Murat Gassiev dominated Denis Lebedev to win the IBF cruiserweight title on Saturday on a split decision.
Gassiev knocked down Lebedev in the fifth round with a hook to the body but the defending champion came back strongly late on as the 23-year-old Gassiev tired.
Gassiev won 116-112 and 116-111 on two scorecards, while 37-year-old veteran Lebedev took the third 114-113. The announcement sharply divided the crowd in Moscow.
“I prepared myself for a very tough fight. Denis is a champion and I knew what was waiting for me in the ring,” Gassiev said. “Big respect to him. I’m very happy I won today.” he said.
Gassiev improves to 24-0 after by far the biggest fight of his five-year pro career. Lebedev, who drops to a 29-3 career record, remains the WBA champion at cruiserweight because the fight was only recognized as being for the IBF version of the title.