For as much concern expressed over facing Sergey Kovalev this early into his career, fight night can’t come soon enough for Bektemir Melikuziev.
Apparently, it’s the only way he can convince the masses of the crossroads bout arriving right on time.
“This fight just didn’t happen out of the blue; we pushed hard as a team to get this opportunity,” Melikuziev (6-0, 5KOs) told BoxingScene.com ahead of their currently scheduled Jan. 30 clash at a catchweight of 178-pounds. “I know that I’m ready for this fight. People shouldn’t look at my pro record to assume I lack experience. Look back to everything I have accomplished in my amateur career.”
The bout was originally due to take place in Moscow, giving Kovalev an advantage both in location and weight. As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, the event has since relocated to Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, though with the main event now in jeopardy after Kovalev tested positive for synthetic testosterone as discovered during random drug testing as contracted through Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA).
It’s one more edge which the unbeaten 24-year old boxer is willing to concede to the more experienced Kovalev, 13 years his senior.
“I don't like talking, but I said it last night - it makes no difference to me,” Melikuziev said of the positive drug test result. “[J]ust put him in the ring, let us fight regardless.”
Melikuziev (6-0, 5KOs) hit the ground running upon turning pro, three years after capturing a Silver medal for his native Uzbekistan during the 2016 Rio Olympics. His pro debut took place versus 46-fight veteran Martin Fidel Rios in June 2019, with every career fight to date coming versus opposition with more pro fights. The latest came in a 3rd round knockout of Alan Campa last October in Indio, California where Melikuziev now lives and trains.
The upcoming challenge versus Kovalev (34-4-1, 29KOs) is viewed by many as overambitious, with the deck stacked seemingly in favor of the former three-time light heavyweight titlist. The bout takes place in Kovalev’s home country and at a 178-pound limit, well above the optimal prime weight for Melikuziev who plans to contend for his first major title at super middleweight once he gets to that point.
The 178-pound limit allows Kovalev to avoid a deeper than necessary weight cut, while Melikuziev foe will enter the ring at a career-heaviest weight. As far as the southpaw is concerned, the reward will far outweigh the risk.
“We knew when pursuing this fight that we would have to [concede] a weight advantage,” admits Melikuziev. “This was the requirement asked by my opponent to fight at [a maximum weight of] 178 pounds.
“But as long as we train hard and focus on what it takes to win, it won’t be hard for me in the ring. This will prove that I am ready to fight for the world championship in three weight divisions—160-, 168- and 175-pounds.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox