BOXING: Wilson loses unanimous decision
Mike Wilson could take solace in the game effort he put forth in the biggest boxing match of his career.
But a unanimous decision loss by the 35-year-old Central Point cruiserweight to World Boxing Association champion Denis Lebedev still stung.
The southpaw Lebedev, who is 4 inches shorter than the 6-foot-3 Wilson, blended a stout left hand with veteran ring skills and savvy in the nontitle fight Saturday at the Casino de Monte-Carlo in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
One judge awarded Wilson three rounds. The other two each gave him just one. The scores were 117-111, 119-109 and 119-109.
“We didn’t get embarrassed out there by any means,” Wilson said by phone moments after post-fight testing and stitchwork to repair a cut on his chin. “He’s one of the best guys in the world. We hung right there with him, so we’re definitely still relevant.”
But, Wilson added, “I’m disappointed, man. It was a long training camp and I felt so good about everything. We’re taking a long flight home now. It’s always a little longer when you’re going home on a bad note.”
Wilson will stay in Monte Carlo until Tuesday.
Lebedev, 39, improved to 32-2, but the Russian didn’t add to his knockout total of 23. Wilson’s first professional loss leaves him 19-1, with eight knockouts.
Wilson used his left-hand jab extensively in hopes of setting up combinations, but he had difficulty finding holes in Lebedev’s defense.
“He knew how to do things just right,” said Wilson, “just get out of the way of things. We were right there with him the whole night. He was just a little smarter than us, and he must have had just a little better game plan. I take my hat off to him.”
The first couple rounds were relatively slow as the two got to know each other.
“We thought he was going to come to us more,” said Jimmy Pedrojetti, Wilson’s longtime trainer, “and he was kind of fighting off his back foot at times. He was very cautious. Mike was trying to be aggressive, but you can’t be reckless.”
Rather than be a straight-ahead brawler, as Team Wilson expected, Lebedev worked angles, jabbed and threw uppercuts, and occasionally let loose with some overhand bombs.
His craftiness caught Wilson by surprise.
“I kind of expected him to be right in front, walking us down the whole night,” said Wilson. “He boxed a little more than I thought he would. He kind of sat back and waited for you to throw, and he’d counter you with big shots.”
Wilson opened a cut over his opponent’s right eye in the second round, a sign, said Pedrojetti, that their plan was working.
“I thought, ‘Oh man, this is it,’” he said. “‘We’re just gonna keep pounding that jab and working combinations off it.’”
But Lebedev’s corner did a nice job of closing the wound, and the combinations didn’t come in nearly the flurries Wilson and Co. hoped.
Lebedev worked at Wilson’s body in the third round, picking up the pace, but the former two-time U.S. super heavyweight champion appeared comfortable.
A couple big lefts in the fourth bloodied Wilson’s nose. The fifth wasn’t any better for Wilson, a substantial underdog, who also suffered a cut that leaked blood into his right eye and made it difficult to see.
Wilson seemed to rally a bit in the sixth and seventh rounds. After the latter, his corner told him, barring a stoppage, he likely needed to win every round to have a chance.
Lebedev was “very strong” through the first six rounds, said Wilson. Some of his body punches got the American’s attention, particularly one to the chest in the first half of the fight.
Wilson took a deep breath as he recalled the blow.
“Oh, man, I can really feel it,” he said. “I can hardly breathe. It felt like I got kicked by a damn horse.”
But he also told his corner some of the power was fading from Lebedev’s punches.
“The last couple rounds, I knew I was down (on points),” said Wilson. “Like I told Jimmy after the seventh round, the steam was coming off his punches, so I wasn’t so much worried about getting hit. But he was just one step ahead all night long.”
Afterward, Lebedev, speaking through a translator, said he’s one of many fighters in the division who would like a shot at WBA full champion Oleksandr Usyk and hopes the fight can be put together.
He also rated his effort against Wilson a success.
“I will put myself four out of five,” he said. “I think I performed well, and overall I’m glad regarding my performance.”
Wilson, who displayed the Oregon state flag in the ring at the conclusion of the bout, hasn’t given future fights much thought, he said, other than he’s confident they’ll be available.
“I know we represented ourselves well in there, we’ll just see,” he said. “We’ll get a couple more wins and maybe get ourselves another opportunity. We’ll just kind of go back to the drawing board. There’s still some money out there and a few good opportunities.”
The fight was the main event on an eight-bout card and was incorrectly billed as being for the WBA cruiserweight championship. Even famed announcer Michael Buffer said as much while welcoming the combatants to the ring.
Lebedev had been the WBA champion for six years, but in February was named the “champion in recess” when injuries kept him inactive for a long period.
He remains the mandatory challenger to Usyk. Usyk, however, is expected to move up to heavyweight, which reportedly would make Lebedev the full champion.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or email@example.com.