Artem Dalakian had to laugh at the familiar sound that came from the other side of the dais.
The WBA flyweight titlist is poised for a dangerous clash versus mandatory challenger David Jimenez. The unbeaten boxers meet at OVO Arena Wembley in London (Saturday, BT Sport/ESPN+, 7:30 p.m. GMT/2:30 p.m. ET), where Dalakian will attempt the sixth defense of the crown he has held since a twelve-round decision over 2004 U.S. Olympian and former two-division titlist Brian Viloria in their February 2018 vacant title fight in Inglewood, California.
Dating back to that night, the claim from every opponent is that the night will end with Dalakian suffering his first defeat. So far, no challenger has even come close to fulfilling that promise.
“This is the sixth time that I’ve heard someone say they’re going to take my title from me,” Dalakian stated during the final pre-fight press conference ahead of this weekend’s title affair. “Everyone has failed so far; I will still be champion after Saturday.”
The only uncertainty on Dalakian’s end was the landing point for his next title fight.
The 35-year-old ethnic Armenian—born in Azerbaijan but who is based out of Kiev, Ukraine—has fought in Kiev for each of his five title defenses. The most recent came in a ninth-round knockout of former WBA titlist Luis Concepcion in November 2021, with the ongoing Russo-Ukraine war leaving Dalakian (21-0, 15KOs) without a fight for all of 2022.
A mandatory title defense was ordered versus Costa Rica’s Jimenez (12-0, 9KOs), who entered the mix following an upset win over Ricardo Sandoval last July 16 in Los Angeles.
The two agreed to terms, contingent upon finding a home for their title shot. Union Boxing, Dalakian’s promoter, reached a deal with Queensberry Promotions’ founder, Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren who agreed to stage the fight on the undercard of the Artur Beterbiev-Anthony Yarde lineal and unified light heavyweight championship.
Dalakian left no stone unturned. Among his sparring partners for this weekend’s title fight include a pair of former lower weight titlist and current 115-pound contenders Francisco ‘Chihuas’ Rodriguez (36-6-1, 25KOs) and Pedro Guevara (39-3-1, 22KOs), along with two more junior bantamweights in Argentina’s Kevin Munoz (15-1, 6KOs) and Yorkshire’s Joe Maphosa (14-1, 1KO).
The idea is to win on Saturday and then join the fray in a planned—but still largely unofficial—tournament between all the top flyweights.
IBF champ Sunny Edwards (19-0, 4KOs) and WBC titlist Julio Cesar Martinez (19-2, 14KOs) serve as the class of the division. Former WBC junior bantamweight titleholder Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez (17-0, 11KOs) is due to face Mexico’s Cristian Gonzalez (15-1, 5KOs) for the vacant WBO flyweight title on April 8 in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas.
“I’m going to make sure I leave the ring with my title again and remain in position to face the other champions in unification bouts,” vowed Dalakian.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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