By Alexey Sukachev
For the second consecutive time the New Year starts with a (sort of) Russian invasion. In January 2009 two Russian fighters took their parts in WBO title match-ups, opening the pugilistic year in Europe, namely in Magdeburg and Dusseldorf (both Germany). The invasion was anything but successful as both Denis Inkin (the WBO 168lb champion) and Alexander Alexeev (the notorious favorite in his bout versus Victor Ramirez) lost their title bids in decisive fashion, also starting the year of pain and disappointment for boxing fans in Russia.
This time another pair of fighters from the biggest country on the Earth will try to make a different opening of the season in the different place and under different circumstances. What is common in two those events is the fact that Russian pugilists will be presented in TV openers of the year to come. On January 8, the next day after the Christmas in Orthodox tradition, Roman Karmazin will try to make another step in his historical mission of becoming the first ever Russian champion in two weight classes, while promising heavyweight Andrey Fedosov faces the biggest test of his yet short pro career in savvy veteran Lionel Butler. Both fights will be a part of the “Glendale Glory 2”, which will be co-promoted by Art of Boxing Promotions and Bash Boxing with the assistance of M-1 Global and will be aired live by ESPN2.
Just a year since his official 160lb debut, IBF #3 and WBC #5 middleweight Roman “Made in Hell” Karmazin (39-3-1, 25 KOs) will find himself in the IBF eliminator for the first place against Columbian puncher Dionisio “Mister Knockout” Miranda (20-4-2, 18 KOs), who is rated #9 by the IBF. Ex-IBF light middleweight champion Karmazin moved to the north following a crushing loss to Alex Bunema and was successful from that day on. In December 2008 Karmazin outtoughed fellow ex-titlist Bronco McCart en route to a wide decision for the vacant NABF belt. Three months later Roman rose from the occasional knockdown to stop another veteran Antwun Echols in seven rounds. He fought the last time almost immediately after that surviving several rocky moments but getting a stoppage win over Brazilian Dos Santos in Kazakhstan. No spring chicken at 37, Karmazin got maybe his last chance to re-gain the world title in a new weight class.
As for Miranda, ten years his younger, he has been fighting almost exclusively in native Columbia before taking a ten-round span of punishment from the hands of talented prospect Peter Quillin in June 2008. However, just seven weeks later this lanky power puncher scored the win of his career so far narrowly outpointing Canadian Sebastian Demers at his backyard. That victory has also brought Dionisio his first title eliminator, in which he was brutally dispatched by Giovanni Lorenzo in just two rounds; yet he was able to secure his second elimination against Karmazin.
Taking a break during the examination at ophthalmologist, Roman spared a couple of minutes to speak with Fightnews about the upcoming collision and the current state of boxing in Russia.
- Roman, Merry Christmas to you and your family!
- Thanks, I congratulate both Fightnews and Orthodox boxing fans on this heartwarming moment as well.
- We haven’t talked for the ages. The last time I remember speaking with you was in Lyubertsy last June where you were presented and greeted at local tournament. You said to me that your next fight would be in August or September, but it’s only January the eighth when you will finally enter the ring. What is the matter?
- The reason was obvious. I was set for the final eliminator by the International Boxing Federation and as one of participants I wasn’t in position to fight any tune-ups and preliminary bouts that time. I hoped this bout would land in Russia this past fall but without any support from top Russian broadcasting companies it was simply impossible. Thanks to the ESPN for making the fight with Miranda real.
- However, there were talks by Russian promoter Alexander Polguy about making the fight in Lyubertsy.
- It has all been gone with the wind. Russian TV doesn’t want to showcase professional boxing. No TV – no money to stage any significant bouts. As I’ve already said, it was impossible indeed.
- You are 37 years of age and you find yourself in major title eliminator. Do you feel like this is your last chance and you have no option but winning this fight?
- I used to live with that feeling. Like there’s no step back and I simply cannot afford it. My whole life is the last chance.
- Have you seen Miranda tapes?
- Surely, I have seen his fight against that man Demers. Miranda is a dangerous guy with a freakishly powerful right hand and imposing physical stature. Yet I don’t think he is all that skilled not to be taken down. However, I won’t underestimate him by any means. This is boxing and everything could happen here.
- You sparred with no other than Miranda for the fight with Miranda. And I mean his compatriot Edison, not Dionisio. Tell us about what it has given to you and what this feared puncher is all about.
