IN an intriguing, action-packed battle of Russians, Alexander Besputin defeated Radzhab Butaev via decision to win the vacant WBA regular welterweight title (a belt formerly held by Manny Pacquiao even if not considered a genuine world title). Scores in Monte Carlo were 116-112, 116-112 and 116-112 after 12 fast-paced rounds.

Besputin, a perpetually moving southpaw, started the busier of the two, circling Butaev and firing jabs and hooks to the body. But it was Butaev who made the first breakthrough in the fight when he hurt Besputin in the fifth round and had the favourite on unsteady legs.

Besputin, though, managed to recuperate and finish the round well. He then got his own back in the seventh, momentarily staggering Butaev with a right hook.

For the remaining rounds Besputin continued moving around the ring and potshotting as Butaev, 12-1 (9), stalked him behind a high-held guard. Both landed hurtful-looking body shots and clinches were few and far between. The ninth round, in particular, was a standout as Butaev pinned Besputin against the ropes and the pair then traded from this position for the final 60 seconds.

It punctuated a big round for Butaev – one he needed. It occurred as Besputin’s movement and workrate seemed to be enabling him to pull away on the scorecards. It put a dent in the amateur star. It left him bleeding, cut above the eye.

Even so, Besputin, 14-0 (9), sucked it up and survived. He used all his experience and nous to navigate his way through the final rounds, frustrating Butaev as his desperation grew, and ran out a worthy winner after 12 rounds.

Also on the Monte Carlo show, Welshman Joe Cordina, 11-0 (7), ended the year with a unanimous decision victory against Mexico’s Mario Enrique Tinoco, winning by scores of 98-92, 98-92 and 96-94, and female welterweight world champion Cecilia Brækhus took her professional record to 36-0 (9) with a 10-round decision win against Victoria Noelia Bustos. The Norwegian retained WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO world titles and remains on track to fight Katie Taylor at some point in 2020.