Arslanbek Makhmudov’s status as the heavyweight division’s dark horse ended abruptly with a disappointing stoppage defeat to Agit Kabayel last December in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 

Makhmudov’s night started to sour as soon as the first round and it deteriorated quickly, hitting the canvas three times on way to first career defeat in the fourth round. 

The 34-year-old based in Montreal with trainer Marc Ramsey was the bookies favorite, undefeated with 17 stoppages in 18 victories. However, his fearsomeness soon waned as the commentary team described him as “a big oak tree sagging to the ground” during his loss to the former European champion. 

“He’s fighting Junior Fa coming off a very bad injury in his last fight,” Camille Estephan, Makhmudov’s promoter, told BoxingScene. “We don’t like to make excuses, he lost the fight fair and square, but he did break his hand in two places and got operated on the next morning. 

“Now he will fight in a big event where [Christian] Mbilli is the main-event, he is co-main. On the same card we have Albert Ramirez vs. Adam Deines, WBO number one vs. number two. So it’s a hell of a card on May 25th.” 

Makhmudov, 18-1 (17 KOs), has the chance to claim some redemption when he meets New Zealand’s Fa on May 25 in nearby Shawinigan, Quebec. The stakes are higher than ever before for the heavyweight division, as unforeseen money pours in from Saudi Arabia. 

“Honestly it was great that he fought in Riyadh twice on two great shows,” Estephan explained. “They are doing everything right. It definitely looks like they have got the correct formula. We would love to go back, but I think he needs to beat Junior Fa and look impressive. It’s not an easy fight, and people know that. Junior Fa is a known quantity, so it couldn’t have been a better matchup for us.”   

Fa, 20-3 (11 KOs), also needs to get back to winning ways to be considered a viable candidate for Saudi Arabia’s heavyweight round robin. The 34-year-old Kiwi was stopped in the seventh round by Cuba’s Frank Sanchez on the same loaded card that Makhmudov-Kabayel took place on. Fa’s most notable outings have all ended in defeat. He dropped a unanimous decision to domestic rival Joseph Parker followed that with a crushing knockout defeat to Lucas Browne nearly two years ago. 

“He did lose to Junior Fa in the amateurs in the WBS I believe,” Estephan said of Makhmudov. “It’s a very good fight. We didn’t want to take the easy road, we want to show that he is for real and he will be looking to show that in the fight with Junior Fa.”

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