Bakhram Murtazaliev is training for a fight against a journeyman, yet he also is preparing for what could become the biggest fight of his career.
BoxingScene.com has learned that the unbeaten Russian contender is on standby to replace either Jermell Charlo or Jeison Rosario if either fighter tests positive for COVID-19 or otherwise withdraws from their 154-pound title unification showdown scheduled for next week. Placing potential substitutes for main events on undercards has become common among promoters since boxing resumed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Houston’s Charlo (33-1, 17 KOs) and the Dominican Republic’s Rosario (20-1-1, 14 KOs) are set to square off in a Showtime Pay-Per-View main event September 26 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The 27-year-old Murtazaliev – an Oxnard, California, resident who is trained by Virgil Hunter – is the IBF’s mandatory challenger for Rosario’s junior middleweight title. Murtazaliev (17-0, 13 KOs) is scheduled to meet Manny Woods (16-9-1, 6 KOs), of St. Petersburg, Florida, in a non-televised 10-rounder on the Charlo-Rosario undercard.
Murtazaliev became the IBF’s mandatory contender at 154 pounds after defeating Spain’s Jorge Fortea (20-2-1, 6 KOs) by unanimous decision in his last fight, a 12-rounder November 2 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. He has not fought in the 10 months since he defeated Fortea to earn the number one spot in the IBF’s ratings.
If Murtazaliev beats Woods, the Charlo-Rosario winner would be obligated to defend the IBF championship against Murtazaliev, unless the winner were to give up that title. If the winner were to vacate that IBF belt, Murtazaliev would be matched against the highest-rated, available contender for that unclaimed championship.
Charlo, 30, and Rosario, 25, will fight for Charlo’s WBC super welterweight title, as well as Rosario’s IBF and WBA belts. Rosario won the IBF, IBO and WBA 154-pound crowns when he upset Julian Williams (27-2-1, 16 KOs, 1 NC) by fifth-round technical knockout January 18 in Philadelphia, but the IBO belt won’t be at stake in the Charlo fight.
Charlo-Rosario will be the second main event of two three-bout blocks of fights Showtime will offer for one pay-per-view price ($74.95).
Jermell Charlo’s twin brother, Jermall, and Sergiy Derevyanchenko will headline Showtime’s first three-bout broadcast, which is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. Jermall Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs) will defend his WBC middleweight title versus Ukraine’s Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.