Top Heavyweight Agit Kabayel crowned himself European champion in his hometown Bochum, Germany on Saturday. The 30-year-old defeated Agron Smakici from Croatia by technical knockout in the third round in front of more than 3000 fans at the Ruhr Congress. His promoter sees it as a "fight of the century" type fight and it was certainly packed with action back and forth action.
On late Saturday evening, the city of Bochum (Kabayel’s home town) was threatened by what seemed final blow. In the afternoon, SG Wattenscheid 09 had been knocked out in the last minute, shortly afterwards FC Schalke 04 not only knocked VfL down but also sent them to the bottom of the table in the German football league. And then suddenly Agit Kabayel was also in danger. In the European championship fight in his hometown, the 30-year-old was just one punch away from the abyss. In the second round, he was caught in a wild exchange of shots by Croatian Agron Smakici and was momentarily out on his feet.
"It flickered briefly, I saw black, but I didn't fall," confessed Kabayel. In this dramatic second round, the local hero was only able to stay on his feet with the help of the ropes, which prevented him from toppling over backwards after being hit by several left uppercuts from Smakici, who is a southpaw. The referee rightly counted it as a knockdown, and Kabayel was given a count - possibly saving his evening. The referee's intervention gave Kabayel important seconds to gather himself, while Smakici's attack was interrupted just as he was about to pounce on Kabayel for the finish. One man's luck, another man's misfortune.
"It felt like I was in a movie," Kabayel later recalled the toughest minutes of his boxing career. "It was a real Rocky feeling." It was fitting that everywhere there was advertising for the movie "Creed III," a spinoff of the Rocky series. Like Sylvester Stallone's eternal boxing hero, Kabayel seemed completely done. Like Rocky, he rose up and fought back mercilessly. And just like in the movies, the "noble art of self-defense," as boxing is called, was not on the agenda in Bochum. The "sweet science" of hitting without being hit was simply ignored by the fighters. Kabayel vs. Smakici - from the second round onwards, it was only a battle of wills, a brutal war of attrition.
In this battle, Kabayel regained control of his legs. He took the following shots from his opponent thanks to his impressively hard chin. At the end of the second round, it seemed that Smakici had spent all his energy. Kabayel's right hand hit the Croatian's face. The RuhrCongress in Bochum erupted, the bell rang.
"Suddenly I felt good again. My trainer couldn't believe it, but I felt good again," Kabayel said after the fight, marked with a cut above his right eye. Having been on the verge of a knockout just moments ago, the recharged heavyweight marched towards his opponent again in the third round. Smakici had not been able to recharge his batteries between rounds. In two minutes and 37 seconds, Kabayel hammered away at Smakici - until the referee stepped in and stopped the one-sided action to the cheers of the 3000 spectators in the arena. The stoppage was fair.
For minutes, the beaten Smakici sat in his corner, unable to stand up, while Kabayel climbed the ring posts like a man possessed, who had finally been set free. He had not only won in front of his hometown fans, not only won the vacant European title, but he had also shown his critics what he was made of. They had accused him of being boring. Against Evgenios Lazaridis and Kevin Johnson, Kabayel had gone the full distance in 2020 and 2021 and had "only" won dull decisions. Again and again, the German boxer emphasized that he found it unfair to judge is entire career from these fights.
"I showed today that I can not only take punches, but also deliver them," he bubbled at the press conference. "I'm ready, ready for everything. If someone calls and wants me for a world championship fight, I'm ready." Kabayel is aiming for higher levels in the division after many difficult years. "Bochum, we are all European Champions! Now we are going for the World Championship. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”