By Peter Lim
Bahodir Mamadjonov, 11-0 (7 KOs) squares off against Darley Perez, 25-0 (19 KOs), this Friday at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa in California. Scheduled for 10 rounds, the showdown between undefeated lightweights will be aired on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights.
On paper at least, Mamadjonov looks to be a huge underdog. But he did not build his record entirely on the usual staple of palookas so typical of fighters at this early juncture of their careers. Mamadjonov's manager Ken Richardson can never be accused of treating him with kid gloves.
In his second outing as a pro, Mamadjonov stopped a 3-1 fighter in two rounds. In his seventh and ninth bouts, he outpointed opponents with records of 12-1 and 42-6 respectively, both on their home turf.
He was supposed to take on Brandon Bennett, 14-0 (7 KOs), next in what would have been an intriguing, dead even match-up, but the fight fell through. At the same time, Perez' original opponent Michael Katsidis suffered a knee injury and had to withdraw three weeks before the bout. Mamadjonov, 25, agreed to fill the void despite the disparity in experience.
"Yes, his record is better than mine but I'm going to win," Mamadjonov said. "I want to be in his position when I beat him."
As manager, Richardson had the power of veto but opted not to use it.
“I asked him if this was too soon and he said, ‘Let’s do it, coach. This is what we’ve been waiting for,’” Richardson said.
“That’s what he wanted when he first came here. He wanted to be recognized as a top prospect so we’ll see what happens. Boxing is funny right now, there’s a lot of politics in boxing and we just had this opportunity happen sooner rather than later.”
"Every fights a gamble," Richardson added. "But I know what that kid brings to the table and I know what my kid brings to the table in every fight."
Having had Perez on his radar since they were both amateurs, Mamadjonov knows what to expect. Perez, 28, had an extensive amateur career that included competing in the 2008 Olympics, so Mamadjonov is well aware that he is more technically proficient than the garden variety Colombian tough guy. A southpaw, Mamadjonov hinted that he will have an ace up his sleeve come fight night but declined to elaborate.
"He's strong, he's fast, he has a big heart and he can punch. He can move and he can fight," Mamadjonov said. "But I have some plans for this fight."
Boxing since he was six, Mamadjonov fought over 170 amateur bouts in his native Uzbekistan before relocating to Houston where he was taken under the wing of Richardson and 1984 Olympic gold medalist Frank Tate. He has averaged a fight every five weeks since joining the pro ranks last May.