly from the outside. Chudinov had no chance while the fight was stationed in the center of the ring. In the third, Chilemba kept the momentum going. He landed a jab and a right uppercut while against the ropes. Later he landed a left hook and then changed angles to get out of the way.

Chilemba's back spent too much time on the ropes in the fourth. The next two rounds were close, both fighters attempting to assert their style on the other. The man from Malawi jabbed effectively and landed his customary rights to the body from the outside, a Chilemba trademark. He added a gorgeous left hook upstairs off of that body shot. Meanwhile, Chudinov found a home for his two best punches, the right uppercut and the left hook.

Chilemba spent enough time attempting to dodge combos from the ropes in the fifth and sixth that they could be viewed as close rounds although Isaac's boxing seemed to carry them. There was no question about the seventh. Chudinov came forward a couple of times, ate a stiff jab, and decided to take the round off. He tried to steal it at the end, but only an incompetent judge would rule the seventh for the Russian.

This bout was fought around the super middleweight limit; Chilemba hasn't weighed so light in ten years. That said, he definitely didn't fade in the last rounds by any stretch of the imagination, but Chudinov came on strong. After giving away the seventh, Fedor came out in the eighth with a renewed sense of urgency. Chilemba's hands were active, but this was a round in which he allowed Chudinov to land his combos.

The ninth was particularly close with Isaac taking the first half thanks to timely jabs and left hooks as Chudinov rushed in. However, while Chilemba was in the danger zone along the perimeter, Chudinov charged forward and popped him with his head. The butt stunned the Golden Boy, and the shorter Russian connected with some of his best shots in the fight as Isaac recovered. To his credit, Chilemba didn't complain and soon fired back. He closed the period well, but the middle could've cost him the round.

The final round was boxing at its best. Both fighters gave it their all to try and capture a win in a close fight. Chilemba landed some prom-pretty combos, but he spent too much of that round on the ropes. Chudinov let his hands go and landed enough hard shots. One could argue the hometown fighter won each of the last three rounds although all were close.

The judges scores were 97-93, 95-95, 94-97. The JBB scored it 96-94 for Chilemba, but each of the judges scores was certainly plausible. Chilemba is now 26-7-3 (10 KOs) while Chudinov is 23-2-1 (16 KOs).

Friday, February 19, 2021

Foreman to Face Jimmy Williams

Rabbi Yuri Foreman is scheduled to face Jimmy Williams at the Kentucky Center for African-American History in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday, March 6. Williams is a capable opponent, but this is a good style matchup for Foreman.

Foreman (35-3, 10 KOs) is coming off of a split decision victory over Jeremy Ramos last December at the same venue. In truth, the 40 year old Foreman looked spry and controlled the fight with his speed and skill. Though this was Yuri's first fight in nearly four years, he bounced around for eight round showing good conditioning. After a slow first his timing sharpened, and he landed eye-catching shots from the outside.

Jimmy "Quiet Storm" Williams (16-5-2, 5 KOs), a 34-year old former college football player and current family man, was raised in New Jersey and now fights out of Connecticut. His record is an accurate representation of his ability. Williams started his career undefeated in his first sixteen fights (including one draw and one no contest) but has failed to win in each of his last five.

The first two of his five-fight winless streak weren't bad results. In March of '19, Williams went the distance with Mark "Bazooka" DeLuca, a fighter with a name in the game. Four months later, Jimmy was stopped in the fourth against Abel Ramos, but he wasn't blown out of the water. Ramos, a world class welterweight, wore down Williams. But his last three results have been problematic.

On October 11, 2019, Williams fought to a split draw against a more experienced opponent, but Jose Medina was just 18-17-1 heading into the fight, which took place in Jimmy's home state. A year later, a hot undefeated prospect named Brandun Lee destroyed Williams in a first round KO. Williams was badly hurt in the fight. Two months later, last December, Jimmy lost a unanimous decision to another experienced journeyman in Mexico. Esteban Villalba earned his twelfth win in 37 fights when he beat Williams. The Foreman fight will be just five months after the Lee debacle.

Williams has fought some solid competition in his career. In addition to DeLuca, Ramos, and Lee, he also battled Issouf Kinda. In their 2017 fight, both fighters exchanged punches while referee Steve Smoger attempted to break them. Kinda then landed a left hook on Smoger, who took it well. Williams answered with a right that knocked out Kinda. Perhaps influenced by Kinda' left, Smoger initially ruled it a fourth round KO for Williams, but the result was later changed to a no contest because the KO punch was a foul.

Williams's style is made for Foreman to succeed. Williams doesn't possess too many dimensions as a fighter, but he has a good jab, is a master of controlling distance, and is defensively responsible. His best wins have mostly come against opponents with good records from the Northeast U.S., including a victory over Nicholas DeLomba in 2017 for a regional belt.

