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Saturday, April 22, 2023

An Improved Sagiv Ismailov Dazzles in Victory

Sagiv Ismailov displayed an impressive level of improvement in his fifth pro fight against Ruslan Lebedenko today at Tondi 17 Boxing Hall, in Talinn, Estonia. The 20 year old Israeli, who was a light heavyweight for this fight, won the four-rounder by decision.

Ismailov was committed to his jab for nearly the entire fight. He varied it well, throwing it to the body, chest, and head. Sometimes he used it as a range finder, other times to set up a combination, and still others to do damage itself.

At one point in the first round, Ismailov faked a jab to the body, and redirected the shot to the head, surprising Lebedenko, a 35 year old native of Ukraine. The jab helped Ismailov win the round, but he also connected with a big right and later, a counter left hook.

Ismailov showed his improved boxing IQ in the second round. After largely jabbing in the first, he began landing straight rights off his jab in the second. He also threw a beautiful jab that split Lebendenko's guard. The third round was an even better round for Sagiv.

Ismailov unleashed an all-out assault on Lebedenko's body in that third round. After smashing several left hooks to the body, Ismailov smoothly shifted into the southpaw stance in order to add more leverage to another left to the body. Lebedenko, who now resides in Talinn, folded at the midsection in pain.

Apparently, standing eight counts are allowed in Estonia, because the referee began raising his fingers one by one even though Lebedenko didn't fall to the canvas or retreat to the ropes. His cornerman then climbed onto the ring apron, which is often a cause for disqualification, but the referee allowed the fight to continue after reaching the count of kaheksa. To his credit, Lebedenko showed great heart to finish the round.

In the corner after the third round, Lebendenko's cornerman couldn't be bothered to climb through the ropes and half-heartedly swirled a towel in front of his charge. Meanwhile, Ismailov received sage advice in addition to one of coach Evgheni Boico's customary muscle-waking massages.

Lebedenko tried a new strategy in the final round. He touched Ismailov with light jabs and then moved. It certainly worked better than his previous strategy, but Ismailov still landed several hard blows, including a left hook that seemed to wobble the Ukrainian.

Ismailov's skills and thought process were both much improved in this fight. In the past, he had switched to southpaw because of balance issues, but his stance-switches today were intelligent and purposeful. His distance and timing were also much better than in previous fights.

But it wasn't a perfect fight. Ismailov was a bit inconsistent in keeping his right glove up when jabbing and also in bringing that left back after throwing. Lebedenko landed some counter lefts over the low right and some counter rights before the jab-hand could get back. Sagiv also hunted the knockout in the fourth, loading up too much instead of letting the KO come.

Regardless, Ismailov posted the best performance of his career. All three judges scored the bout 40-35 for the Israeli. He is now 5-0 with 2 KOs. Lebedenko falls to 0-2.

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