By Alexey Sukachev
Upon entering the high waters of the light welterweight division, Mexican superstar Juan Manuel Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KOs) got to experience a battle with an Eastern European veteran. In April, Marquez, who recently celebrated his 39th birthday, acquired the vacant WBO-interim junior welterweigh title by delivering a sound boxing lesson to a skilled Ukrainian technician, Sergey Fedchenko (30-2, 13 KOs). The latter is just one-fifth of a huge ex-Soviet presence in this particular weight class, which also consists of a trio of undefeated Russian prospects - Denis Shafikov and Khabib Allakhverdiev (17-0, 8 KOs) and Ukrainian stylist Victor Postol (19-0, 9 KOs), as well as battle-tested slugger Ruslan Provodnikov (22-1, 15 KOs).
A few weeks ago, Marquez's interim title was elevated to the full championship belt after WBO welterweight king Timothy Bradley announced that he was vacating his belt at 140 and remaining in the welterweight division.
Rumors recently broke out that Provodnikov, who has a good following in America and a tough reputation, is being considered as a potential opponent for Marquez. But another Russian junior welterweight, European champion Denis Shafikov (29-0-1, 17 KOs), is ensured that a true evaluation of the Mexican´s stature at 140 can only be tested by him.
"Marquez is an all-time great but I feel his days as an elite prizefighter are numbered. He is slowly running out of boxing fuel, his tank is inevitably emptying, and he definitely has a limited number of fights left in him. I guess he is ready to retire sooner than later, and I´m one to accomplish this honorary task," proclaimed Shafikov through his manager and trustee Oleg Bogdanov.
"I´m on the top of my game, and I´m ready to deliver it big. Ruslan (Provodnikov) is an entertaining brawler but he is limited to a degree, and his defense sucks as well. I´m a better boxer than both him and Sergey Fedchenko, who gave Juam Manuel some rocky moments in their fight. JMM will be very surprized after he tastes my skill set and a power of a real player in the field", added Denis.
Shafikov, 27, is rated #8 by the WBC and #10 by The Ring magazine. He is 3-0, 2 KOs, in the EBU title fights in less than a year since capturing the title against opposition with an overall record of 108-9-2 - beating the likes of Guiseppe Lauri (52-7) and Lee McAllister (34-2) and avenging the sole blemish of his rocketing career - a draw with the Italy-based Cubano Brunet Zamora (22-0-2) - in a convincing style.