Chechen heavyweight boxer Ruslan Chagaev has claimed the vacant WBA ‘Regular’ world title with a majority decision win over Puerto Rico’s Fres Oquendo.
The 12 round title bout served as the main event at Akhmat Arena in Grozny, with scores of 115–113 on two judges’ scorecards in favour of Chagaev, the third judge scored the bout even 114–114.
Fought at a slow pace throughout, the bout started with Oquendo light on his feet, moving around the ring while the more flat-footed Chagaev marched forward. Despite long periods of inactivity, Oquendo had the better of the early rounds with fast 1–2 combinations. Chagaev was content to counter the taller fighter, with looping overhand rights largely missing the target.
The middle rounds saw Chagaev beginning to find his range, wobbling Oquendo in the 5th with a counter left hand. Chagaev was able to back his opponent up with power punches, as Oquendo’s pace slowed.
The later rounds started with Oquendo holding a slender advantage on most scorecards, however he failed to capitalise, providing little in the way of offense for the remainder of the bout. Chagaev took advantage by landing power shots on a tiring Oquendo, albeit intermittently. Oquendo offered little in the way of urgency as the bout came to a close.
An adoring home crowd erupted as their countryman Chagaev was awarded the victory, the title belt presented by Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov. Oquendo for his part, stood perplexed as the scores were announced and suggested the judges may have favoured the home fighter. However, most ringside experts suggest the judges' scores were correct and Chagaev the champion.
With Saturday night’s victory, 36-year-old Chagaev improved his record to 33–2–1 (21ko) and positioned himself for a shot at WBA ‘Super’ champion Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine.
The 41-year-old contender Oquendo will be left to rue his fifth and perhaps last world title opportunity, his record falls to 37–8 (24ko).