Ibragimovís Manager Boris Grinberg: ďWe started talking to Ruslan Chagaev's team two days after Sultan won the title!Ē

ruslan chagaev27.06.07 - By Izyaslav ďSlavaĒ Koza: Not even a damned month has gone by since Sultan Ibragimov had won the WBO belt for Shannon Briggs on June 2nd in Atlantic City. Not even have I had a chance to understand how exactly Sultanís team went, from talking about a bout with Evander Holyfield, which in my mind was quite smart and understandable, to doing something that by now has made the skeptics understand why I, Wray, and many of Sultanís die hard fans like him so much.

What more can anybody ask for? Some people question my jumping the gun on both the Holyfield and Klitschko fights but they should remember that Boris never actually said in they had begun negotiations the interview he did (at that, graciously, one day after the fight)for our site.

As with James interview with Ronnie Shields that point was further confirmed. Neither should people, or at the very least smart people, doubt the fact that like they I am 100% fuckin thrilled that we donít have to waste time on formalities. We wanted unification and Sultan Ibragimov, and Ruslan Chagaev will deliver.

Yes, we might be setting ourselves up for disappointment, if this is somehow some ploy, but reality, and Warriorís boxing, and Sultanís character in the past simply say different. The Ibragimov team knows the backlash of public opinion, so there is no reason to believe that come October, Sultan wonít be staring at his former Olympic rival Ruslan on the other side of the ring once again.

For those who remember, and for those who were (and rightfully so) skeptical about Sultanís manager and his promises, take a gander at the first words he shared with us here on ESB roughly half a year ago.

I know why people are skeptical, and who wouldnít be after 9 years of getting jerked around by ďotherĒ promoters, but isnít it possible that the next time Sultanís team says something, and hell even this time when they say it, that we arenít being swindled by empty promises and empty fights?

ESB: Boris first off, I have to congratulate with your latest accomplishment. Do you remember what you told me the first time we spoke?

Boris Grinberg: No, what did I say?

ESB: You said, ďNext year Sultan will unify the titles.Ē

Boris Grinberg: Of course, that was our plan all along.

ESB: What reaction do you think most fans had to that statement at the time?

Boris Grinberg: (laughing) Undoubtedly, they thought it was another example of false bravado. For nine years everybody patted themselves on the back and screamed that they would unify, so I am not surprised if people thought I was lying. Don King had three champions and scared everybody else while the titles were in his hands. Personal small interests of other promoters, always had the upperhand over the interests of fans and even the fighters themselves. This type of fight was always a risk for any promoter because to lose a champion is the same as losing the spoon that feeds you. Itís time to do away with those f**kin interests.

We have, Sultan and I, a different opinion regarding this issue. If we can revive interest back in the heavies, then everybody, promoters, managers, and the fighters themselves, will win out in the end.

For the last 9 years, the representatives of the so-called champions, as they say in Russia, ďchopped down the tree they were sitting in.Ē Thanks to their efforts, all the champions are earning less money now then they could have if not for those personal interests which have destroyed our sport.

Fans criticized, writers criticized, and in the end went to watch less quality sporting events like UFC and K-1. For us, and thank god all our promoters share the same view, Sultanís and mine, the opinions that fans have are most important. They buy the tickets, they order the PPV in the US, and only thanks to them do we earn money. Whatever people did before disgusted fans with a capital D.

Many promoters donít understand that we can lose fans altogether if we keep acting in the same manner. We should do what ultimately is in both their, and the fans interest. The funniest thing is the reaction Sultan had when he heard about the bout.

ESB: (laughing) What was it?

Boris Grinberg: He said, ďOf course, we should do it. We already promised people that we would.Ē See everybody thought that when he said those things about unification that he was just throwing around some bullshit bravado. In reality, as I keep mentioning, he is an honest person, and in his mind if he promised to do something then he feels he has a rational obligation to his statements. He wonít say something just to promote himself. If he didnít want this fight, he would say so.

He respects Holyfield and Tyson a great deal, and if we would offer him a fight like that, it would be very detrimental to his morale. Holyfield is older, weaker now, so why should we beat him around the ring? For Sultan, a victory like that wouldnít mean as much as a fight against Ruslan, whom he still has a score to settle with for that bout in Krasnoyarsk, in 1998 (check out this interview with Sultan for a bit more info on that particular bout: ).

From a marketing standpoint, it was the correct move (to fight Evander). However, what would then make us any different from the other champions? We are obligated to Sultan to be different. Yeah, they said the Briggs fight was bad, but is there anything bad you can say here?

Two southpaws, young, aggressive, not one defeat suffered by either, and both can punch. All you can do is expect a brawl. Sultan isnít afraid to lose. He said so himself, and said it, because he understands that to lose in a beautiful way, also means you have accomplished something.

