Ibragimov Realizes Mistake and Wants to Be Champion Again

ibragimovBy Scoop Malinowski, photo by Wray Edwards / ESB - Sultan Ibragimov hasn't fallen off the face of the earth since losing his first professional fight. He's back in Russia, resting and plotting his next move. And his manager Boris Grinberg insists we will see the best of Sultan Ibragimov in the future. "It's not a good fight (the points loss to Wladimir Klitschko)," admits Grinberg. "Sultan did a bad job first time in his life. He fought the same pace all the time. Sultan knows how to change tactics. But he didn't this fight. Sultan is disappointed, he realizes he made a mistake and want to be champion again."

Grinberg has always believed in his man. And still, Grinberg has no doubt about the 32-year-old Sultan Ibragimov (22-1-1, 17 KO's). He, perhaps better than anyone else, knows what kind of warrior Sultan is and will not let one fight alter anything. "Of course we come back. We will be champion again. It was not his day, not his fight. I know how he fights, how he spars, how he practices. He's a very good fighter.."

With the conservative performances against Briggs, Holyfield and Klitschko, many ring observers may not remember how exciting Ibragimov was against Mount Whitaker, Ray Austin and Javier Mora. Grinberg points out Ibragimov vs. Austin in July 2006 is still the highest-rated ESPN2 boxing show. But Ibragimov's market value has now diminished and Grinberg accepts this fact. "We understand now, our price go very low down. But it doesn't matter to us. Everybody in boxing still understands Sultan is a very dangerous fighter. We have to come back with a couple of knockout wins. Sultan has to be different (than with Klitschko), not box, he has to fight. I'm not impressed with Klitschko. He not show anything, show very bad boxing. Klitschko too fast. He running all the time, he don't want to fight. Sultan lost his pace, he has to attack more often, go to the left, go to the right. He not do that."

In defense of Klitschko, you have to appreciate the stakes that were involved. Wladimir Klitschko respected how dangerous Ibragimov was and he knew the smartest style to win the fight was to outbox Ibragimov using his physical advantages. He tried for the knockout but it just didn't come. Sometimes this happens, like with Lewis vs. Tua, Hearns with Benitez, Tyson with Smith and Tucker, Cotto with Malignaggi. Klitschko is at the crucial stage of his career and so close to his ultimate goal of unifying the titles. One silly error and he could possibly lose to Ibragimov. And his career would be set back for years. Remember, Klitschko lost one whole year when Chris Byrd ducked him and made him wait 12 extra months for the title shot (from April 2005 to April 2006). Klitschko does not need to take an unnecessary risk, not at this stage of the game, where is ultimate ambition is still at stake. How quickly people forget Klitschko's destructions of Brewster, Byrd, Austin and Brock.

But back to Ibragimov, Grinberg alludes that there may be a change in the Ibragimov corner. "Jeff Mayweather made big mistake during fight. Why not change his pace? You see his comments on TV, Everything is okay. It's not okay! Wake up! Go to your previous boxing. Three-four fights before, Whitaker, Mora. Mayweather not say, You have to fight. Wake up. He say, Okay, smart boxing, hands up. He did big mistake. Against Shannon Briggs he change his style. Shannon Briggs maybe throw five or six shots all fight. With Klitschko you have to fight, not boxing."

But it's easier said than done. An under-appreciated aspect of Klitschko's dominance is his sheer ability to force the opponent to fight HIS fight. All opponents say the key is to make Klitschko fight a down 'n dirty dogfight but each and every one, aside from Corrie Sanders, fails to accomplish their strategy. Klitschko's footwork, reflexes and constant eagerness to assert aggression while remaining wary defensively is a very unique and difficult style to decode. Ibragimov couldn't handle it this time, who knows about next time.

Ibragimov will be back and Grinberg, confident as ever about his man's abilities, says he'll fight anyone. I immediately mention the name David Haye and Grinberg did not flinch about the idea of Sultan battling the extremely impressive Brit. "David Haye is exciting but he's a little too light. David Haye will be a very beautiful fight with Sultan. I saw David Haye sparring five years ago with Timur Ibragimov. I saw how fast David Haye is. But he's not a very dangerous puncher.

Very skilled. David Haye is very fast and very smart, moves very well. He understands fighting. He's similar to Sultan. Sultan is still one of the best, he's never been knocked out.

"Sultan needs two KO's in a row to get respect back from everybody. Then go with a guy like David Haye or Samuel Peter."

Haye will probably pick someone safer like Rahman or Brock. Ibragimov vs. Peter sounds mighty good though. Grinberg thinks Haye would not take a fight with Ibragimov for his next fight. "David Haye will never go against Sultan now. David Haye was in gym with Sultan, he knows who Sultan is, how dangerous he is. No one wants to fight Sultan. I know this exactly. Peter don't want to fight with Sultan. If you ask Peter, Do you want to fight Sultan? He say Yes of course. But Don King will never make that fight. But Sultan has to make his name back. Because no one wants to see him now. Peter in two or three fights. It would be a beautiful fight. Peter would be much more easier for Sultan than Klitschko. Sultan has a problem with people not wanting to fight him."

What about Povetkin vs. Ibragimov? "Sultan sparred Povetkin (years ago)," says Grinberg. "Povetkin is undefeated, Sultan is a different caliber. The (Russian) coach made decision not to put them in together. Sultan too dangerous. They put Povetkin in a different division. Sultan #1 in his weight. Povetkin is very good but he's not a killer. Sultan is a killer."

"End of June or July Sultan will have his next fight. Against who exactly don't know. We will find opponent, we will find interest from TV. Sultan has to get back to contender #1 because nobody (top names) will fight him."

Grinberg also believes that Panama Lewis could have guided Ibragimov to victory against Klitschko. The exiled Lewis has worked in the gym with Ibragimov for several years and knows the Russian's capacities better than anyone. "If Panama in is corner Sultan would have beat Klitschko. He know Sultan's killer instinct very well but he never teach Sultan to defend himself. Mayweather taught his defense very well but he forget to be a killer."

Article posted on 27.03.2008

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