By Keith Idec
Kendall Holt has embraced quite a challenge.
The former WBO junior welterweight champion has signed a contract to face an unbeaten Russian southpaw in Moscow, on less than one month’s notice. While it seems like the deck could be stacked against him in a bout that won’t be televised in the United States, Holt felt as though he couldn’t turn down a purse that’ll exceed $100,000, about five times as much as he would’ve made for a June 22 ESPN2 fight in which the Paterson, N.J., native initially agreed to participate last month.
“I feel good about it,” Holt (28-5, 16 KOs) said of his June 20 fight against Khabib Allakhverdiev (16-0, 7 KOs). “He’s undefeated and he’s a southpaw, but he hasn’t really beaten a lot of good opponents. I’ve fought in a foreign country before [against Colombia’s Ricardo Torres], in my opponent’s backyard, so I’m not worried about that. And it’s a winnable fight. And it’s for an IBF regional title, so we’ll have IBF judges.”
Vladimir Hryunov, Allakhverdiev’s promoter, initially attempted to get another former junior welterweight champion, Zab Judah, to travel to Moscow to face Allakhverdiev. After an impressive ninth-round TKO win against previously unbeaten Vernon Paris (26-1, 15 KOs, 3 NC) on March 24 in Brooklyn, Judah (42-7, 29 KOs, 2 NC) wasn’t interested in risking his No. 1 IBF ranking in Allakhverdiev’s home country.
Hryunov wants to create credibility for Allakhverdiev, who is ranked No. 11 by the WBA. Allakhverdiev’s fight against Holt is not an elimination match for the IBF’s vacant No. 2 spot, but Holt is ranked No. 6 by the IBF and No. 5 by the WBO.
Despite taking the fight against Allakhverdiev on short notice, Holt has been training for a fight for more than a month.
He agreed to box Josesito Lopez (29-4, 17 KOs) on June 22 in an ESPN2 “Friday Night Fights” main event, but Holt decided not to sign a contract after Dan Goossen, Lopez’s promoter, secured Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, Calif., as the site for the fight. Holt was concerned about boxing Lopez, of nearby Riverside, Calif., outside during the summer in Southern California, especially since their 12-round IBF elimination match would’ve started before the sun went down.
Holt had hoped to get the Lopez fight rescheduled for sometime in July, at another venue, but Lopez pounced on a more lucrative opportunity to face former welterweight champ Victor Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 KOs) on June 23 at Staples Center before those talks took place between Goossen and Gary Shaw, Holt’s promoter.
Holt, who’ll turn 31 on Monday, most recently scored a second-round technical knockout victory over Baltimore’s Tim Coleman (19-3-1, 5 KOs). Holt dropped Coleman four times in that fight, which was televised as an ESPN2 “Friday Night Fights” main event March 16 from Cabazon, Calif.
Allakhverdiev stopped Colombia’s Ignacio Mendoza (34-7-2, 22 KOs) in the seventh round of his last fight, Feb. 8 in Moscow. The 29-year-old Allakhverdiev recorded the most noteworthy win of his five-year pro career in his previous fight, a six-round technical decision against former lightweight champion Nate Campbell (35-9-1, 26 KOs, 1 NC) on Sept. 25 in Krasnodar, Russia. Campbell was 39 when Allakhverdiev defeated him.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.