Photos by Sumio Yamada
VADIM TOKAREV vs SHANE SWARTZ
Fighters from the former Soviet bloc are doing exceptionally well in the heavyweight division, as we all know. There are strong former USSR fighters in other weight classes, too. One of them is the unbeaten cruiserweight Vadim Tokarev, who meets veteran Shane Swartz for the NABF title on Saturdays show in Poland that features Steve Cunningham going in with Krzysztof Wlodarczyk.
Tokarev, from Russia but now a Los Angeles resident, is promoted by Miamis Warriors Boxing, as is Wlodarczyk. He has won 22 of his 23 fights, with one draw.
Not a lot was known about Tokarev until his fight with the favoured Felix Cora Jr. last May on a Warriors Boxing pay-per-view show. We knew he was strong and durable but not a lot else. Tokarev showed, though, that he can really fight as he overwhelmed Cora in the fourth round.
The fourth and, as it turned out, final round was memorable. Tokarev dropped Cora with a right hand but the southpaw from Galveston, TX, rallied bravely and briefly looked like turning things around as he slammed punch after punch at the Russian. Tokarev refused to wilt, though, and he came back after Cora had punched himself out. A right hand had Cora out on his feet and Tokarev was hammering him when the referee intervened.
My notes on Tokarev included the observations rock-likeâ€? and very assured type of fighterâ€?. I think Swartz is in trouble here.
Swartz, a 30-year-old from Colorado, gets this fight on the strength of a career-best performance when he outboxed a flatâ€? Dale Brown for a five-round technical decision win in June. Swartz got himself into perhaps his best shape in some time and came to win. He staggered Brown with a left hook in the third round and was winning every round when the fight was stopped due to a cut on Swartzs forehead.
Up until that fight, Swartzs career had not been going anywhere, perhaps surprising as he was a U.S. amateur champ and Goodwill Games bronze medallist. It took him five years to have his first 15 bouts all wins. He seemed to be settling into a journeyman role, losing to heavyweights Calvin Brock, who stopped him in seven rounds, and Malik Scott, who easily outpointed him in a dull eight-rounder. He was stopped in seven rounds by the Russian Grigory Drozd. Then came the inspired effort against Dale Brown.
Has Swartz suddenly got a new lease on boxing life or did he simply catch the Canadian Cowboy on a dreadfully bad night? I suspect that it was a bit of both Swartz probably saw this as a fight he could win and fought accordingly while Brown might have totally underestimated his opponent.
Unfortunately for Swartz, he meets the sort of fighter in Tokarev who always comes prepared and actually seems to be improving despite being in his 30s. Tokarevs best wins prior to stopping Felix Cora were his decision victories over Michael Simms, Arthur Williams and Darnell Wilson and a fifth-round stoppage over another American boxer, the southpaw Troy Beets. A gruelling 12-round draw with Firat Arslan in Germany does not look at all a bad result after the way Arslan stopped Grigory Drozd in five rounds.
Tokarev is 34 and he does want any slip-ups now. If he wins this fight he will be close to boxing for a world title. He knows he cannot afford to lose, and it is very unlikely that he will. I think that Swartz, boosted psychologically by his fine showing against Dale Brown, will probably box well in the early rounds but Tokarev looks too strong and too heavy-handed for him. I expect Tokarev to wear down Swartz for a stoppage at some point in the last four rounds.