Light Heavyweight sensation Ismayl Sillakh (17-1, 14 KOs) tasted defeat for the first time in dramatic fashion at the hands of unheralded yet unbeaten Russian mauler Denis Grachev (12-0-1, 8 KOs) yesterday evening at the upset laden Frank Erwin Center in Austin, TX.
The highly-touted Ukrainian prospect was pitching a virtual shut-out going into the fateful eighth stanza of their scheduled ten round contest when the hard Russian pressure fighter landed a staggering right hand that originally began the troubles for the former NABF Light Heavyweight Champion.
The former kick-boxer turned pugilist followed up the hard right hand by a series of unanswered hooks, eventually flooring and stopping the heavily favored Ismayl Sillakh at the 2:18 mark of the eighth and final round.
But the surprise finish to the remarkable "Friday Night Fights" main event didn't come easy for the relentless Denis Grachev.
Throughout the majority of the one-sided prizefight, the tenacious challenger was ostensibly being controlled with relative ease by the unsuspecting slick boxer. With brilliant footwork and a sharp, precise jab, Ismayl Sillakh carved up the tough pressure fighter and seemed well on his way to an elementary but uninspired unanimous ten round decision.
The 6'1" boxer/puncher had his way with the less experienced Russian, landing compact left hooks and occasional hard right hands. Sillakh displayed an exceptional command of the ring while staying out of harm's way of the relentless aggressor, dropping Grachev once in the third round with an impressive double-jab, straight right hand combination.
The betting 11:1 favorite was tactical but dominant for seven plus rounds. But to the credit of the determined challenger, Grachev never quit and slowly but surely closed the distance between the two fighters by cutting off the ring effectively.
When the eventual winner finally saw an opening midway through the eighth round, he decisively took advantage of the situation and shocked the fans in attendance by landing his brand of punishment to the unproven chin of the highly touted fighter.
Just like that, the Ismayl Sillakh bandwagon came crashing to a thunderous halt, and the once bright future of the 27 year old prospect is now faced with serious question.
The highly ranked fighter was in line to fight the eventual winner of the Hopkins/Dawson rematch with an impressive performance on ESPN's Friday Night Fights. With the shocking upset loss, Ismayl Sillakh must now go back to the drawing board and contemplate his future in the talent enriched Light Heavyweight division.
After the bout, the improbable victor, Denis Grachev, had much to say about his gritty and eye-opening performance.
"I was very familiar with his amateur fight style and knew that he would eventually crumble to consistent pressure," stated the newly crowned NABF Light Heavyweight Champion. "He had never been properly tested as a professional. I knew I would be able to break his will and catch him sometime in the later rounds."
"It was difficult, but I knew the end would eventually come. I countered him with a big right hand in the eighth and I knew he was hurt. I quickly jumped on him and he didn't know how to react. I knew I had him at that point."
With the impressive victory, Grachev improves his record 12-0-1 with 8 knock-outs. The natural Super Middleweight fighter admits that his big opportunity came by way of default.
"I usually fight at 168 pounds and feel most comfortable there. But, I would be willing to fight anyone in any weight division. I could even make 162 pounds and take on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. if the opportunity was offered to me."
While Denis Grachev was enjoying his moment in the spotlight, he issued an official declaration to any other unsuspecting fighter in and around the Light Heavyweight division.
"I would love to fight the winner of Dawson and Hopkins," claims the undefeated brawler. "I am not a technical fighter, but I can break any man in boxing. I wouldn't outbox a legend like Hopkins or a former Champion like Dawson, but I promise I would break their spirit and eventually knock them out. That's what I do...I break my opponents."
The likelihood of Grachev receiving such a high-profile bout on the strength of his impressive and improbable victory is highly unlikely. But rest assured, the Russian prospect's opposition from this point forward will never underestimate his big heart and fierce determination.