By Alexey Sukachev and Andrey Bazdrev
There’s no other way to induce some inspirations and hopes for the future than to end a considerable span of time with something really electrifying. That’s exactly what Jab Promotions is going to do tonight at Gladiator Fight Club in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city. The banner of the event speaks for itself: Denis Lebedev-Ali Ismailov collision is a nice add-on to every boxing card one can possibly imagine. Closing this year strongly, the local promotional company, controlled by Vitaly Supichenko and ex-European bantamweight titleholder Alexander Yagupov, will stage its hugest tournament in 2009 before leading their protégé Dmitry Sukhotsky into the ring on Saturday night against Juergen Braehmer for the WBO light heavyweight title.
35-year old Azerbaijani Ali Ismailov (16-2-1, 12 KOs) had been before where undefeated Sukhotsky will find himself in just two days. In May Ismailov flew over half of the Earth to Argentina and gave hell to then-WBO cruiserweight champion Victor Emilio Ramirez, dropping a disputed split decision in a give-and-take performance.
Meanwhile, 30-year old Denis Lebedev (18-0, 13 KOs), who came back to the ring after a four-year long hiatus just 16 months ago, emerged as a real force in this talent-filled weight class. After shaking off the rust in 2008 Lebedev, managed by Vladimir Hrunov and promoted by Frank Warren, started this year with a devastating stoppage of Cuban Eliseo Castillo in March and followed it with less than ten minutes of mayhem against badly faded ex-WBO champion Enzo Maccarinelli in July. Now Lebedev is ranked among top-15 by all four major sanctioning bodies – WBO #3, IBF #8, WBC #14 and WBA #15, while now unranked Ismailov will have his maybe last chance to give it one other try for the major belt.
Both fighters met each other yesterday during a weigh-in procedure. “I’ve been here before. I fought in Saint Petersburg long ago, prior my long lay-off. I feel just as if it had been in the other life. But I’m not feeling any pressure and there’s no offensive aura around”, said Lebedev. “I’m well supported by my friends, who have come here to help me both physically and mentally. Sasha [Povetkin], guys from airborne sub-units – they are helping me, creating a much needed fight aura, which will fuel my fire inside the ring. Ali is gonna give it all tomorrow night and so am I”.
“It all depends on the outcome of this collision”, commented Ismailov, former amateur standout and two-time Olympian for his native Azerbaijan. “My closest goal is to wrestle this title off Lebedev’s hands. This will help me much to climb up in ranks and to clinch a spot for [Marco] Huck fight. My promoters arranged some negotiations with Team Fragomeni before but this story ended, when the Italian was defeated by Zsolt Erdei the last month”.
“I feel myself good and I’m ready for the challenge. I spent some rounds sparring with Alexander Kotlobay, Maxim Maslov and Valery Brudov. We have also invited several southpaws to imitate Denis’ style. I’m like a loaded gun, and something painful will happen in the ring pretty soon”.
“Ali has everything not only to give Lebedev fits but to overcome his resistance. His fight experience is exceptional and he spent his whole career at 200 lbs, while Denis is moving up in weight. Lebedev had a wonderful showing versus Maccarinelli but Ismailov is quite a different thing. I’m sure he will be too much for Denis”, shares his thoughts Alexander Yagupov.
Vladimir Hrunov is well aware of the toughness of his pupil’s counterpart. “Chances are equal. Denis has a very nasty challenge ahead but I’m sure he will come victorious out of it. The arena is very small, just about 200 men in attendance, but it’s the place, where the pulse of Russian professional boxing will be heard in style. I want to thank Jab Promotions for their help and for the great show, which will undoubtedly be seen here tomorrow”.
In the main support bout of the evening, unbeaten heavyweight Maxim Maslov (9-0-1, 7 KOs) will go twelve against pudgy and light-hitting but technically sound Artur Marabyan (12-1, 4 KOs) for the vacant EBU-EE heavyweight title. Also, Alexander Kotlobay (16-1-1, 10 KOs) will find himself in deep waters against yet undefeated cruiserweight Valery Volozhenin (12-0-1, 6 KOs) in an important eight-round cross-roader. Prospects Ali Ganibaev (6-1, 4 KOs) and Igor Conobeev (4-0) will be showcased in separate bouts.
Doors open at 7 PM LT. The whole card will be televised in Russia live by “Boets” TV channel.