Is Khabib Allakhverdiev Ready to Step Up and Fight a Junior Welterweight Star?

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Is Khabib Allakhverdiev Ready to Step Up and Fight a Junior Welterweight Star?
IBO champion Khabib Allakhverdiev could soon be a significant player in the 140-pound division.

It was easy to see John David Jackson’s frustration.

A dual champ in his own career and now an elite trainer with several high-end clients, he spent much of the minute before Round 10 of Saturday’s IBO title fight in Monaco chastising his latest charge—140-pound belt-holder Khabib Allakhverdiev—for an insufficient output against an inferior opponent.

“Don’t stay outside with this guy. You’re letting him stay in the fight,” he said within range of the Box Nation microphones, three-quarters of the way through the scheduled 12-rounder. “You’re giving this guy too much time. Get inside and get to work.”

His diagnosis was spot on.

Through nine rounds against former WBA claimant Souleymane M'baye—now 38 and with only one win since 2010—Jackson’s man, Allakhverdiev, was nursing a too-slim lead into a nine-minute home stretch.

It was an enigmatic performance emblematic of his recent career.

Last summer in his Russian backyard, Allakhverdiev looked spectacular in winning the IBO championship with a four-round KO of South African incumbent Kaizer Mabuza. But five months later in South Florida, he went neck and neck with a shopworn Joan Guzman before getting away with a split technical decision when the 36-year-old’s left knee gave out and left him unable to continue.

Before Jackson’s corner machinations, more of the same looked possible Saturday.

In the rounds when Allakhverdiev pressed the action—like he did when scoring knockdowns in the second and eighth—he looked every bit an emergent 140-pound force. But when he let the slap-hitting Frenchman take the lead, the welts that developed under both his eyes were evidence of the problems a periodic lack of aggression can cause for a habitual grinder.

The latter situations drew the intense response from Jackson, whose exhortations lit enough of a fire under Allakhverdiev to prompt a quick return to violent tendencies. He pounded M’baye for the duration of the 10th, then closed the show a round later when a right hand drove the challenger to the ropes and a follow-up flurry drew the intervention of referee Luis Pabon.

Once it was made official by a globe-trotting Michael Buffer, the victory simultaneously upped the winner’s record to 19-0, accounted for his ninth inside-the-distance workday and was the second defense of the IBO jewelry that warrants his standing among a loaded division’s biggest names.

Incidentally, he was lauded throughout the broadcast as the WBA’s world champion, but that claim is dubious at its core thanks to the presence of unbeaten American Danny Garcia, who won the organization’s “super” world title with a KO of Amir Khan last July and has defended twice.

Still, two belts or one, it’s clear that “The Hawk” will have no shortage of suitors.

Co-promoter Vladimir Hryunov said earlier this year that Allakhverdiev was in line to meet either Brandon Rios or Mike Alvarado.

His allegiance with Russian promoter Vladimir Hryunov and U.S.-based Top Rank makes fights with Garcia, IBF champion Lamont Peterson and top contender Lucas Matthysse—all of whom work with Golden Boy Promotions—unlikely.

But he does share a Bob Arum stable with junior welters Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios, Karim Mayfield and Jose Benavidez, not to mention Juan Manuel Marquez, who’s still listed as the WBO’s champion in its June rankings.

Prior to an injury that scuttled an Allakhverdiev defense earlier this year, Hryunov said a deal was possible that would match his man with the winner of the Rios-Alvarado rematch that went on as scheduled in March. Alvarado won that bout via 12-round decision, though it’s Rios that landed the bigger fish—in the form of a bout with a returning Manny Pacquiao in November.

Is Khabib Allakhverdiev worthy of a place among the 140-pound elites?

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Alvarado would still be an attractive challenge for Allakhverdiev, who tends to lapse when faced with a stylist but could flourish against another foe with a heavy lean toward the rough stuff. A win against Alvarado would open even more significant doors, and even a triumph or two against the lesser Arum properties would guarantee the Russian at least a high-profile workspace for years to come.

Alvarado, Rios and Mayfield are Nos. 5, 6 and 8 in the IBO’s July rankings at 140, while Kendall Holt, Zab Judah, Viktor Postol, Mauricio Herrera and Cesar Cuenca are promotionally viable as well at Nos. 2, 3, 7, 9 and 10, respectively. If Allakhverdiev’s ferocity in the final stages Saturday is his M.O. from start to finish in his next outing, none would be out of the question for him to beat.

And if all else fails, maybe Jackson could take a crack at them in his place.

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