By Alexey Sukachev
Several Russian fighters have headlined boxing news since the beginning of 2010 and have further established their positions in various weight classes. WBA #11 heavyweight Denis Bakhtov (33-5, 23 KOs) turned Steffen Kretschmann’s payback time into a nightmare (of sorts), ultimately stopping him for the second time in the ninth round. Highly touted middleweight boxer-puncher Dmitry Pirog (15-0, 12 KOs) delivered another masterful performance by becoming the first fighter to stop rugged American Eric Mitchell, while WBO #9 Ruslan Provodnikov (15-0, 10 KOs) knocked out former champion Javier Jauregui in eight rounds of toe-to-toe action. Several other prospects, including Beijing gold medalist Felix Diaz (5-0, 3 KOs), continued their rises to glory as well, notching important victories during the past three months.
After a number of recent tournaments, organized by German Titov and his partner Kirill Pchelnikov both separately and conjointly with other promoters, Fightnews contacted the top Russian boxing personality to know more about his plans for both immediate and far future.
– Good day, German. What’s up?
– Everything is ok, Alexey. We keep working to deliver more crowd-pleasing performances and to stage better fights for Russian fans in different regions of our huge country. German Titov Promotions along with Kirill Pchelnikov’s Pushka Promotions are going to put some rocking shows in coming months and especially later in this fall. And we shall bring excitement not only to Russia but also to America.
– Let’s talk about your fighters by walking down from heaviest weight divisions downwards to lightest, starting from your leading heavyweight Denis Bakhtov.
– No problem; and Denis is surely worth of talking about.
– There was much stir about his rematch with Steffen Kretschmann, who had been profoundly supported by German media before the fight time (including a documentary about his preparations for the second Bakhtov fight). However, the fight turned out to be a perfect execution of highly regarded German prospect.
– Indeed, it was a dominating performance on Denis behalf. He looked a total package against a mentally broken Kretschmann. You know, I’ve already predicted the outcome during our previous interview. Steffen is a nice fighter, but he wasn’t ready for Denis less than a year since his crushing defeat in their first encounter. I had told you exactly that and Bakhtov – predictably! – didn’t prove me wrong. He could finish Kretschmann off early in the fight and he chose not to rush in and delivered a methodical beating. That was a classy performance.
– It looked like Denis was viciously angered by the pre-fight entourage and his anger just came out in this beating.
– I wouldn’t say it was ballyhoo around this contest. It had more to do with the bad refereeing of the fight. Local referee (Heinrich Muehmert) did much to ruin the fight with his strange officiating. For example, he deducted a point from Denis for a fully legal blow to the liver. That was simply weird! Then, when in round nine Kretschmann turned his back and refused to fight on, he tried to disqualify Bakhtov for nothing. Surely, Denis ran after Steffen, who just waved his hands off and expressed no desire to continue, and landed a nice clocker. But he had every right to do so, even though it looked a bit ugly. The fighter must defend himself at all time, the contest wasn’t halted and Kretschmann just decided to give it up to a much surprise of referee.
– Looked like it was going to be another hometown decision.
– It surely looked like that. And here I cannot help but to admire my partner Ahmet Oner for coming to the ring to raise Bakhtov’s hand in victory. Ahmet is often being criticized for different incidents in and around the ring but this time his behavior, his attitude was truly remarkable. He did exactly what an honest man should do and that was really great of him. He took over the referee who even tried to persuade Oner in approving a wrong result. His opinion was crucial indeed and I’m glad that we got a fair shake in Germany.
– What is next for Denis?
– We shall see. Now Bakhtov will have a deserved rest and then we shall weigh-in options. Denis himself wants a rematch with Juan Carlos Gomez (The Cuban dominated Bakhtov three years ago to a shutout decision over twelve rounds). He says he is ready for that. Another viable option can be a national match-up between two boxers named Denis – Bakhtov vs. Boytsov. If Universum is ready to bring us a good offer, this fight can be done and it will surely be a cracker.
– Another notable heavyweight of your team is 2008 Beijing super heavyweight bronze medalist Vyacheslav Glazkov. What is planned for him?
– He will have a busy schedule from now on. On April 24 K2 Promotions Ukraine (ruled by Alexander Krassyuk) will organize their first show after a break-up. We are planning to put Glazkov (4-0, 2 KOs) in. Then he will return in early June. Possibly it will be a huge ESPN card, which will also feature another rising star Felix Diaz (5-0, 3 KOs) and our gem Dmitry Pirog.
– Speaking about Diaz, he was once scheduled to fight in Schwerin this Friday night. However, his name was soon dropped off the list. What was the reason?
– It was better for him to move in another direction for now. Diaz will be back on May 20 in Barnaul for a scheduled eight-rounder, so we shall give Russian fans a chance to see the Olympic champion one more time. The opponent is to be defined yet. Then Diaz is going to fight in America, most probably his bout will be showcased by the ESPN.
– Let’s go down to cruiserweights. Your main force here is Grigory Drozd (32-1, 23 KOs). However, we haven’t seen him in the ring for a while. What’s up with him?