I also have to give Ruslan his dues for the courage he is showing.

ESB: You know as I told you before, I donít think Ruslan himself was afraid or running from a unification bout. All fighters are brave by their very nature. I was more surprised that Kohlís team gave the go ahead.

Boris Grinberg: Yes, we have to show respect to the team of Klaus Peter Kohl for their bravery and courage. You see even the promoters wonít lose out. Valuev, for instance, lost but is still the #1 contender. He didnít leave the sport, did he?

The money is moving to Europe because our Americans have become lazy. If Ruslan loses the fight, for instance, even in Germany, why the hell canít we promote Sultan as a brand?

Plus, you have to remember that Kohl will have the opportunity to return the belts because we would be obligated to fight against the Thompson Krasniqui winner within one year, so they even have the opportunity to get the belts back in the future.

People still probably think Sultan has the least chance to become unified champ among all other boxers. He is the shortest, weighs less, but has one major ace over the other guys, and that is his lionís heart. His dedication to boxing. The study of each opponent, the will he shows in each training session. We donít just believe in him, but rather we also do it cause he gives many reasons to.

He is a brawler by nature, everybody in the boxing world knows that, but now his trainer, Jeff Mayweather, convinced him, that it takes just as much character to box according to a plan as go all out bombs away. He proved he could in the Briggs fight, and proved why it is we believe in him.

I donít miss a single sparring session; Iím his biggest fan. You have to believe in your fighter, and I donít doubt that Ruslanís manager will say the same thing, because like us they believe enough in their fighter to think he will win and make this fight. Just another reason why this fight is so intriguing and why it will draw people to boxing once more.

ESB: On the other hand, I also want to mention that, yes, for me and most real fans, this fight is more important then a bout against Holyfield. Of course, if they put the decision in my hands, I would not even think twice in choosing Ibragimov vs. Chagaev over Ibragimov vs Holyfield. However, it seems to me that money in boxing flows more freely when people, who are not hardcore fans, become interested in a bout. That is why what I am afraid of is that you wonít be able to draw in that other sort of fans, who did, conversely, pay attention to the Holyfields, and the Tysons, with major interest. That is the only reason why your first idea about making a fight with Evander seemed very wise. A win over him would mean you get greater recognition in a unification bout. This fight is 100% more interesting but it would be a real shame if it doesnít get its deserved attention in the eyes of the world.

Boris Grinberg: You know, I donít agree with you, but the important thing is you have an opinion, and we need to argue and involve ourselves in dialogue about boxing. That is how we develop the type of interest you mentioned. Your job is very correct because you ask the questions that spark debate, and make people think about boxing.

The job of all real boxing journalists right now is to draw interest to this fight. The interest from those Russian, as well as those English readers, who just donít know as much about Ruslan, and Sultan, as they do about Evander.

ESB: Boris, I am sure you understand, as a fan of the sport, that is something I want as well, Ok. What concrete information can you give us about the first, in many a year, unification bout?

Boris Grinberg: Right now, that the fight will be on the 13th of October, will be shown in Russia, although I donít know which channel yet, and will take place in Moscow at a venue yet to be determined. I think in the U.S., HBO wonít let such an opportunity get by them, although you can expect anything on their part.

ESB: I think the most important problem will be the time difference. Personally, I donít care, and they have shown fights like Klitschko vs. Byrd at about the same time anyway, however, there are always those who will voice their displeasure.

Boris Grinberg: Yes, but why canít boxing fans in America watch the fight at 4 oíclock? There is always somebody here crying about how international boxing isnít being shown, but when the opportunity presents itself they find other reasons to complain about.

This thing about time is just an empty excuse. Why canít they do it? It would be a complete embarrassment for HBO, and anybody else involved, if they let this opportunity slip past them. With their ďhelpĒ the money flew to Europe, and that is why the fight will be there. We already wanted to show Sultanís fight with Briggs on their channel but couldnít. If they would have agreed to that feed on the second of this month, then it would be easier to promote a fight with Sultan and Ruslan on HBO now.

Iím just saying it now, because later somebody will be making the same old excuses. We will try as hard as we can to do this so everybody gets to watch.

ESB: I think in the worst-case scenario, we can see it on PPV without the help of the major networks.

Boris Grinberg: It would be way worse for everybody, but hey if they donít want to, that option is better then nothing. We know we have the best heavyweight of todayís boxing world, and no matter how much they spin Klitschko, that fact wonít change. The faster they start supporting other and stronger fighters, the faster, and the more interest people will have in watching boxing again.

ESB: Any information on what other fights will be take place that same evening?

Boris Grinberg: Right now, no, but the undercard will be interesting. Unquestionably, the more good fighters we can convince to fight that night, the better it will be both for us, as fans, and for them as fighters.

