By Alexey Sukachev
2012 turned to be the best year in Denis Shafikov’s rising career. After a lazy 2011 and struggles with multiple injuries, inferior opposition and promotional problems in 2010, the highly talented switch-hitter from Miass, Russia, re-activated himself with zeal and almost regained his 2009 level of activity (five fights and five wins) albeit versus much better opposition.
Shafikov, still just 27, overwhelmed Lee McAllister in Scotland and avenged the only blemish on his resume – a draw with Italy-based Cuban veteran Brunet Zamora – in the first half of the year, then tuned-up against rugged Kenyan James Onyango and finally unleashed his energy against dangerous Ghanaian Albert Mensah to take a wide unanimous decision in the IBF semi-eliminator on Dec. 1.
Four wins with two defenses of the European title and the runaway win in Mexico positioned light welterweight Shafikov (31-0-1, 17 KOs) as a viable contender for the top honours in one of the sport’s most heated weight classes, earning him IBF #2 and WBC #3 ranks at 140lbs. However, Shafikov’s road to the glory can take another direction – through the backdoor and to a lower floor.
“I have decided to move down in weight”, confirmed Shafikov to BoxingScene.com. “I can easily make the 135lb limit. In fact, my usual weight is about 150 lbs in daily life. Against Mensah, when I trained under the guidance of such a renowned pair of coaches as Chepo and Eddie Reynoso, I tipped the scale at 137.5 pounds without limiting myself in any food or water supplies. That’s funny. More interesting is the fact that I weighed-in at about 137 lbs after the normal course of conditioning and a light gym work after it. So I feel it won’t be too hard for me to make the lightweight limit”.
“Indeed, Denis will continue his career at a lower weight class”, said Shafikov’s representative Oleg Bogdanov in his conversation with BoxingScene. “That doesn’t mean, however, that we won’t be back to the light welterweight limit, if the opportunity looms. Denis is ranked #2 by the IBF, and we are watching carefully for the upcoming battle between Lamont Peterson and Kendall Holt. The WBC is also one of our main priorities to develop along with at this point of Shafikov’s career. Right now, however, we are planning some activities at 135 lbs.
Shafikov relinquished his European junior welterweight belt earlier this year. Under the guidance of Ural Boxing Promotion, whom he has recently signed an agreement with, Denis hopes to get a chance to fight for a world title in the near future.
“We hope to get a shot at the title sooner than later, and possibly in 2013”, told Bogdanov. “Next for us is a ring return somewhere in late February or in early March. We are planning a ten- or a twelve-rounder for Denis within one of American top networks. An opponent will be named a bit later. Denis heads to the States on January 15. He will take a two-week long camp in Wild Card Gym under the tutelage of Freddie Roach. Plans are really big for 2013."