– Grigory (WBO #3, WBA #6, IBF #8 and WBC #10) dropped several positions in the ranks due to inactivity. He has just got back into training mode after recovering from an illness. We hope he will be ready to fight soon. I’m going to phone him to speak about possible opponents pretty soon.
– Light heavyweight Vasily Lepikhin (7-0, 4 KOs) has also been inactive since his memorable war with Roman Simakov last July (on the same card with Drozd). Fightnews heard he got some hand injuries. What is his current condition?
– Vasily is fully healed and ready for action. Indeed, he had some issues with his hand but now it’s alright. Moreover, he should have been already seen in action but a local promotion in Krasnodar had fallen through because of the local promoter’s fault. We are seeking for a viable opponent for him but we aren’t yet ready to announce any names and dates.
– His battle with then-unbeaten Roman Simakov for the Baltic Boxing Union title exceeded all expectations. Why not to make a rematch?
– No, we have other plans for Vasily and Roman. The proposed bout doesn’t suit us now but we shall see what the future tells us.
– Dmitry Pirog came back to the ring two months ago and stopped rugged Eric Mitchell. What are your plans for this middleweight?
– Pirog soon turns 30, so we shall move on quickly. Dmitry (WBO #2, IBF #10, and WBA #14) fights next on April 27 on the show, being arranged by our partners from Jab Promotion. Estonian Sergey Melis (15-1, 5 KOs) will be his opponent in a proposed ten-rounder. The fight will most probably be for one of the WBC regional titles so that Pirog will get his WBC ranking. (Note: as Fightnews has known, the bout will be sanctioned for the WBC Baltic title, currently owned by Sergey Melis). Then we are going to relocate him to America. Pirog is one of the best middleweights in the world but up until now he has been fighting under the radar, so we shall send a note for American fans that a new force is coming in.
– Another fighter to make his debut overseas will be WBO #10 and WBC #11 Uzbek Sherzod Husanov (14-0-1, 7 KOs). That will be a huge one, as he moves directly into the title fight versus Ukrainian WBO champion Sergey Dzinziruk (36-0, 22 KOs), who is regarded by many to be the cream of light middleweight. Is this fight already signed?
– Yes, it’s. Sherzod takes on Sergey (WBO champion since December 2005, sporting 5 defenses of his belt) on May 14 at Chumash casino in Santa Ynez, California. It’ll headline ShoBox series and will be done under Gary Shaw Productions. I’m sure Husanov is ready for a challenge. He was a stellar amateur (lost to two-time Olympic champion Oleg Saitov on close decision in the quarterfinal of 2004 Athens Olympics) and he has shown the same poise while fighting as a pro. On the other hand, Dzinziruk hasn’t fought for a year and a half, and at 34 he is not a spring chicken, so Sherzod has a good chance for upset.
– Husanov and Pirog are still to invade America. Another of your boys, Ruslan Provodnikov has already fought on ESPN and has got some good press for his pressure and crowd-pleasing style of fighting. What is next for him?
– On May 21 Ruslan will make a return to the Laredo Entertainment center in Texas to be featured in a co-main event of the ESPN-broadcasted show along with Korean Ji Hoon Kim. Provodnikov is going to collide with Fransisco “El Gato” Figueroa (20-3-1, 13 KOs) for the currently owned WBO I/C junior welterweight belt and for a vacant NABA title. Ruslan is moving up and such an experienced guy as Figueroa will be a good test for him.
– What can you say about the future of young guns: lightweight Dmitry Ganiev (11-0-1, 5 KOs), 25, and junior welterweight Fariz Kazimov (11-1-1, 3 KOs), 22?
– Both of them are going to fight in May, albeit in separate promotions. WBO #15 Ganiev will put his PABA and WBO Asia Pacific belts at stake but his opponent is still unknown. Kazimov has recently recovered from injuries, sustained before and during his fight versus DeMarcus Corley in November. He will headline the Barnaul show, which is going to be co-promoted with local guy Petr Rubtsov. WBO Asia Pacific Youth title will most probably be at stake in this fight.
– We haven’t heard much about one of your most prominent fighters Alisher Rakhimov (20-0, 11 KOs). He is ranked #9 by the WBO at 130lb and #15 by the WBC at 135lb, but at 32 the time is ticking for Alisher. Will you set something special for him?
– We shall try to, at least. I have set my sights on American TV and we shall try to put him into a money fight, which will be broadcasted by one of the cable giants. The work is in progress though.
– You work with a number of lesser-known yet young and capable fighters. Are there any plans you can share with us about them?
– Three of them – Dmitry Mikhailenko (4-0, 1 KO), Fedor Papazov (4-0, 3 KOs) and Lepikhin – should have fought in Krasnodar, but that promotion had fallen apart due to local organizer’s inability. Mikhailenko will be showcased in Barnaul, while Papazov will most probably entertain the local crowd at Vodoley casino in Ekaterinburg. Middleweight Maxim Limonov (12-0, 8 KOs) will also get his chance. There are more interesting boxers around and Fightnews will be informed immediately about their plans.
– Thank you and good luck in future activities.
– Same to you and keep up the good work.