This wasn’t the type of impactful victory Bektemir Melikuziev had hoped to produce to start off 2021.
If nothing else, the light heavyweight from Uzbekistan at least was able to get in the ring Saturday night just two weeks after he was supposed to fight former 175-pound champion Sergey Kovalev. The powerful southpaw needed less than three rounds to stop Morgan Fitch, who took their scheduled eight-rounder on about three weeks’ notice.
Melikuziev (7-0, 6 KOs) scored two knockdowns during the third round. Referee Jack Reiss stopped the action at 2:08 of the third round, after Melikuziev landed what looked like a low left hand at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California.
Earlier in the third round, Melikuziev made Fitch take a knee after landing a right to the body.
Pittsburgh’s Fitch (19-5-1, 8 KOs) is 1-5 in his past six fights. He lost three of those bouts by knockout.
Russia’s Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KOs) would’ve provided a tougher test for Melikuziev. Their fight, which was supposed to take place January 30 at Fantasy Springs, was canceled last month because Kovalev tested positive for synthetic testosterone, a banned substance.
Before their fight ended in the third round, Fitch caught Melikuziev with a counter right hand with 1:20 to go in the second round as Melikuziev recklessly attacked him. Melikuziev connected with a right to the body and followed it up with a right hook up top with approximately 30 seconds left in the second round.
Melikuziev wobbled Fitch with a right hook just before the first round ended. Melikuziev landed a right to the body in the opening minute of their fight that got Fitch’s attention.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.