Azizbek 'AAA' Abdugufarov: 'This is the hardest fight of my career'
Uzbek boxer Abdugufarov retains WBC middleweight title after hard-fought battle with Thai opponent
His coach had predicted a third-round knockout win.
While Uzbek boxer Azizbek "AAA" Abdugufarov eventually retained his World Boxing Council (WBC) Asia middleweight Championship last night, he had to contend with Thai Sirimongkol Singwancha taking him to the full distance.
In an enthralling title fight witnessed by over 150 fans at The Pavillion at Far East Square, the two boxers gave as good as they got for 12 rounds, before Azizbek was announced the winner via an unanimous decision (115-112, 119-108, 116-112).
Despite being younger, taller and quicker - as well as possessing a reach advantage over his rival - the 24-year-old Uzbek could not inflict real damage on Sirimongkol.
In fact, the 39-year-old Thai legend even responded to some of his opponent's stiff jabs to the head with a smirk.
Azizbek attempted to turn the screws in the third and fourth round - he floored the Thai with a firm cross - but his rival popped straight back up to his feet.
Vikram Siva, Azizbek's manager, said: "We thought it would have been a much easier fight.
"Credit to Sirimongkol, he took the punishment all night long and went right to the end."
A worn-out Azizbek said: "This is my hardest fight so far."
Sirimongkol may have left the ring beaten, but the 39-year-old, who has fought on the card of world title fights in MGM Grand in Las Vegas, won over the crowd. He was mobbed by fans for photographs after the fight, and was approached by throngs of supporters who just wanted to shake his hand.
"I did not win, but I gave my best fight. It was an exciting and entertaining one for the audience," he said.
"I'm a bit disappointed with the result, but I definitely gave my all in each of the 12 rounds. That is what's important."
Meanwhile, it was a mixed night for the two Singaporean boxers who were in action.
It was a dream debut for Hamzah Farouk, who earned an unanimous decision win over Malaysian Rahmat Munadjab after four rounds.
The 29-year-old Hamzah, who was making his return to the boxing ring after almost five years out - he was a former national amateur boxer - was cheered on by a raucous group of about 50 family and friends.
He is already looking ahead to Cartel International's next event, slated to take place on March 25 at the OCBC Arena at the Singapore Sports Hub, where Zimbabwean Charles Manyuchi (20 wins, two losses, one draw) will defend his WBC silver welterweight title against Uzbek Quadratillo Abduqaxarov (10-0-0).
"This win is very special for me, I've worked very hard for the last five or six months for it," said Hamzah.
"I was nervous for the first half of the first round, but I adjusted well, thanks to my fans and family who motivated me.
"For now, hopefully I can get on the next card on March 25, and I'll train twice as hard from now on."
There was less joy for another local boxer Edgar Ang in his second professional fight.
The 27-year-old IT executive, who earned a decision win in his debut fight in July last year, saw his fight against Indonesian Bima Prakosa stopped by the referee after just 55 seconds.
"I acknowledge I got a clean hit," said Ang, of the technical knockout call.
"But we get those hits all the time in this sport. And I still had my hands up.
"I am definitely not happy with the judging."