By Alexey Sukachev
Sometimes, patience is everything… It took Denis Shafikov (33-0-1, 18 KOs) over ten years of hard, diligent work to finally find his golden opportunity. This Saturday night IBF/WBO #3 lightweight faces reigning long-time IBF champion Miguel Vasquez (33-3, 13 KOs) at Cotai Arena in Far Eastern jewel of Macao. After years of fighting on Finnish and then the European boxing circuit, the Russian stylist has finally secured his title chance. It depends on Shafikov and his team, which version of Genghis Khan will appear on February 22, and if this version of Miass native is able to realize his life-long dream or not.
One man, who has been standing behind Shafikov all these years, one who is a very important part of Shafikov’s state equation, is his manager Oleg Bogdanov. BoxingScene communicated with Oleg to know more about Shafikov’s present state, a future fight, and some other Bogdanov’s activities.
- How things have been going on recently?
- Perfectly if you ask me. We’ve conducted a very fruitful stage of the preparations, while training at Wild Card Gym in LA for about six weeks. Denis has been working hard under the guidance of Ernie Zavala and with overall tutelage of Freddie Roach. On Feb. 9 the whole team flew over the Pacific Ocean to arrive in Macao for further acclimatization and another stage of our camp.
- Whom has Denis sparred with in LA?
- Three American fighters but, frankly speaking, I cannot remember two names from this short list. One, who has definitely helped us big time, is Stan “The Man” Martyniouk (13-1, 2 KOs), a perfect boxer, who was very useful during various phases of the camp.
- Miguel Vazquez is quite possibly the best lightweight in the world today. How big this challenge is?
- It’s the biggest in Shafikov’s entire career. But you know what? Denis is absolutely quiet and calm. He isn’t nervous or overly pumped up. His task is to enter the ring and to do his job – nothing other than that. People say Vazquez is this and that but it doesn’t matter at the end of the day, because he is a human being at the very first place. This means he is beatable. Moreover, I don’t feel Vazquez has any advantage over Denis. He is not as fast, he doesn’t hit as hard, and his chin isn’t superior to that of Denis too. He is tricky and cagey and experienced but I’m positively ensured that Denis will do his best work on Feb 22.
- The fight will be aired on HBO 2 and it will also be broadcasted worldwide. Meanwhile, the IBF champion has a bit of a spoiler core, while Denis isn’t an all-out brawler too. Can this fight turn into a horrid stinker?
- You are absolutely right, except for “a bit”. Vazquez is a spoiler and he will try to smother Denis, to make him very uncomfortable. He will try to run, to stick-and-move to prevent heated exchanges and to turn it into a sophisticated and dreadful chess match… Shafikov won’t buy into it. He will not play this game. Our plan is to go out seeking Vazquez for a beating. Denis will not box, he will try to break the Mexican fighter, and I’m absolutely sure that he will do it to become the next great Russian champion.
- Aside Shafikov, whom you are working with now?
- Vitaliy Kopylenko (22-0, 12 KOs) is my new protégé. His career reminds me of Denis Shafikov’s career. He has a perfect record but he is almost unknown in Europe, despite getting some quality wins and showing tremendous skills. When his promoter Michelle Barra has tragically passed away, we decided to relocate him to the States. Then Kopylenko signed with Arthur Pellulo’s Banner Promotions.
- I said “we” because I’m co-managing his career alongside Vadim Kornilov, the manager of Ruslan Provodnikov, Egor Mekhontsev and some other fighters. My partnership with Vadim has been getting stronger and more lucrative day after day. I think we shall form a great team… As for Vitaliy, he will now compete in a huge ESPN tourney at the middleweight limit. His first opponent is Cerresso Fort (17-2-1, 11 KOs). The fight takes its place on Feb. 28.
- Anyone else to look at?
- Kirill Pchelnikov in assistance with our Uzbek partners Ruslan Dadakhanov and Akmal Aslanov made a small tourney a week ago. Sherzod Husanov headlined the show and won big against Carlos Adan Jerez. But probably even more impressive was 2012 Uzbek Olympian Uktamjon Rahmonov. This kid debuted last November and is 2-0 now. He imposed a frightful beating on Kenyan James Onyango (16-8-1, 14 KOs) and drubbed him even worse than Denis did. Onyango was nearly stopped in that six-rounder. Rahmonov is a complete package. He was a quarterfinalist of London Olympics and gave a stern resistance to Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo, a future champion from Cuba. I hope to guide him to new heights pretty soon.
- Are there any unsigned fighters we should look at?
- I will not disclose any names but keep a close eye on my roster. I’m planning to work with a pair of European amateur champions in the nearest future. Those amateur standouts are about to produce some fireworks. I’ll try to bring them overseas, so that they will make some long-lasting impression.
Note: The Uzbek tournament took place on February 8 in tashkent. Sherzod Husanov (19-0-1, 8 KOs) swept out Argentinean Carlos Adan Jerez (38-17-3, 18 KOs) over twelve to capture a vacant IBF International light middleweight title. Scores were 120-107 (twice) and 120-106.
In a battle of unbeatens, previously world-rated Ravshan Hudaynazarov (17-0, 13 KOs) stopped Ugandan Mustafa Katende (9-1, 7 KOs) in four. Aik Shakhnazaryan (10-0, 3 KOs) did the same to George Owano (11-10-1, 2 KOs) of Kenya. Finally, local master Bahyt Abdurahimov (11-8, 5 KOs) was upset in an eight-rounder by Ukrainian Ruslan Berchuk (8-3, 4 KOs).Tags: Denis Shafikov , Vitaliy Kopylenko