Sergio Mora mentioned during the first round that the DAZN analyst anticipated the “Fight of the Year” on June 10 at Toyota Arena in Ontario, California.
Jaime Munguia and Sergiy Derevyanchenko definitely delivered that type of unforgettable battle over the next 11-plus rounds. Mexico’s Munguia, who narrowly won a unanimous decision, and Ukraine’s Derevyanchenko took turns tattooing each other with hard shots that made them either take steps backward or hold.
Derevyanchko landed a left hook that buzzed Munguia in the third round, but Munguia responded with left hooks to the body and a right uppercut that gave Derevyanchenko causes for concern in the fourth round.
Munguia (42-0, 33 KOs) rocked Derevyanchenko with a hard right early in the fifth round, only to have Derevyanchenko drill him with a left hook that enabled Derevyanchenko to regain control in a fifth round that encapsulated the type of fan-friendly slugfest that was voted BoxingScene.com’s “Fight of the Year” for 2023.
Derevyanchenko (14-5, 10 KOs) landed numerous rights during the eighth and ninth rounds, but a determined Munguia closed their super middleweight match strong during the 11th and 12th rounds.
He hurt Derevyanchenko more than once in the 11th round, during which Munguia landed left hooks to Derevyanchenko’s head and body and a right uppercut that stunned him. Another left hook to the body dropped Derevyanchenko to his gloves and knees with 59 seconds remaining in the 12th round.
Derevyanchenko answered referee Gerard White’s count at eight. The former middleweight contender spent the final 1:45 of their bout bobbing, weaving, holding and even tackling Munguia to the canvas, which enabled him to make it to the final bell.
That knockdown was the difference on the cards of judges Rudy Barragan and Fernando Villarreal, both of whom scored Munguia a 114-113 winner. Judge Lou Moret credited Munguia with a slightly wider win, 115-112.
If not for that knockdown, Munguia-Derevyanchenko would’ve resulted in a majority draw.
Derevyanchenko, who has lost four close decisions over the past five years, was involved in BoxingScene.com’s “Fight of the Year” for the second time. His spectacular slugfest with former unified middleweight champ Gennadiy Golovkin, who also won a unanimous decision, won the award for 2019.
RUNNERS-UP (Listed chronologically)
Luis Nery-Azat Hovhannisyan
Mexico’s Nery (35-1, 27 KOs) and Armenia’s Hovhannisyan (21-4, 17 KOs) fought at a fast pace as soon as their fantastic fight began February 18 at Fox Theater in Pomona, California. Hovhannisyan hurt Nery with a right hand toward the end of the fourth round, but Nery eventually wore down the ever-aggressive Hovhannisyan, who was battered and bloodied when Nery nailed him a left that dropped him in the 10th round. Referee Ray Corona stepped between them to halt the action when another left by Nery wobbled Hovhannisyan with 1:10 to go in the 11th round. Nery was ahead 96-93, 96-93 and 95-94 on the scorecards entering the 11th round of a junior bantamweight battle that was streamed by DAZN.
Joe Cordina-Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov
Rakhimov was aggressive and threw a lot of punches during the first few rounds April 22 at Utilita Arena Cardiff in Cordina’s native Wales. A more methodical Cordina caught Tajikistan’s Rakhimov with a left that dropped him with 54 seconds to go in the second round. They continued to push the pace over the course of the next 10-plus rounds and entertained Cordina’s hometown crowd. Rakhimov rocked Cordina with a right hand that made him hold in the middle minute of the fifth round, but the challenger suffered a cut over his left eye during the sixth round, never hurt the IBF junior lightweight champion enough to drop him and was hurt several times during the second half of their bout. Judges Phil Edwards (114-113) and Pawel Kardyni (115-112) scored their DAZN main event for Cordina (17-0, 9 KOs), who won a split decision because judge Alex Levin scored Rakhimov (17-1-1, 14 KOs) a 116-111 winner.
Kenneth Sims Jr.-Batyr Akhmedov
Chicago’s Sims, who fought through severe swelling around his right eye, and Uzbekistan’s Akhmedov provided plenty of entertainment throughout an all-action, back-and-forth fight Showtime televised May 13 from The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Sims switched stances, boxed off his back foot and countered Akhmedov effectively enough to win a 12-round majority decision. Judges Tim Cheatham (116-112) and Chris Migliore (115-113) scored their fight for Sims (20-2-1, 7 KOs), whereas judge Steve Weisfeld scored their bout a draw (114-114). Akhmedov (10-3, 9 KOs) suffered the third close loss of his career, despite that he unofficially out-landed Sims according to CompuBox’s count (331-of-933 to 309-of-832).
Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko
Haney and Lomachenko demonstrated technical brilliance at times during a highly competitive lightweight title bout that either fighter seemingly could’ve won. Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) built an early lead on the cards, withstood Lomachenko’s rally during the later rounds and won a unanimous decision to retain his IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO 135-pound championships May 20 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Ukraine’s Lomachenko (17-3, 11 KOs) contended that he was “robbed” in a closely contested bout that warranted a rematch. Lomachenko took the fight to Haney in the 10th and 11th rounds, but the three-division champion admitted that he essentially took the 12th round off. Judges Tim Cheatham (115-113), Dave Moretti (116-112) and David Sutherland (115-113) all scored their ESPN Pay-Per-View main event for Haney.
Rafael Espinoza-Robeisy Ramirez
Espinoza imposed his will on the heavily favored Ramirez as soon as their 12-round, 126-pound championship bout began December 9 at Charles S. Dodge City Center in Pembroke Pines, Florida. The unknown underdog from Mexico never stopped coming forward during their ESPN main event, unloaded a lot of punches and built an early lead in this fan-friendly fight. Ramirez (13-2, 9 KOs), who entered the ring as a 16-1 favorite, clipped Espinoza with a right hook that dropped him late in the fifth round and began building momentum in the ensuing rounds. The 6-foot-1 Espinoza (24-0, 20 KOs) rallied later in their bout, though, and scored a knockdown of his own when he landed a left-right combination that sent the Cuban southpaw to one knee with 26 seconds to go in the 12th round. Judges Benoit Roussel (114-112) and Steve Weisfeld (115-111) scored Espinoza the winner, but judge Efrain Lebron saw the action even, 113-113, and Espinoza settled for a majority-decision victory that earned him the WBO featherweight title.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.