Courtesy Jim Jenkins, Sacramento Bee
Former WBC heavyweight champion Oleg Maskaev is based in West Sacramento, Calif., and will be fighting virtually in his backyard on Dec. 11, but chose Reno, Nev., and its 4,400-foot altitude, 130 miles away, as the site of his training camp. “It’s something I like to do for added conditioning,” explained Maskaev. A onetime New Yorker after relocating from the former Soviet Union, he was accustomed to training for fights in higher elevations on the East Coast as well.
Maskaev (36-6, 27 KOs) is 40 and will be taking on a 25-year-old foe in Nagy Aguilera (14-2, 9 KOs) of New York in their scheduled 10-rounder next month at downtown Sacramento’s historic Memorial Auditorium. But, according to Maskaev’s promoter, Dennis Rappaport, who left the Big Apple to be encamped with his fighter, the ex-champ is sparring with the zeal of someone much younger in pursuit of regaining the title he lost last year to Samuel Peter.
“Oleg is punching and moving extremely well in his training sessions,” said Rappaport, who along with the No. 2-ranked Maskaev, decided to take the fight with Aguilera as a presumed needed tunep for a WBC-mandated title-eliminator with top-rated Ray Austin. The boxoff winner would then challenge champion Vitali Klitschko, assuming he gets by No. 6 contender Kevin Johnson in a Dec. 12 defense in Switzerland.
Presumably, Austin won’t fight again until the eliminator — by May 2010 — preferring not to follow in Maskaev’s footsteps and risk blowing his ranking and a title shot should Aguilera pull off an upset.
Maskaev sounds confident that won’t happen: ” I have put more into this camp than any other, I have a great (and new) trainer in Chuck McGregor (via Arizona). We have really clicked. He is big on conditioning. He has me running six to seven miles a day and I’ve been able to work with some fantastic (sparring) partners. December 11 can’t come quick enough”
The Maskaev camp does have a little touch of home. His 8-year-old daughter, Victoria, on holiday from school, routinely pedals her bicycle around the ring during training sessions, all the while keeping an eye on her father.
“This fight means a lot to me,” said Maskaev, whose fight gives many of his West Sac neighbors, many fellow countrymen, and local fans a chance to see him battle in person for the first time,
“I am by no means overlooking (Aguilera),” Maskaev said. “He is a tough guy, but this is a fight I must win. Nagy is a good prospect but I will take him to school.”
Meanwhile, Aguilera, whose promoter is former heavyweight Lou Savarese, is winding up the bulk of his training in Houston.
His camp report by phone: “Oleg is the former WBC champion, and I respect that to a degree. But once the bell rings it is all about winning for me. I have had the chance to spar with some tough guys which I feel has prepared me to stand toe-to-toe with Maskaev. I believe youth will be a factor in this fight …. I see myself as the spoiler.”
While Maskaev will likely come in heavier for the fight, Aguilera’s 6-foot-3 height and reach approximates that of his more experienced opponent.