SAN ANTONIO – If an immediate rematch with Brian Castano isn’t next for Jermell Charlo, Bakhram Murtazaliev wants his overdue title shot.
Russia’s Murtazaliev has been the IBF’s mandatory challenger for Charlo’s junior middleweight title since November 2019, when Julian Williams owned it. The unbeaten contender has accepted back-to-back fights on Charlo’s undercards while waiting for his championship chance.
Murtazaliev (19-0, 14 KOs) convincingly beat Khiary Gray by unanimous decision in their eight-rounder Saturday night before Houston’s Charlo (34-1-1, 18 KOs) and Argentina’s Castano (17-0-2, 12 KOs) fought to a controversial split draw in the 12-round main event at AT&T Center.
“The deal is in place,” Kathy Duva, Murtazaliev’s promoter, told BoxingScene.com. “But last time it was in place, too, and [PBC] came and they said, ‘We’ll give you another fight.’ And they gave us really good terms, so we said OK.”
Duva believes it is Murtazaliev’s turn according to the rotation for mandatory defenses among the three organizations with which Charlo holds titles – the IBF, WBA and WBC.
“But this is boxing,” she said. “Nothing is certain.”
Murtazaliev suffered a flash knockdown during the first round of his previous fight, a fourth-round stoppage of journeyman Manny Woods (17-12-1, 6 KOs) on the Charlo-Jeison Rosario undercard September 26 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Gray (16-6, 12 KOs) buzzed Murtazaliev in the third round Saturday night, but Murtazaliev mostly battered the gutsy Gray during a one-sided encounter he won by scores of 79-73, 79-73 and 78-74.
“When you’re fighting someone and you know he can’t hurt you,” Duva said, “you start taking stupid chances. And that’s what he did. Unfortunately, I think what he did is he got anxious. He wanted to knock [Gray] out and he got careless, and paid the price. Better he do that now, look at that tape and say, ‘You do that against Charlo, you’re not walking out of that ring under your own power.’ ”
The 28-year-old Murtazaliev became the IBF’s mandatory challenger by beating Spain’s Jorge Fortea (21-3-1, 7 KOs) by unanimous decision in an IBF elimination match in November 2019 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“He’s been wanting this [title] fight a long time,” Duva said. “He’s frustrated. He’s been working with [veteran trainer] Virgil [Hunter]. He’s been making progress with him. That’s part of the reason we didn’t argue about him taking these couple extra fights. I think it was good for him.”
Nevertheless, Murtazaliev wants to challenge Charlo next.
“Bakhram has been waiting,” Duva said. “With the pandemic and everything else that was going on, and him working with Virgil, there was no reason to make a stink about it. But he is next in line and he wants the fight. We’ll see what happens.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.