Magomed Abdusalamov: Another 'Next Big Thing' at Heavyweight

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Magomed Abdusalamov: Another 'Next Big Thing' at Heavyweight

Somewhat lost in the shuffle of a big boxing weekend was the impressive performance turned in by Magomed Abdusalamov (15-0, 15 KOs) on the undercard of Friday Night Fights. Mago's second-round TKO of Maurice Byarm (13-2-1, 9 KOs) was yet another impressive destruction for the Russian-born and Oxnard, Calif.,-based heavyweight. 

Nothing stirs the imagination of boxing writers in the era of the Klitschkos quite so much as an exciting heavyweight prospect. So, it is hard for me not to view Abdusalamov as a potential Rocky Marciano 2.0.

Byarm was an entirely appropriate test for Abdusalamov at this point, and he aced the exam.  

Byarm's previous fight was a competitive, 10-round loss to Bryant Jennings (14-0, 6 KOs) on NBC's Fight Night card last January. Jennings followed that win by stopping former world champion Siarhei Liakhovich in nine. 

It can be tough to use these sort of algebra equations to try to evaluate a fighter, but suffice it to say, Byarm was a reasonably well-thought-of prospect, and not without reason. 

Byarm came into the fight looking lean, five pounds less than he had weighed against Jennings. He started strong, using very good movement and a sharp jab to set up his power shots. For 2.5 minutes, I had him winning the round.

But with about 20 seconds left in the round, Abdusalamov trapped Byarm in the corner and caught him with a big left hand. It was the beginning of the end; Abdusalmov's power seemed to freeze Byarm, who attempted to ride out the round by standing completely still behind his high guard. 

Once he became a stable target, Abdusalamov went to work, splitting Byarm's guard with thudding overhand lefts. As the bell rang, Mago landed a final blow that had Byarm basically out on his feet as he stumbled back to his corner. 

Abdusalamov came out looking to finish in the second, and just 36 seconds into the round, referee Tony Weeks called it to a halt. 

With 15 straight KOs and 10 in the first round, Abdusalamov has to be viewed as a prospect worth keeping track of. At this point, the question has to be, what's a smart next step for his career?

Even in triumph, Abdusalamov looked like a fighter who still needs work. He is clearly a devastating puncher, but not an especially accurate one. 

Bigger problems are his balance and footwork. He spent much of the first round lunging after Byarm. Against a guy with a good defense and/or a very strong chin, he might run into some problems.

But he also might have trouble even getting fights against other top prospects. As he demonstrated against Byarm, Abdusalamov can derail a promising heavyweight in a hurry. 

Ideally, his next fight should be against a Tony Grano or a Jason Estrada type of opponent, maybe even somebody like Cedric Boswell. It's time for Abdusalamov to step up and fight a guy who has world-class experience.

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