If Yuri shows the craft he did in December, his speed should be too much for Williams. Williams likes to counter from the outside, but he doesn't have the hand speed to catch Foreman. Quiet Storm has heart, but his chin is suspect. As with Foreman, he has some power, but isn't a knockout puncher. Williams has a decent left hook and a good chopping right, which he used successfully against DeLomba. Jimmy pressed the action against DeLomba, probably his best performance, but that isn't his modus operandi.

This eight-round junior middleweight bout has the potential to be a stinker because Foreman is a mover and Williams is hesitant counterpuncher. If Williams fights aggressively as he did against DeLomba, it could be an exciting match. Or, mostly likely, it could be a showcase for Foreman's boxing mastery. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Zachary Wohlman Has Died

Zachary "Kid Yamaka" Wohlman died on Sunday, February 14 at the age of 32. He was a charismatic and kindhearted man. I got a chance to know him, and I'm devastated that he's gone.

I was fortunate enough to have some nice long talks with him on the phone. During our first talk he flattered me by saying that he always checked out The Jewish Boxing Blog's articles about his fights first, even before he read the mainstream outlets such as The Ring, known as the Bible of Boxing. He claimed he cared more about my opinion than that of the big shots in the industry. It was a very gracious thing to say. I would come to learn that he said gracious things because he was a gracious person.

I met him in person in Brooklyn at the first ever boxing event at Barclays in 2012. I was there to cover Dmitriy Salita and Boyd Melson, and he had traveled from California to support his stablemate Peter Quillin and his friend and idol Paulie Malignaggi. He was full of energy and optimism about his nascent career. We met at a bar in the arena and watched a couple fights together. He was there with friends, a drink in each hand, while I was there alone, but he was so welcoming I felt like I belonged in his circle.

A few weeks later he suffered his first lost, and I attempted to console him. I remember him grasping for reassurance, "A lot of great fighters have lost before, right?" We continued to have talks on the phone; the kind that left you feeling good afterwards. We emailed a lot, too. He always called me with news of his career, but more and more we discussed other things. We talked about being Jewish in this country, debated about other boxers, and, well, just talked about life in general.

I know he truly admired his coaches, Freddie Roach and Eric Brown, and he looked up to Malignaggi like an older brother, soaking up his advice.

While training Manny Pacquiao in the Philippines one time, Roach said something nasty to a Jewish reporter. I was angry, and I wrote an article about it. Zac read it and called me, not necessarily to defend his mentor but to explain. He walked me through the rough upbringings many boxers endure and the culture of a boxing gym. I could see how the remark wasn't meant to be malicious to a group of people. He made me understand. And afterwards, my anger over the comment completely dissolved.

I loved his hit-and-don't-get-hit style in the ring. He once told me tongue-in-cheek, "It's called boxing, not stand there and get punched in the face." As smooth as he was inside the ring is as affable as he was outside of it. But no one's perfect. He struggled with alcoholism and self-doubt. Zac was able to rebound after his first lost and in that comeback victory he explained, "I wasn't concerned with my opponent. I was concerned with myself. The thoughts that were going through my head, that was the real fight." Coming back from the loss showed Zac that he has "a lot more character than I give myself credit for."

Sadly, we fell out of touch. It was nothing more than the drift of time. My attention focused more on family and work while Zac continued to be in the public eye and soon finished up his career. He married and moved to Texas to help disadvantaged kids find an outlet in boxing. He also worked with those who possess special needs.

And now he's gone. It hurts a lot. May his memory be a blessing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Lazarev and Shalom Off Kiev Card

As Israel attempts to prevent the new variant of covid-19 from entering its borders, Ben Gurion airport will remained closed until at least February 20 according to The Times of Israel. Igor Lazarev and Yotham Shalom, both based in Israel, were scheduled to fight on Saturday in Kiev, Ukraine.

According to Tony Milch, Gloves and Doves founder who has worked with both Lazarev and Shalom and is a friend of Shalom's father, the two Israelis won't be able to fight on the Kiev card due to Israel's travel restrictions and the airport's closure.

While the seven-day average of new covid-19 cases in Israel is somewhat down from its peak of over 8,000 in mid-January, the seven-day average is still over 6,000, higher than at any point in 2020.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Shalom to Fight on February 13 Card in Kiev

Yotham Shalom is scheduled to fight on February 13 at Club Atlas in Kiev, Ukraine. Hakan Ozdemir is penciled in as Shalom's opponent. Igor Lazarev is on the same card.

Shalom's last prizefight took place on October 27, 2019. Saturday's fight will end a sixteen-month layoff. That 2019 fight, which also took place in Kiev, has been Shalom's only professional boxing match since 2017. Yotham has fast hands and feet and uses a hit-and-don't get hit style. He is 2-0-1 with one KO.

Ozdemir (0-2) is a 28 year old native of Turkey. He lost  by way of first round knockout in his last fight to the aforementioned Lazarev. That bout was held last December. Ozdemir was also stopped in his first fight a year ago.