by Fox Doucette
Russian cruiserweight Denis Lebedev (23-1, 17 KOs) takes on another soft touch, older than his 32 years, when he faces 37-year-old fringe contender Shawn Cox (16-1, 15 KOs) of Barbados in Myakinino, Russia on Wednesday night.
Don’t let Shawn Cox’s record fool you. Before he knocked out a badly faded Wayne Braithwaite in his last fight only a few weeks ago on February 25th (the same Wayne Braithwaite who will be taking on O’Neil Bell in a “why do commissions sanction these fights?” battle this summer), Cox’s best win was over a journeyman heavyweight named Francisco Alvarez, who came into that fight at 250 pounds after fighting two of his previous three in the light heavyweight division. Cox has fought one legitimate prospect in his career, and that was a unanimous decision loss to Salvatore Erittu, 17-0 at the time of the fight, in 2008. Cox is 37 years old, did not turn pro until three months before his 33rd birthday, and is unlikely to pose a threat to Lebedev in front of a partisan Russian crowd.
Meanwhile, Lebedev, himself, continues to turn into more sideshow than contender. Time was, the Russian made an honest (such as it is in boxing) climb through the WBO ranks en route to a title shot. The problem is that once he got that title shot, against Marco Huck in December of 2010, the split decision, no doubt a function of fighting in Huck’s backyard of the Max Schmeling Halle in Berlin, seems to have made Lebedev unwilling to challenge himself.
First there was the absolute farce against Roy Jones Jr., in which Lebedev beat Jones so badly that there was real concern for the former great champion’s health, then for an encore (and an inexplicably sanctioned interim WBO belt), Lebedev beat James Toney in a 12-round unanimous decision that looked more like what should have been a stoppage than a valiant warrior going the distance Rocky-style. The 120-108 cards handed in by all three judges in that fight do not adequately convey just what a one-sided, sadistic, everything bad about the sport beatdown it truly was.
So now we get Denis Lebedev doing what he appears to do best—fighting scrubs in his native country on days when nothing else is happening in the sport, compiling a puffed-up record in lieu of doing what he has to do to get back atop the cruiserweight division. The WBO has once again sanctioned this bout as being for a bogus title, which is exactly the sort of positive reinforcement that will hurt Lebedev down the road if he ever wants to gain legitimacy at his current weight again; a win like this will not put fear into the hearts of Marco Huck or Steve Cunningham or Yoan Pablo Hernandez or anybody else, much less Alexander Povetkin or Tomas Adamek or the Klitschko brothers should Lebedev decide that more marketable opportunities await at heavyweight like most cruisers inevitably choose.
This will not be a competitive fight. If Lebedev makes a meal out of this fight, or if heaven forbid Shawn Cox’s highly questionable “power” (compiling 15 KOs in 16 pro wins against hobos and strip club bouncers does not real power make) puts Lebedev on the floor for at least ten seconds at a stretch as counted by the referee, it will likely mark the official end to his career as a contender. This fight is a terrible risk-reward prospect and it needs to be asked why Denis Lebedev’s handlers took it in the first place.
For those wishing to watch, the fight can be found on BoxNation in the UK on Wednesday, April 4th, with the card beginning at 3 PM British time, and US fans looking to grab a live Internet or satellite feed can tune in at 10 AM Eastern/7 AM Pacific.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and offers to fight Denis Lebedev (even though at 34 your columnist is way too young to be a Lebedev opponent) can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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