- He is a physically gifted big guy with a dynamite power in his hands. He resembles Dionisio pretty much from what I’ve got both from sparring sessions and watching the tapes. And it was a good experience for me. I was taking the best of him in the gym. We have sparred three times and then he got ill and was forced to withdraw from the following sparring sessions. He has helped me much though. As for his style he is your typical Columbian enforcer with the well-known style. He is rugged; he is tough and extremely powerful but lacks some tactical discipline and technical finesse.
- Whom have you sparred with aside Edison Miranda?
- I have wonderful sparring partners. It’s not only Miranda but also that guy and I don’t remember his name (Yusaf Mack) who will fight Glen Johnson soon. He is a very good boxer. And also there was Ismayl Sillakh in camp. What a great prospect he is! He was truly amazing. He took the better of me in the opening days of the camp and I was here only to survive before I’ve finally adjusted to him.
- Is he the next star to come in light heavyweight division?
- Ismayl is the truth. If he keeps improving, he will live up to his stellar potential.
- I have talked to some people in Russian boxing community – and I don’t want to bring here any names – and they said to me that Roman was getting older and certainly lost his speed and finesse to a considerable degree. What can you say about that?
- They are wrong. I’m getting older and more experienced. That’s a natural fact. But I can’t say I’m losing anything. I’m as speedy and as sharp as I ever was before. I have certain problems with the health but I’m fit enough to overcome any obstacles.
- Who is preparing you for the coming fight?
- I’m doing everything myself. This is all in my mind, all tactics and all the conditioning. It’s not the way it should be but I just cannot find anybody who is able to aid me and to give something positive to my own methods. There was Michalych before (Igor Lebedev, Roman’s first pro coach, who died several years ago in Russia)… He isn’t with me anymore and he was the person who really knew everything I need to do. He was more of a father person to me.
- Will there be Freddie Roach in your corner?
- I really hope he will but I don’t know exactly right now. He has so many fighters and things to accomplish. He is a great trainer and his assistance will certainly be helpful. But Lebedev was the man who made me as a fighter.
- What can you say about all the fuss surrounding megafight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather? Some persons keep accusing Pacquiao of using the illegal substances.
- I don’t buy it. I know Manny personally. He is indeed a great fighter and very personable man. I don’t even think of him as a cheater or something like that. He has a God-given talent. I think that’s just the way both parties want to sell the fight at the highest price possible.
- Coming back to our reality, let’s talk about the current state of pro boxing in Russia. The last year saw zero Russian champions, holding major titles in all the weight classes. The fight game isn’t being broadcasted by TV. Can we call it a systemic crisis of Russian pro boxing?
- We sure can. We must call it a crisis. There’s no other way but to admit it. Just look at Ukraine. This is a tiny and weak country, compared to Russia, and they have so many world champions in pro boxing. This speaks for itself. Our amateur boxing system is thriving with power. The last Olympics, which were called – for a second – unsuccessful for team Russia, saw our squad prevail in overall boxing standings. Compared to this, our pro boxing is on the brink of agony.
- Who is the major party at fault?
- Russian TV. It’s just the fact. Look at our champions. Me, Nikolay Valuev, Dima Kirillov, Oleg Maskaev – this is the pride of our nation and (ridiculously) our broadcasting bosses want no part of us. You can’t say more than that about the state of boxing in Russia.
- Is there any exit?
- No, I can’t recognize it. I just don’t see it right now. Moreover, some Russian promoters – and I don’t want to name any in person – are really happy with this situation. They have other sources of financial support so they just don’t care and makes the whole stand even worse. Nobody knows our talent, our champions. They are under-promoted. That’s a pitiful situation; one which kills our boxing as a sport. Youngsters can’t see any exemplars to be guided by.
Adds Steven Bash, Roman’s promoter and long-time advisor, “It is an absolute shame that Russian TV channels are not supporting Russian boxers both within the country and the many Russian fighters abroad. It doesn’t give Russian promoters and Russian fighters a chance in the worldwide market and is the reason why so many Russian fighters have turned to Germany, the U.S., Australia, and Japan.
In the United States, where boxing nevertheless suffers from its own problems, the real “promoters” for a fighter can sometimes be the television networks. Without the financial support and exposure provided by a television platform, many promoters in the U.S. would not be able to afford to make certain fights and many fighters would not be as popular and in demand as they are today. It seems that this option is not available in Russia.
