By Luke Furman
In a whirlwind day, Fres Oquendo is officially back in the fight and has boarded a plane in Chicago. Oquendo is on his way to Grozny to face former champion Ruslan Chagaev for the vacant WBA 'regular' heavyweight title. Earlier today, the promoters in Grozny said Oquendo has pulled out due to a passport issue and they were about to replace him with Alexander Petkovic (49-4-4, 27KOs), which would have been a non-title fight.
The fight has been the center of controversy for several weeks, with Oquendo's promoters, Bobby Hitz and Square Ring, claiming the boxer took the fight without their permission and they were attempting to legally cancel the contest. An agreement was reached between all of the parties and now Oquendo is ready for action.
There has been lots of confusion over the last couple of days regarding this Sunday's (July 6th) WBA world heavyweight championship bout between Ruslan Chagaev and Fres Oquendo in Grozny. Rumors said that the fight was off after Oquendo failing to board his plane to Russia twice due to family issues. Possible replacements such as former world champion Shannon Briggs, WBA #9 rated contender Alexander Ustinov and former WBA international champion Alexander Petkovic were waiting in line to jump in as last-minute replacements to get a title shot.
But now they all know that they will have to wait for their opportunity. Because Oquendo and his team finally boarded the plane to leave Chicago today to make it to Grozny in time for the weigh-in. "The fight has never been officially off", says promoter Timur Dugazaev. "We were always hoping that Fres Oquendo would be able to make it. We understand that he was facing some serious problems over the last week with close family members getting sick and having to go to hospital. But still he will keep his word, fulfill his contract and take his chance to become heavyweight champion of the world."
Oquendo repeatedly asked for another postponement of the fight which war originally scheduled for June 7th and had already been pushed back for four weeks because of contractual issues between Oquendo and his former promoters. "All those problems haven been solved", adds Dugazaev. "The last days have been a true war of nerves. We had to cancel TV and photo shootings, the press conference and a public workout. But the most important thing is that the big show can still go on. We could not postpone the event because we have prepared everything in 30,000 seat Ahmat Arena. And we have all the celebrities here who actually arrived before our main event fighter. Now I am just happy that we're good to go."
"You have to understand that the whole city of Grozny is full of 50 feet high posters and banners with Oquendo's face and name on it", states Dugazaev. "How should I have explained to people that the guy in the ring is not the guy on all the advertisement? I'm glad that I don't have to worry about that anymore. Although it also made us proud that so many good fighters would have accepted the bout on short notice. That shows that we cannot have done everything wrong."
Luke Furman covers boxing for bokser.org.