Browne stops Chagaev to win WBA heavyweight belt by TKO
ABS-CBN Sports on Mar 06, 2016 07:18 AM
Australia's Lucas Browne, right, and Uzbekistan's Ruslan Chagaev, holding his WBA heavyweight title belt, pose after a news conference in Chechnya's provincial capital Grozny, Russia, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Lucas Browne will challenge Uzbekistan's Ruslan Chagaev for the WBA world heavyweight title in Grozny on March 5. (AP Photo/Musa Sadulayev)
MUSA SADULAYEV, Associated Press
GROZNY, Russia (AP) — Lucas Browne became Australia's first world heavyweight boxing champion early Sunday, beating WBA regular champion Ruslan Chagaev in a surprise technical knockout.
The unbeaten Browne was knocked down in the sixth round but fought back to send Chagaev to the canvas with a big right in the 10th.
While the Uzbekistani champion was able to continue, he was backed into the ropes by Browne, who hit him with a barrage of unanswered right hooks until the referee stopped the fight.
Chagaev claimed he was able to continue but added he accepted the referee's decision.
Browne's record improved to 24-0 (21 KO), while Chagaev dropped to 34-3-1 (21 KO).
Browne wins the so-called regular version of the WBA belt, while Britain's Tyson Fury is considered the WBA's "unified" champion, since he also holds the WBO version.
After a quiet opening to the fight, Chagaev took control in the third and landed solid hits to Browne's head in the subsequent rounds.
The fight appeared all but over when a left hook sent Brown sprawling in the sixth. After beating the count, the Australian was saved by the bell as more shots from Chagaev sent him staggering around the ring.
Browne came out swinging at the start of the seventh, landing a string of uppercuts and rattling Chagaev, who seemed to abandon thoughts of winning by knockout in favor of consolidating his advantage on the scorecards.
Following two quiet rounds with Chagaev dictating the pace, the fight looked set to go to the judges, but Browne had another surprise in store. A big right hook through Chagaev's guard knocked the champion down and, when the fight resumed, Chagaev was a shadow of his former self and took punishment against the ropes until the referee halted proceedings.
The heavily tattooed Browne, a former mixed martial arts fighter and bouncer, was jubilant in victory but received little cheer from the crowd, which was strongly behind Chagaev.
The bout took place early Sunday morning in the Russian region of Chechnya, whose strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov — a fan of Chagaev's — had a personal role in staging the fight.
Kadyrov was prominent throughout the evening, cheering on local fighters from a sofa together with the leather-clad leader of a pro-Kremlin motorcycle club.
Martial arts are a key part of Kadyrov's image as a tough-guy leader. Indeed, he once ordered a minister into the ring for an impromptu boxing bout after the official disappointed him. Chagaev entered the ring in a shirt from Chechnya's Akhmat Boxing Club, named after Kadyrov's father.
Preparations for the evening fight card were extravagant, with giant curved video displays stretching around the packed arena, while Chagaev arrived for Friday's weigh-in in a vintage car accompanied by several large men toting machine pistols.
Chagaev had failed to go the distance only once before, when he retired against Wladimir Klitschko in 2009, and his last loss was against Russia's Alexander Povetkin on points in 2011. Povetkin vacated the title, and Chagaev won it back in 2014. This was the southpaw's second defense.
AP Sports Writer James Ellingworth in Moscow contributed to this report.