The discreet and unassuming Denis Grachev gets win #12

Denis Grachev has his arm raised by referee Rocky Burke (R) after defeating Ismayl Sillakh. The gent with the big grin on his face is Manny Melchor, Grachev's trainer. Photo: ESPN Friday Night Fights

On Friday, April 27, 2012, the Las Vegas Sports Books had light heavyweight boxer Denis Grachev of San Diego as an 11-1 underdog to Ismayl Sillakh, the 6’1” southpaw from Simi Valley by way of Zaporozhye, Ukraine.

This is the last time we'll see Ismayl Sillakh sporting the NABO Light Heavyweight belt.

And why not! Sillakh was ranked number #2 by the WBC, #10 by the WBA, and #6 by the IBF. His pedigree was far superior to that of his opponent. While Grachev has involved himself in three separate and distinct fighting specialties, Sillakh had over 300 fights as an amateur boxer with over 300 wins. They assumed Grachev’s lunging and telegraphed punches would make him easy prey for the highly touted Sillakh.

Doug Fischer, a so-called boxing expert from the Los Angeles area, accompanied Sillakh to one of the many interviews. Confidently, Fischer told a reporter, “Sillakh is the best light heavyweight prospect in the world.”

Sillakh backed him up with, “Pretty soon I’ll be the best Pound for Pound fighter.”

Like they say, “Sometimes an opponent just won’t follow the script.” That’s what happened on Friday night at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas when Denis “the Pirate” Grachev (12-0-1, 8 KOs) a boxer/kickboxer/mixed martial artist, plus full time instructor in those specialties at City Boxing in San Diego, stopped Ismayl “the Black Russian” Sillakh (17-1, 14 KOs) in the eighth round of a scheduled 10-round bout for the NABF light heavyweight title.

Supercool and unruffled by the attention given to Sillakh, Grachev along with his support group from City Boxing, among them fellow instructors, Carlos Baruch, a mixed martial artist of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fame, and Manny “Cabalay” Melchor, the former IBF World Minimum-weight boxing champion, patiently bided their time waiting for the pretentious Sillakh to make a mistake. 

With his hands getting lower and lower, the superstar seemed content to score points from a far. Meanwhile Grachev kept working over the southpaw’s midsection, at times closing the gap and measuring Sillakh for either the straight right or a big overhand right.

Then in the seventh round that opportunity presented itself and Grachev caught Sillakh with a clean shot to the face. Returning to his corner, Grachev knew in his heart the blueprint for victory was right there in front of him.

In the eighth round, Grachev caught his opponent with another, short, head snapping right that had Sillakh retreat into the far corner. After noticing that Sillakh was in trouble, Grachev’s patience gave way to an all out attack of lefts and rights to the side of Sillakh’s head. You could almost hear the logger calling out, “Timber!” as the big guy fell backwards to the canvas. At that point the referee, Rocky Burke, had seen enough and waved off the fight.
Final round with ESPN color commentator, Teddy Atlas

Entire Grachev vs. Sillakh fight from the opening bell:

So who is Denis Grachev and where did he come from?

A little over five years ago, Grachev, a 24 year-old, four time Russian National Kick Boxing Champion and two time World Kickboxing Champion plus a buddy arrived in San Diego from Chaykovsky, Russia. They immediately made contact with Mark Dion, owner of City Boxing, who had offered to be their sponsor. Both men were soft spoken, hard working and willing to do whatever it took to make the transition. After the friend returned home to Russia, Grachev stayed on, made arrangements for his girlfriend, now wife, to join him and just last year the couple had their first child, a daughter which they named Matilda.

Each day you can catch Grachev at the City Boxing Downtown gym, either training or teaching a class. And when he’s not in the gym, you can be sure he’s competing somewhere in a MMA, Muay Thai/Kickboxing or Boxing show.

In the past, promoters/managers have been fooled by what they saw as his inactivity, the low number of boxing matches per year. They never considered his overall numbers in the three disciplines.

From this point on, it’s unlikely anyone will take him for granted. That being said, if he has intentions of climbing the rankings ladder for a title shot, he better start devoting his full attention to boxing.

Knowing Grachev the way I do, I wondered if he’s feeling sorry for Sillakh. After all, the powers to be claimed Sillakh was on the verge of landing a fight with the winner of the Hopkins-Dawson rematch. Which means now he’ll be missing out on that huge payday.

Also on the fight card was undefeated junior lightweight Javier “El Abejon” Fortuna (19-0, 14 KOs) who destroyed previously unbeaten Yaundale “Money Shot” Evans (16-1, 12 KOs) in just 2:02 of round one. Two knockdowns and the fight was over.

During a break in their match, Ryan "Fearless" Clark and "Jinny" Jongo Finnegan bump shoulders before returning to their corners.

Lost in the hoopla of Grachev’s upset win came another shocker from Pride Park in Derbyshire, UK. Super middleweight Ryan “Fearless” Clark, who had gone winless in all but one of his last 57 fights (although he’s only been stopped twice), had won his match versus “Jinny” Jonjo Finnegan (14-7-3). Can you imagine that? The 22-year-old, out of Lincolnshire, managed by Carl Greaves who also manages Johnny Greaves (3-79), had no problem defeating Finnegan.

Since Finnegan had recently been stopped by hapless James Tucker (4-43-3) the Clark camp was pretty hopeful coming into this match. Still, Finnegan, out of Burton-on-Trent, in Staffordshire, had suffered only one defeat in his first 14 pro bouts, albeit feasting on a buffet of extremely low calorie boxers.

Clark overwhelmed and then stopped Finnegan in the 8th round to win something called the Vacant International Masters super middleweight title. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s certainly not a huge upset, but when a guy with a record of 2-53-4 wins against a guy with a winning record, you’ve got to him credit. Moreover, Clark had the most bouts of any professional boxer in 2011 with 27 fights, and during that period, he did not fight a single opponent with a losing record.

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