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Sunday, November 5, 2023

Sagiv Ismailov Wins Under Difficult Circumstances

Sagiv Ismailov kept his undefeated record with a unanimous decision victory over Slavisa Simoneunovic at Werk 2 in Plettensburg, Germany last night. The 21 year old Ismailov shut out his opponent after enduring a challenging lead-up to his sixth professional fight.

As late as the week of the bout, Sagiv's team believed he only had "a small chance" to fight Saturday night. Ismailov, who completed his mandatory IDF service in August, last sparred on October 6. The next day, Hamas terrorists flooded southern Israel murdering 1,500 people and injuring thousands more. Terrorist attacks and bombings continued for days after the massacre. One attempt was stopped in the city of Ashdod where Sagiv trains.

In the aftermath of the massacre, Sagiv's training all but stopped. Hiding in bomb shelters to avoid rocket fire became the norm. Nevertheless, he was given an opportunity to fight in Germany, something he seriously considered since he had last competed in April.

His team asked the promoter not to announce to fight beforehand due to concerns about heightened antisemitism in the region. The promoter honored the team's request. Seemingly assured, Sagiv and his team felt it was worth traveling to Germany for the fight.

A sympathetic local advised Sagiv not to wear any identifiably Jewish symbols because of safety concerns. When asked, Ismailov and his team said they were from a European country as to not bring unwanted attention to the Israeli fighter. His trainer told The Jewish Boxing Blog, "We didn't want to fight anyone before we even got into the ring."

The weigh-in was scheduled during Shabbat, which Sagiv observes. The promoter graciously accommodated Ismailov, who came in at 169.8 pounds before Friday's sunset. Saturday night, the ring announcer did not name a hometown when introducing "Sergey Ismailov."

Sagiv was originally scheduled to face an inexperienced opponent from a nearby country, but the man didn't make the trip to Germany. A backup fighter also fell through, so the veteran Simoneunovic filled in. Simoneunovic, a 44 year old from Bijeljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, follows in the tradition of the great Jewish journeyman, Bruce "The Mouse" Strauss. Strauss would go hard for three rounds, run out of gas, and then find a soft spot on the canvas. A veteran of over a hundred fights, Simoneunovic typically throws big shots with bad intentions for a couple of rounds before retiring in the corner if things aren't going well. This was his eighteenth fight since the beginning of 2022.

With no sparring in the last month, minimal training, and an experienced opponent, Ismailov decided not to take chances. He boxed the entire fight, sweeping all four rounds on the three judges' cards.

Ismailov continuously peppered his opponent with jabs while moving around the ring. He kept his left low at times, which allowed Simoneunovic to connect with three overhand rights in the first round. Sagiv countered the third one with a quick straight right of his own. He landed a stiff 1-2 at the end of the second round.

Simoneunovic was scolded by the referee before the third for jumping the gun. The veteran smiled sheepishly on his way back to his corner. He landed a combination left hook to the body and an overhand right in the round, but Ismailov came back with a couple of stiff right uppercuts. He also briefly switched to the southpaw stance and landed a stiff jab.

As the fight went on, Sagiv improved defensively. He understood Simoneunovic's primary weapon was the overhand right and began to slip it. In the fourth, he moved in the pocket, changing angles, showing another wrinkle to his game. All three judges scored the bout 40-36.

Ismailov's record is now 6-0 with 2 KOs. He is next scheduled to fight on December 23 in Moldova. Slavisa "The Bosnian Bruce Strauss" Simoneunovic is now 41-68 with 33 KOs. He fights in two weeks.
photo credit: Stefan Burghaus

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