By Don Smith
It is too early to predict how 2017 will rank with previous boxing years; but, the PBC promoted show set for 1/28/17 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas offers a star studded boxing lineup that should produce a lot of cheers from fans seated at the venue and spectators who stay at home and watch 3 champions defend their title against very challenging opponents on Showtime.
In the Main Event, consensus 2016 fighter of the year Carl “The Jackal” Frampton (23-0-14 knockouts) defends his WBA featherweight crown against former 3 time division champion Leo “El Terremoto” Santa Cruz (32-1-1-18 knockouts), the man he took the title away from In July 2016. It was a war to remember and both fighters promise more of the same intense action.
In the Co-Main Event, gritty Montenegrin Native Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0-15 knockouts) will defend his World Boxing Council Lightweight title against former 2 division world champion Mikey Garcia (35-0-29 knockouts). Zlaticanin is the second foe for Garcia since his 2 ½ self-imposed retirement began after his heated dispute with Top Rank Boxing. After a bitter verbal battle, TR released the 29 year-old Garcia who returned to the ring in July 2016 with a 5th round stoppage of former WBC featherweight champion Elio Rojas after knocking Rojas 4 times in the fight.
The third title tiff on the Showtime presentation features the pride of Wales Lee Selby (23-1-8 knockouts) defending his IBF world featherweight belt against Argentinean Jonathan Barros (41-4-22 knockouts).
Zlaticanin, WBC Lightweight Champion since he captured the crown on June 11, 2016, is trained by Jose Benavidez Sr.
The winner of the Zlaticanin/Garcia title bout will be in a position to challenge one of the three other reigning lightweight champions: Jorge Linares (WBA & The Ring), Robert Easter Jr. (IBF) and Terry Flanagan (WBO). Also waiting in the wings is Phoenix lightweight Ray Beltran who has already challenged Mikey Garcia and Beltran is sure Garcia will defeat the WBC lightweight king from Montenegro- Zlaticanin thinks differently!
ABNN: Odds makers have you losing your WBC World Lightweight Title to former two division title holder Mikey Garcia on January 28, 2017 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Do you feel disrespected and if so, does that motivate you?
DZ: I don’t pay attention to odds makers, I convinced them many times that they are wrong and I will do the same once again and they will lose their money.
ABNN: light heavyweight boxer Bosko Draskovic represented your country (Montenegro) in the 2012 Olympics; did you aspire to be an Olympian?
DZ: When I was an amateur boxer, I was dreaming of becoming a professional champion of the world and now I make my dream come true. Amateur boxing can’t even compare with professional boxing, the name tells you everything-amateur; so it’s not worth talking about!
ABNN: Garcia is 3 inches taller than you, do you have to fight inside to win and do you stand by your prediction of a knockout victory?
DZ: This question is hard to answer; it depends on what will be his tactic; if he fights toe to toe he will be knocked out, but if he wants to fight from a distance, I will find a way to his head and hurt him.
ABNN: Montenegro is better known for developing soccer players than boxers, what has your winning the WBC World Lightweight title done for the sport of boxing in your homeland?
DZ: For now nothing has changed except I have become a hero to young people who love sports. In our country, situation is very bad, they want to mix sport with politics and I don’t want that. I think sports need to connect people not separate them.
ABNN: Your hometown of Podgorica, Montenegro is a 13 hour & 5 minute flight (6,304.7 miles) to Las Vegas site of your 1/28 fight with Mikey Garcia. When you make a flight of such great length, how do you preoccupy your time while in the air?
DZ: On every long pilot, I go to the pilot and ask him/her to allow me to fly the plane; ha-ha! I’m joking of course, on long flight I behave like all other passengers, I watch TV, listen to music and I take a book(s) to read.
ABNN: Does your fighting from a natural southpaw stance give you an advantage when you fight Garcia on 1/28?
DZ: Yes, I think my southpaw stance will give me a distinct advantage and the success of my left will disarm him and cause problems for him.* forwarded answer was hard to understand, so ABNN took a cautious effort to rewrite it for the benefit of the reader; hope we got it right.
ABNN: Given the length of flight, how many of your fellow Montenegrins do you expect to travel to the venue from Montenegro to watch you defend your title? And if they stay home to watch the telecast on Showtime, at what time will they be watching it live in your native land; if they decide to stay up?
DZ: Yes, a lot of them will arrive to watch me, they already but the tickets for the fight on the internet and also there will be a lot of people from my country who live here in the U.S. For them who watch it on Showtime from Montenegro, air time for my fight is 4 a.m. home
ABNN: Garcia has won two world titles at lighter eight divisions; does give you an advantage since you have more experience than the former champ who has only 1 fight (last year) as a lightweight.
DZ: Yes, that can be to my advantage because my body is used being on that weight for a long-time. I think everything will be changed when he feels how strong I am and I will not be scared like his former opponents. I will be smart, Strong and patient. I am a champion and my Green belt isn’t going anywhere.
ABNN: How did you develop your self-confidence and if you weren’t a fighter, what would your profession be?
DZ: Self-confidence, I develop in my head, I believe in myself, I believe in and he gives me strength, without God, people are empty. And with all that, motivates me that I need to secure a better life for my family. I Have a daughter, Sofja and she is my life.
ABNN: If you do beat Garcia, you will become an even bigger boxing star, what will do you with the increased celebrity; should you win?
DZ: Yes, after beating Garcia I will become a bigger star than I am now. What will I do after that...nothing! I will be the same as now, standing firm on the ground and I will do the job I love and that’s boxing.