By Miguel Maravilla
Photos: Chris Farina/Top Rank
IBF lightweight champion Miguel “Titere” Vazquez (33-3, 13 KOs) of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico is ready for his next defense against unbeaten Russian Denis “Genghis Khan” Shafikov (33-0-1, 18 KOs). Vazquez will take on Shafikov this Saturday, February 22 live on HBO2 from the Cotai Arena at the Venetian in Macao, China. Vazquez wrapped up a tough camp with his trainer Javier Capetillo at the Ponce De Leon Boxing Club in Montebello, California in preparation for Shafikov. Fightnews.com caught up with the champ as he talked about his upcoming fight with the undefeated Russian.
“First and foremost thank you for the time, for me it will be a great unforgettable experience. I have fought in Las Vegas, Mexico, Nicaragua, never in Europe much less Asia. It will be a great experience. I hope the people in China are satisfied with my fight,” Vazquez told Fightnews.com “I feel good and have trained hard for this fight. I am going up against a complicated southpaw, an undefeated fighter that is 33-0. I worked hard because I know it’s going to be a tough fight.”
Capetillo has been working with Vazquez for quite some time but has not been allowed at ringside in the United States since his suspension from boxing. “I see him very well. He’s in good physical condition. He looks strong. The only question is he hasn’t fought in over a year but everything will turn out good,” Capetillo told Fightnews.com on Vazquez’s preparation.
“I began my career at welterweight moved down to junior welterweight and now a lightweight since I have trained with Javier Capetillo,” Vazquez said of his work with Capetillo.
El “Titere” (The puppet) is unlike most Mexican fighters. The lanky lightweight has a technical, flashy style throwing punches from different angles, countering, elusive and difficult to hit. His only three losses came at welter and junior welterweight to WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley in 2007 and two decision losses early in his career to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez giving them all they can handle.
“He has a Cuban, American, type of style. It’s all about boxing. He’s not a brawler that’s going to stand and trade. He’s a boxer way different from most Mexican fighters,” Capetillo said. “I have only trained one technician and that was “Chino” Garcia. He was always on his feet. Most of the fighters I’ve had have been brawlers. This guy is different, he’s a smooth boxer.”
The Mexican trainer is infamously known for his role in the Antonio Margarito hand wrap scandal in 2009. However Capetillo is allowed to be in the ring and corner in other countries as he will be working Vazquez’s corner the night of the fight in Macao. Say what you want about Capetillo, but he knows how to get a fighter ready as he has trained and guided various fighters to become world champions such as lightweight Jorge Paez, featherweight Alejandro “Cobrita” Gonzalez, flyweight Isidro “Chino” Garcia, as well as welterweight Antonio Margarito and most recently flyweight Giovanni Segura in his win over “Tyson” Marquez in a fight of the year candidate.
“He will be in my corner come fight night along with my father Miguel, cut-man Ruben Gomez and Javier Capetillo Jr.,” Vazquez said of his trainer.
“I will be there the night of the fight, Capetillo commented. “The fight is in China, I was suspended here in the U.S and continue to be. China, however, is a way different country. I will be in his corner.”
Now the two will intensify training to prepare for the challenge ahead in the unbeaten Russian fighter.
“The key will be to keep him at a distance with speed not let him get close to me,” Vazquez said.
Mostly unknown in the States, the 5’5 Russian brings in an aggressive southpaw style and has fought majority of his fights in Russia, Europe, fought once in Mexico. In his last fight he stopped Santos Benavides in seven rounds last August in Laredo, Texas in his U.S debut. Ranked #3 by the IBF and WBO, Shafikov will come in determined as he gets his first opportunity at a world title.
“His opponent I noticed is 33-0 short and strong, likes to press the fight. But with Miguel’s boxing ability I see him coming out on top,” Capetillo said of Shafikov.
“I sparred with him once when he was fighting at junior welterweight. He’s strong and was difficult to box but I feel that he’s not invisible,” Vazquez on Shafikov. “I could beat him now that he has moved down to lightweight. Let’s see what he is about I am well prepared,” Vazquez added.
Winning the vacant IBF lightweight title in August of 2010 over tough Korean Ji-Hi Hoon Kim by unanimous decision in what was a tough fight, Vazquez won his first world title. Since then Vazquez has piled up wins against mandatories as he has been avoided by some of the top lightweights. Vazquez has not seen action since his dominant win over previously unbeaten Mercito Gesta a little over a year ago in December of 2012.
“I am the best in the lightweight division. It’s evident that all the good fighters have not stepped up. There’s a lot of champions but none have wanted to face Miguel Vazquez,” Vazquez on the lightweight division.
“As long as I keep working with Miguel he will continue to be champion, expect Titere to come out triumphant,” Capetillo concluded.
The lightweight division is loaded with talent even with the departure of Adrien Broner last year. Vazquez would like a crack at either of them such as unbeaten Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa, WBC interim champion Omar Figueroa, WBA champion Richard Abril of Cuba, and Scotland’s Ricky Burns, who will be taking on the undefeated Terrance Crawford.
“There are Ricky Burns and Terrance Crawford who will face each other, Crawford is undefeated. I’m sure he’s going to beat Burns and then hopefully I get the chance to fight him. I want to show I am the best lightweight,” Vazquez said.
Last year Vazquez was scheduled to take on WBO champion Ricky Burns in March in a unification bout that fight however was never finalized.
“I want to sweep up the lightweight division to prove that Miguel Vazquez is better than anyone be on the pound for pound list, then possibly move up in weight and win a world title at junior welterweight. If not this year maybe next,” Vazquez said.
This will be “El Titere’s” sixth defense of his title as he looks to return to the ring. Vazquez has defeated unbeaten contenders that have crossed his path such as Breidis Prescott (21-0) back in 2008 who had recently knocked out Amir Khan and challengers that attempted to take his world title Leonardo Zappavigna who came in with a 25-0 record and Filipino Mercito Gesta 26-0-1. Vazquez vs. Shafikov will be a scheduled twelve round championship fight for Vazquez’s IBF lightweight title as Vazquez looks to hand Shafikov the first blemish of his career.
“I await a victory for sure I will try to get the knockout. That’s the only thing missing from me thus far. That will be the icing on the cake. We know he is tough but either by knockout or decision Titere Vazquez will come out victorious,” Vazquez promised.
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