By Jake Donovan
Hassan N’Dam N’Jikan re-entered the alphabet title fray with a 12-round decision win over Max Bursak in their middleweight fight Friday evening at Palais des Sport Marcel Cerdan, Levallois-Perret, France.
The battle of unbeaten middleweights was awkward at times, with frequent clinching and grappling. N’Dam N’Jikan even found himself halfway through the ropes at one point due to a clinch that turned into a tackle.
Once actual fighting commenced, N’Dam N’Jikan was largely in control, working his jab and using lateral movement to disrupt Bursak’s rhythm. On occasions where it called for trading punches, N’Dam N’Jikam had no problem planting his feet and letting his hands go.
The crowd came alive in the seventh round when N’Dam N’Jikan had Bursak in trouble. A combination at center ring began the rally, highlighted by a perfectly placed left hook behind the high guard of Bursak. A follow-up straight right, left hook combo had the Ukrainian challenger in trouble, but N’Dam N’Jikan was unable to land that one final shot to close the show.
As quickly as the crowd was ready to crown its house fighter as a new champ, shaky moments were endured prior to the championship rounds. N’Dam N’Jikan was in trouble towards the end of the ninth round as Bursak came alive for the first time since the earlier rounds.
Defense was key to the recovery in the tenth, with N’Dam N’Jikan slipping incoming right hands as Bursak was unsuccessful in capitalizing on his earlier momentum. It appeared to be a moment passed as N’Dam N’Jikan went back to circling the perimeter of the ring. Bursak never stopped pursuing but eventually ran out of time.
N’Dam N’Jikan improves to 27-0 (17KO) with the win. No signs of ring rust were evident in what served as his first fight since last April.
Bursak falls to 24-1-1 (10KO), falling short in his first fight outside of his native Ukraine.
While nothing is guaranteed, N’Dam N’Jikan is once again in line for a hoped-for title shot. The same was believed when the Cameroon-born middleweight – now based out of France – picked up an interim belt in late 2010, hoping it would lead to a title fight with Felix Sturm.
The plan now is to pursue a title fight with Dmitry Pirog, with recent news falling in N’Dam N’Jikan’s favor. The sanctioning body who now recognizes both fighters as a champ refused to sign off on a proposed summer unification match between Pirog and Daniel Geale, a fight that piqued the interest of American cable giant HBO.
Contingency plans are already being sought by Geale, eyeing potential showdowns with Sturm or Martin Murray in the event of the unification bout falling through. That would leave Pirog to defend against his new mandatory.
That would put N’Dam N’Jikan in a very good position this summer. Until then, he can only hope his second tour as an interim champ leads to something far more permanent.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]