Former champion Saulo Cavalari (60-6, 49 KO’s) and would-be contender Pavel Zhuravlev (71-11, 26 KO’s) both have solid reputations for putting on displays of hard-hitting, explosive violence. With this fight being for the interim light-heavyweight championship (champion Artem Vakhitov is injured), it was expected to be even more intense than the kind of fights they usually have.
And in the end, it was, but it took a while to get there. Perhaps because there was so much on the line, or because they respected each other’s abilities, the first half of the fight was marked by a tentative element, especially from Cavalari.
A recent run of losses seems to have made Cavalari think defensively. That has fed into his style but to his detriment, as Cavalari is at his best when he is pressing forwards fearlessly. When he is hesitant and defensive, as in this fight against Zhuravlev, it robs him of some of his best assets.
And so up until the third round, the fight was competitive but lacked the ferocity it was reasonably expected to have. That was until Cavalari landed a cheap shot on Zhuravlev, prompting the Ukrainian into fury.
It started when Cavalari landed a low blow. That was acknowledged and the Brazilian extended a hand as if to offer a glove touch. But when Zhuravlev went to take the glove touch, Cavalari hit him instead.
Zhuravlev stepped backwards and threw his ams out sideways as if to say ‘What?!’ The referee had not intervened though; Cavalari looked at the referee to make sure, and when he saw the fight was still in open play he attacked Zhuravlev with wild punches.
This was a severe provocation to Zhuravlev; he was offended and he lost his temper, making for wild exchanges throughout the rest of the fight. The two were battering each other with wild blows and blood was flowing freely from both. All semblance of technique went out of Cavalari’s work as he threw his full bodyweight into every blow.
At one point he threw three massive kicks in succession, two to the leg as if he was trying to kick clean through it and then one to the head which landed with a thunderous crack. They stepped back from one another and then re-engaged as the ten-second clapper sounded.
Cavalari went for another low kick. It was a mistake. Zhuravlev timed it and hit Cavalari with a clean right cross. The Brazilian went down and had to take a count from the referee. Zhuravlev threw his arms up in celebration -a knockdown makes for a 10-8 round and made him absolutely positive he would be judged the winner.
As it happened, every judge gave him every round, so the knockdown was merely the icing on the cake. After the win was made official, he was presented with the interim championship title belt and the promise of a title shot when Vakhitov returns to action later this year.