In an early FOTY candidate, top prospect, Antoine Douglas, put his undefeated record on the line against Avtandil Khurtsidze, a replacement from Brooklyn by way of Kutaisi, Georgia. Originally Douglas was supposed to fight Sam Soliman but a knee injury forced Soliman to withdraw from the Showtime bout two weeks prior to the scheduled date.
After weeks of preparing for 42 year-old Soliman coming off back-to-back losses, Douglas had to switch gears and get ready for a replacement opponent, Khurtsidze, who hadn’t lost since 2010. Like Soliman, Khurtsidze is a veteran fighter, however, their styles starkly differ. Soliman uses his legs and boxes, while Khurtsidze comes forward in a peek-a-boo stance á la Mike Tyson. He even wears all black from his trunks to his toes.
From the start, Khurtsidze’s constant pressure gave Douglas trouble and forced him to work every second of each round. The five-foot four Khurtsidze is four inches shorter than Soliman, and Douglas, who is six-foot, wasn’t able to use his jab to keep him on the outside, which led to Douglas spending the greater portion of the mid-to-late rounds on the ropes under duress.
Khurtsidze, who was obviously looking for the KO, threw 841 punches and only 28 were jabs. The consistent onslaught created an action-packed fight and cuts over both of Douglas’ eyes.
In round three Khurtsidze landed a big left hand and Douglas found himself on the canvas with half his body hanging outside the ropes. In the fifth, Douglas put his punches together and landed his biggest shots of the fight as he rallied back. After a solid sixth round for Douglas, it looked like he was gaining momentum.
But, the seventh round came and so did another huge left hand from Khurtsidze, which sent Douglas to the canvas, again. The accumulation of power punches broke Douglas down and in round 10 while Douglas laid against the ropes with his guard up, Khurtsidze unloaded a barrage of punches, causing the referee to step in and stop the fight.
The loss is Douglas’ first, who was probably one or two fights way from an opportunity at a title. “He definitely dictated . . . we just weren’t able to execute. Naturally, I’m crushed but it’s back to the drawing board,” Douglas said.
For Khurtsidze, it’s a major victory over a top prospect and should lead to more TV dates. Douglas showed a ton of heart and the experience he gained from this loss will hopefully make him a better fighter. If anything, it endeared him to fight fans who watched him go to toe-to-toe for ten rounds.