By Alexey Sukachev
Last Saturday night in Ekaterinburg, WBO middleweight champion Dmitry Pirog (18-0, 14 KOs) retained his title with a harder-than-expected win over little-known Argentinean Javier Francisco Maciel (18-2, 12 KOs). The only active Russian champion in the world was never been in serious trouble and easily cruised to a comfortable, unanimous decision., many thought he would have handled Maciel a different (and more painful) way.
BoxingScene contacted Pirog’s Russian co-promoter German Titov to his thoughts about Dmitry Pirog, his victory over Maciel, his future, and to discuss other fights from the show. Titov was the main organizer of an entire event, which also saw a heated collision between supreme lightweights Rustam Nugaev (21-6-1, 12 KOs) and Alisher Rakhimov (22-0, 11 KOs), a heavyweight cross-roader involving Vyacheslav Glazkov (9-0, 6 KOs) and Denis Bakhtov (33-6, 23 KOs) and 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz (9-0, 6 KOs).
- German, give us your thoughts on the show.
- It was a successful installment. Not everything was as smooth as I had expected beforehand but this event was nice. We lit up the crowd with thrilling fights, smashing knockouts and skillful performers. We also proved that Russia can be a lucrative place for holding a championship fight even outside of Moscow. Both I and Kirill Pchelnikov have done a huge amount of work in bringing world-class professional boxing to Ekaterinburg, and we are happy with the outcome.
- However, the featured bout wasn’t particularly satisfying for local fans. Personally, Dmitry Pirog had not looked as unimpressive as he did on Saturday night for quite a wgile Even though, he has enjoyed a convincing decision on all ju…
- (Cutting in) Yes, I know. Indeed, Dmitry didn’t look as he was in the best shape possible. In fact, he wasn’t at his best shape, and there are two main reasons for that. The first reason is that Pirog suffered a bad injury a week before the fight. It was totally secret; we decided neither to speak anything about it beforehand or to create any pitiful excuses in regards to our future performance. Dmitry experienced a dangerous jam of his cervical nerve; he was unable even to turn his head. Thankfully, we introduced him to a skillful chiropractor whose help couldn’t be overestimated. Still, Pirog was unable to train properly for a week and all he did were media sessions and meetings with cameramen. That was really bad. I even suggested to Dmitry to cancel the entire show. I could have gone this way even though my own brand would have suffered reparable damages – both in terms of financial and reputation. To his credit, Dmitry insisted on going on even under such harsh circumstances and I have nothing but bless words for him. He not only saved the show; but he retained his title under fire and proved he is a real champion.
Don’t get me wrong. We were ready to make a no-show as we do care about our champion’s health. But unlike some German champions, whom I don’t even want to point at, are ready to withdraw with minor injuries or with light diarrhea. Dmitry chose not to disappoint his fans and fought with limited mobility which speaks volumes about his character. But enough of this. The second reason is that Pirog is a pugilist who fights up/down to the level of his opposition. That’s why he looked great against dangerous types like Daniel Jacobs and (previously) Kuvanych Toygonbayev and Aslanbek Kodzoev. When he sees no threat to him as was the case in Maciel fight and also against Geard Ajetovic, Kofi Jantuah or Eric Mitchell - he turns a real contest into a training session. I know he wasn’t working at his maximum ability. He was just toying with Maciel even despite his trauma. That is not too good for us (and me as his promoter) and we would have been delighted had he scored a knockout instead. But he is comfortable with this. He is that type of fighter. He needs a challenge to summon the best in himself. Yes, I agree he didn’t look particularly exciting but that is who he is.
- Can we just say Maciel was wrong type opponent?
- We can say so. Of all the possible opponents Maciel was the worst. First, he isn’t known overseas and in Europe. He is just a no name but with sound fundamentals and somewhat good skills. He is no pushover like some other fighters in the ranks. And he is very unorthodox. That’s why this fight turned to be so hard for Pirog. We would have fought such fighters as Ishe Smith or Ossie Duran instead but we weren’t allowed to do so. I don’t want to get into details but Maciel wasn’t the best choice by any means.