Someone from the TV networks simply has to make a minimal commitment behind a promoter that can consistently deliver quality fights to seeking out content involving Russian fighters both inside and outside the country. And the fact of the matter is, this content is extremely inexpensive to acquire today. For example, any Russian TV channel could get the rights to broadcast Roman Karmazin’s title eliminator bout on January 8th for 12,000 USD. That’s less money that what it will cost me for lighting and power in the venue. Not to mention the fact that there are other Russian fighters on the card who should be of interest to the Russian public today and in the future. I am not sure how much a usual program costs Russian TV but we are talking about a fighter who is the 4th world champion in Russia’s history and is one step away from a chance to become the first Russian to win a world title in two different weight classes”.
- Using a ten-point scoring system, how can you rate the current start of pro boxing in Russia?
- Less than five points for sure (out of ten). It can barely be rated at four on my mind.
- Some closing thoughts.
- I want to wish every fan strong health the coming year. I wish them also to be more tolerant to their idols. It doesn’t work that you are a hero tonight and a bunch of bullshit the next day. We need your support, friends, as we are fighting for you and for our country. Please, root for them and support them to the end.
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Another fighter, who will have his chance to shine, is the 23-year old heavyweight Andrey Fedosov (20-1, 16 KOs). Despite being relatively young for a modern heavyweight, Andrey is an experienced fighter, with more than twenty bouts on his resume. Fedosov made his American debut last March and he was also the vital part of the first promotion of “Glendale Glory” last June. The young Russian showed some signs of stellar potential with his early stoppages of Fransisco Mireles (8-2, KO 1) and Galen Brown (32-11-1, TKO 2) and tomorrow he has a chance to prove it’s no fluke against his most sound opponent to date. Lionel “The Train” Butler (32-15-1, 25 KOs), already 42, still has it in him which was obvious from his split decision over previously unbeaten Fred Kassi last September (following six years out of the ring). Butler is known for his stoppages of former champions Tony Tubbs and James “Bonecrusher” Smith as well as for the stern test he gave to prime Lennox Lewis.
“I respect him though I haven’t seen much of him”, says determined Fedosov, who prefers to speak with his fists rather than to say another word to the press. “I watched his last fight and he will be no pushover though I’m confident in winning the fight”.
Speaking about his American opponents as a whole Fedosov can’t see any significant differences in comparison with Russian boxers, “There are same persons everywhere. Some fighters, I have fought against in Russia, are stronger than these guys, some are weaker. But I can’t say they are all that different. Anyway I’m eager to make a splash here to please both local and Russian fans. I hope for bigger fights, provided I’ll get by Butler, in the nearest future”.
Aside Karmazin, another young talent will be aired by ESPN 2. Prenice Brewer (13-0-1, 6 KOs) takes on durable Hector Alatorre (16-8, 5 KOs) in a scheduled eight-rounder, according to the ESPN web portal.
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In a special feature, Mexican slugger Jose “Shibata” Flores (43-10, 25 KOs) makes his return to the ring after a successful stint as a singer to campaign at the middleweight division. The always entertaining Flores has fought some of the toughest fighters over the past sixteen years including former world champions Verno Phillips, Fernando Vargas, Raul Marquez, and Vince Phillips. Flores is set to face veteran journeyman Roberto Valenzuela (51-48-3, 42 KOs) over six.
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Three Armenian fighters will also be showcased during the evening. The biggest challenge will be ahead of rising lightweight prospect Artyom Hovhannesyan (10-0-1, 5 KOs) who notched three wins inside the distance in 2009. He is taking on no other than ex-champion of the world Freddie Norwood (43-3-1, 23 KOs), who has brought his name back into contention following the last year victory over Mexican Jose Celaya. Gabriel Tolmajyan (6-1, 1 KOs) and debuting Artur Bernetsyan will also see action tomorrow night along with former amateur standout from Ukraine Anatoly Dudchenko (7-2, 6 KOs).
Tickets to can be purchased online by going to www.glendaleglory.com or by calling Art of Boxing Promotions at (626) 388-8888 or Bash Boxing at (213) 700-BASH (2274). “Glendale Glory 2” takes place on Friday, January 8, 2010 at the Glendale Civic Auditorium. Doors open at 5:30 PM, First Bout is at 6:00 PM Pacific. ESPN’s Friday Night Fights broadcast will begin at 7:00 PM Pacific.