JOSE ZEPEDA knocked out Ivan Baranchyk in the fifth round of a truly thrilling battle that contained eight knockdowns. These unforgettable 15 minutes of drama would have electrified a stadium full of fans and is surely a candidate for Fight of the Year.

Baranchyk – whose only previous loss was to Josh Taylor – does not have a reverse gear and he took the fight to Zepeda, jabbing strongly and throwing right crosses that he put his full strength behind. Plenty missed, but just two minutes into the round he connected with one that stole Zepeda’s balance and he went down on his haunches.

The Californian used his right glove to break his fall so was correctly given a count by referee Kenny Bayless.

Zepeda did not look badly hurt but a left hook from Baranchyk put him down again. He was up quickly and the bell went as the eight count was completed. Early fireworks and a great start for Belarus’ Baranchyk with more to come.

He started the second by throwing a punch so wildly that he lost his balance and had to put his gloves on the canvas but it was not a knockdown. Still over-excited, Baranchyk was lunging forward, swinging with wide punches and a counter left to the head from southpaw Zepeda dropped him.

When he got up he looked a little shaky and floundered as Zepeda followed him, landing hooks to the head. Now it was Zepeda’s turn to get careless as he walked onto a counter right and was put down. He was up quickly and again did not look in trouble. For those keeping count, we’re already at four knockdowns and we’re only halfway through the second round! Zepeda boxed his way through the rest of the session with Baranchyk still fighting like a lunatic. The pattern continued into the third.

It was just as well there was no audience as some of Baranchyk’s swings would have decapitated the first 10 rows. His carelessness saw him wide open and three consecutive lefts from Zepeda dropped him and opened a cut over his left eye. After that count Baranchyk was a little more cautious and Zepeda connected with some strong straight lefts.

Into the fourth and Baranchyk was hounding Zepeda and getting through with some solid shots. Zepeda tried to counter and, just before the end of the round, he landed a strong left hook the put Baranchyk down on his back for the sixth knockdown of the fight. He beat the count but he was now showing heavy bruising under both eyes.

No matter, Baranchyk continued to fight aggressively in the fifth. Zepeda was finding gaps for powerful counters but as Baranchyk came forward he landed a strong right that sent Zepeda flying back into a corner and almost down. The referee decided the ropes had held up Zepeda up and ruled a knockdown and counted for the seventh time.

When Baranchyk launched his next attack, Zepeda met him with a right to the body and a thumping left to the head that sent his rival to the floor and he was counted out on his back at 2-50 of the round.

It was almost five minutes before they lifted Baranchyk to a stool and six before he could stand on his own two feet.

Going into the fight Zepeda was rated second by the WBC and with this victory picked up the sanctioning body’s silver bauble. third by the WBO but, curiously, he’s not yet in the top 15 of the IBF or the WBA. 

With WBC and WBO champion Jose Carlos Ramirez ordered to face Jack Catterall and Josh Taylor just having successfully defended the IBF and WBA titles (and aiming for a unification fight with Ramirez), Zepeda will likely have to wait until next year for his title shot.

The scorecards were as redundant as the ticket-sellers but, for those interested, all three had Zepeda in front by scores of 37-35.

What a pity there was not an audience there to see these two warriors provide such a memorable contest.

The Verdict Bravo to both for this electrifying barnburner!