By Jake Donovan
Richard Commey and Denis Shafikov easily made weight ahead of their lightweight title eliminator Friday evening at Tough Fight Gym in Moscow, Russia.
Commey was just under the mark at 134.75 lbs., while Shafikov registered slightly lighter at 134.25 lbs.
The winner will become the mandatory challenger to Robert Easter Jr., who edged out Commey to win the vacant title in a thriller this past September.
The loss was the first for Commey (24-1, 22KOs), who entered the bout riding a five-fight knockout streak. Included among the lot was an impressive 8th round stoppage of Bahodir Mamadjonov last May in Las Vegas. The bout was his first of two in the United States – his loss to Easter being the other – among the seven different countries the well-traveled contender from Ghana will have fought in his last 10 ring appearances come Friday.
“Team Commey has arrived safe and well in Russia and the hospitality has been good,” noted Commey (24-1, 22KOs). “[T]he only problem has been the weather, it’s cold. Apart from that I am pleased to be here and to get another shot at being the mandatory challenger for the World title as it has always been my dream to become a World Champion.”
To do so, he will have to get past a determined Shafikov (37-2-1, 12KOs), who – with a win on Friday – will look to hope that the third time is a charm in his world title quest.
The 31-year old southpaw has only suffered two losses in his career, both coming in title bouts. His first came in a disappointing 12-round decision defeat at the hands of then-lightweight titlist Miguel Vasquez in Feb. ’14. Three wins later he was back on the title stage, starting strong before fading late versus Rances Barthelemy in their vacant title fight last December.
That very same IBF belt once again became vacant and was at stake in Commey’s aforementioned loss to Easter. A shot at that prize is also in store for Friday’s winner. Shafikov earned his way back to this point following a stunningly one-sided stoppage win over 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team captain and previously unbeaten Jamel Herring in July.
“I know Denis Shafikov is a tough opponent and he brings a lot of experience having challenged for the World title twice before,” acknowledges Commey. “I will have to be on top form and fully focused to come away from Russia with the victory. My training has gone well and my trainer Carl Lokko has pulled out all the stops in getting me the right sparring for this fight.”