At the same time, I think you understand that the more stars we try to get, the more money we need to have to pay them. That is another reason why we need the help of the bigger networks to make the evening more memorable for everybody.

People have to understand that this is boxing history in the making.

ESB: When did your teams start to negotiate? Not even a month went by since Sultan won the belt.

Boris Grinberg: As I said before, we always had such a plan, and since we knew Sultan was the best heavy in the world, we didnít doubt that we will have the opportunity. In the world of boxing, of course, itís not polite to discuss such things prematurely, so two days after the victory over Briggs, we started negotiating with Ruslanís team.

ESB: In other words, the interview I last did with you was taken before you started talking to them?

Boris Grinberg: Yes, I believe so.

ESB: In Moscow, there have probably been more canceled fights in the last few years than actual staged ones. Therefore, many fans over there, at least those who I have spoken with, are skeptical about this news. Do you believe they wonít be betrayed this time?

Boris Grinberg: As you mentioned earlier, we promised to unify the belts this year, and that which we promise, like our fighter, we do. We wanted to do it in Moscow once with Briggs, but didnít want to insult Maskaev, either. After all, he is such a deserving champion and all, and said to ourselves, ďeh, let them fight there.Ē

Now people will pay good money to see which of their boys is better, and that is why we can get some good revenue collected for the purpose of targeting the next champ in line.

ESB: Although the fight is tentatively scheduled, usually in such situations that process is very unstable. An injury, or an argument, can destroy the hopes of all fans, and the fighters themselves, because you would already need to defend against a mandatory, or for other reasons fight another opponent.

Boris Grinberg: Yes, these situations happen often. Again, though, we wanted this fight so fast after our win because itís a voluntary defense for both sides, and the chance to do it is here and now. I can only say that at least we have hard agreements on all sides to make the fight, hopefully nothing will get in the way. I think fans on both sides of the Pacific were happy with this news.

ESB: I think you could even say fans from all over the world were happy with the news. Okay, will Sultan train in the US as usual?

Boris Grinberg: Unquestionably, he went through the school of amateur fighting in Russia, and came to America to learn the professional side of the sport. As if he came here to go to college, winning the belt, he got his diploma, and now against Ruslan, it's time to defend his dissertation and earn his PhD.

ESB: (laughing) I donít think you can draw a better parallel. I also think both fighters earned the respect of all boxing fans for such a brave move. Do you have anything to add to those who doubted your intention to unify?

Boris Grinberg: Why? Most of your readers will say I am bragging again. (Note: Boris checks ESB often to keep up with the opinions you guys share, no matter how good or bad they are). Contrary to popular belief, I say what I think, and honestly, if you are a manager and donít believe in your fighter, I suggest you find another job as soon as possible.

Sultan has not had the opportunity to show himself. However, he is a boxer in the strongest sense of the word, and is capable of doing anything, and people will soon see that. Against Briggs, he showed he can box, but in the future if somebody wants, he can show them what he can do in an all out war of fists.

ESB: (laughing) Boris, again, you donít give us boxing fans a chance to relax. I thought I could concentrate, and write about other fighters while Sultan is resting, and celebrating, but you keep making it necessary to call you none stop. On behalf of all fans, I think it is safe to say, I can thank you, your team, and most of all Sultan for the type of effort you are making to better the sport.

Boris Grinberg: No problem at all, thank you for calling.

It goes without saying that I want to thank Boris for his time. Part of the obvious reason why I am supportive of Sultan as a fan, and as a writer, is that besides his skill and dedication to the sport, the respect both he and Boris have shown me, Wray Edwards, and others, has always been extraordinary and exceptional.

Case in point, I called Boris today at roughly 11pm, hoping to get some information regarding the bout, knowing it was quite possible he could be asleep, and would tell me to take a hike in the kindest of terms. Instead, he spent a good half hour answering my questions, and patiently waiting while I took down his responses in Russian, which is a more difficult language to type in for me.

Some managers, and I wonít name names, or give out contact information, donít have the common courtesy to respond to inquiries regarding their very own fighters. Inquiries about interviews, and inspiration to write future articles, that will help them, and their man, to gain more recognition, gain more attention, and ultimately make more money.

In affect, Boris helps me help himself and his fighter, which, unfortunately, is something that is quite rare in todayís world of boxing. Both he and Sultan appreciate the work myself, Wray, and any other person in the boxing press who talks to them do in general.

Iím not working for the Ibragimov team, and they donít provide any kick-backs for adding this message, but rather Iím telling you guys the truth, and giving some perspective on why you see so much info about both Sultan and his boxing exploits on this website.

Next up: October 13th! Moscow! History in the making!

Article posted on 27.06.2007

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