- Wouldn’t it have been more reasonable to bring in such fighters as WBO #15 Peter Mashamaite or WBO #12 John Anderson Carvalho?
- No! That’s wrong. Surely, Dmitry would have wiped them out in two or three rounds but what would have he got out of that? I doubt that there would have been something useful for him. And people would have laughed at us for such a poor choice. Hell no! We aren’t here to be in clown shoes.
- What is next for Dmitry?
- Firstly, we shall take a short rest and then we shall weigh-in all the options. Right now, Team Pirog is in negotiations with HBO to get a date in June or July. That would be a fascinating opportunity and we are working hard to bring Dmitry his deserved chance. Our main task is to sign a marquee fighter who is known well in the States. Such fighters as Ishe Smith, Fernando Guerrero or Peter Manfredo Jr. are our most desired candidates. They are well-known in America and they can bring somewhat huge interest from TV bosses.
- What if it’s not the case?
- Well, we have also a mandatory challenger in fellow compatriot and WBO #1 Gennady Martirosian (21-2, 10 KOs). Gennady is a good fighter but this match is hardly realizable. There is no such money in Russia. TV bosses here aren’t interested in the country’s only world champion. And we cannot afford to be spending all of our money for barely recognizable defenses. China can be a good solution as there are sponsors who are ready to invest in this project. But HBO is surely the main priority.
- Based of Pirog’s less-than-stellar performance on Saturday, can you say that HBO’s interest in Dmitry has lowered?
- No, I can’t. HBO is still interested in Pirog.
- There were rumors you had rejected a date on HBO in late 2010 or in early 2011. Is there any truth to it?
- No, you were misinformed. We are ready to fight on HBO as soon as we have a date – no doubt about it. There were talks immediately after the Jacobs fight but we haven’t been offered any suitable date and there were no later offers up until now.
- Sampson Lewkowicz, who works as an adviser for Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez, told Pirog not to mention his name in the same sentence with the world’s leading middleweight.
- Yeah, whatever. These words are predictable. Let’s put it this way: Team Martinez at this time doesn’t want a piece of Dmitry Pirog. They don’t want to fight us. But the truth is that they have no other choice. This fight will be done in future.
- The real barnburner of the show was a lightweight collision between Alisher Rakhimov and Rustam Nugaev. What is next for Rakhimov after this entertaining victory?
- That was a huge victory, indeed. And both fighters gave their all to produce the best fight of the night. Rakhimov is simply marvelous to show what he has shown at his age (33 years) and in the weight class he barely belongs to. Rakhimov is at an advanced age but he isn’t a spent bullet. His conditioning is phenomenal as is his skills. We shall try to secure Alisher a title fight by the end of the year at the super featherweight limit or bring a really sound name to Russia for a remarkable showdown. Lightweight is swarmed with stars and we are ready to get one. If not, there’s less stellar 130lb weight class but champions there can be offered a nice sum to travel to Russia for a fight. That’s our plan.
- What is next for Felix Diaz and Vyacheslav Glazkov?
- First of all, I’m happy both of them won their fights in impressive fashion. Glazkov is undeniably a huge talent and he showed why when he schooled such a rugged pug as Denis Bakhtov. It’s true that Bakhtov’s conditions were way far from his best but he never tried pressuring Glazkov. The fact Glazkov, who is still learning and who still doesn’t have enough stamina to fight in eight-rounders, outpointed Bakhtov so handily, speaks much of his potential. Diaz’s potential is not any lower. I’m sure he would have looked every bit as good as Slava had he fought former champion Nuzhnenko instead of Berdyshev. Both Glazkov and Diaz will appear in the States for their fights in May. Glazkov will take part in eight-rounder and Diaz will fight for a regional title. If America isn’t a possibility, I shall bring them to Russia.
- Grigoriy Drozd (32-1, 23 KOs) has recently come back after a lengthy lay-off. Is he serious about fighting this time or not? When will he fight again?
- Drozd will be back somewhere in autumn. I’m still not still if he has it in him anymore. We shall see if his comeback is for real or not.