Now or Never for Roman Karmazin

15.11.05 - Gabriel Decrease: Roman Karmazin needs to make a move, and a big one at that. With the upset glory he garnered by beating Kassim Ouma from post-to-post fading from the short-memory of the sweet science, Karmazin is now faced with the daunting task of selecting another opponent against which he can attempt to solidify his claim to the 154-pound throne. Before jawing over possible fights, here is a quick flashback to the fateful upset that hurled Karmazin headlong into the world championship mix:

Roman was an unknown, underdog—grossly underestimated and underpaid—when he went into his fight with the highly touted much-beloved Kassim “The Dream” Ouma on July 14th, 2005. “The Dream” was young, fresh, and had coolly cruised past a stiff lineup of opposition that included Kofi Jantuah, crafty veteran Verno Philips, Carlos Bojorquez, and a rough-and-rugged Angel Hernandez.

Kassim looked to be on his way to pound-for-pound notoriety. Karmazin was coming back impressively, but with little fanfare, after a decision loss to a somewhat faded Javier Castillejo. But the story behind that now notorious loss was as invisible to the boxing public as most of Karmazin’s fights, which had never been the subject of mainstream media interest. And the sad reality is that there is no such thing as an unheralded favorite. Accordingly, boxing pundits and bookmakers alike gave Karmazin a snowball’s chance in Hell of beating Ouma.

But, looking back, they should have been more mindful of the Russian’s moniker, Roman Karmazin was “Made In Hell.” From the first bell Karmazin fought his fight. He threw a deadly and persistent body attack at Ouma throughout the early rounds, flooring him twice in the process. Kassim proved tough and ambled on, sometimes forcing Karmazin to take the pressure off momentarily and use his reach to keep Ouma at bay. However, Karmazin remained in the driver’s seat and worked Ouma over until the fight’s end. Roman was instantly catapulted to the iconic status in his native Russia and to the top of the junior middleweight rankings worldwide.

Just days after the fight Karmazin was quoted as saying, “[I am] not sure when my first title defense will take place, but for me it’s the sooner the better. I’m ready to start training tomorrow if I have to.” Now, four months later, Karmazin has no fight scheduled. And if there is one thing a newly crowned champion who won his title in a massive upset needs to do it is stay as busy as possible. Karmazin had initially hoped for a 154-pound unification showdown against workhorse tactician Winky Wright.

But now that Wright is campaigning at middleweight and awaiting an elusive superfight with the winner of the rematch between Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor, Karmazin must look elsewhere for an opponent. His best options are fights with Nicoroguan wildman and WBC champion Ricardo Mayorga, and perpetual fan-favorite Fernando Vargas. But both have high-profile fights scheduled in the somewhat distant future. Mayorga will be rumbling with Oscar De La Hoya this coming May, and Vargas will face a comebacking Shane Mosely in late February. Either guy—or either of the two scheduled opponents for that matter—has the time to fight Karmazin in the near future, but probably won’t because he represents a long risk for short money. Stablemate Daniel Santos might be an appetizing opponent. “El Pillin” hasn’t fought in over a year, holds the WBO alphabet strap, and won a technical decision over highly regarded boxer-puncher Antonio Margarito.

And most importantly a fight with Santos could prove an easy test for Karmazin if he comes in as motivated and effective as he did against Ouma. Speaking of which, Roman could also look to a rematch with “The Dream.” Rumors of possible illness gave Kassim some sympathy credit in losing, and a return would remove all doubt about Karmazin’s legitimacy. Beyond those fighters, Karmazin’s options are not so appetizing, and limited to unknown and untested Sergeii Dzinziruk, Alex Terra Garcia, an ancient and sadly-diminished Vernon Forrest, a now lost-seeming Kofi Jantuah, or the threadbare, but still crafty Ike Quartey, who seems to refuse to die.

Karmazin has a good shot at beating any man in the division. He is an old school warrior who commands a running knowledge of modern technical style. That, clearly, is a deadly combination. Karmazin maintain composure and land hard shots around Ricardo Mayorga’s atomic bombs the same as he could stick and move, conserve and rush, with those more slick-boxing opponents like the newly tactical “El Feroz” and Daniel Santos. Whatever the agenda, Karmazin likes to fight, and never seems concerned about marring his face or hands when he has to. He revels in the sacrifice that is a requisite part of life in the ring. His chin is made of Damascus steel, and was forged in the fires of the mob-ridden, bullet-ridden Hell from whence he rose to fistic fame. However, he’s not too Gatti-esque to recognize the strategic advantage of avoiding punches.

Karmazin knows what it’s like to get sent to the back of the line. After promotional setbacks held him back from several title fights, and a proposed fight with Oscar De La Hoya that dried up faster than a kiddie pool in the Sahara, Karmazin was left so broke, and despondent that he neglected to train properly or put up much of a fight in what turned out to be a remarkably close decision loss to lukewarm fringe-contender Javier Castillejo. After a break, and a few repairs to his outlook on his career, Karmazin finally got his shot and made way more than the most of it, proving that he belongs among the division’s elite, and has always been far more gifted than anyone gave him credit for.

He and his team need to make a fight before his international marketability runs out, or time and punishment catch up with a fighter who has, by his own admission, fought more fights in unlicensed pits and barrooms than in the prize ring. Karmazin said after his victory over Kassim Ouma, “It’s time to unify this division!” It sure is. The Russian would do well to take the example of fellow hard-luck workhorse Winky Wright, with whom he so ardently seeks a showdown. Wright has been a non-stop highlight-reel of guts and technical brilliance since his celebrated first fight with Shane Moseley, proving that there is nothing more thrilling than watching a guy fight who has had to fight for every inch he traversed on his way to the top of the mountain. If Karmazin succeeds in similar fashion, perhaps he will lure Wright into a high-stakes, high-profile fight after all.

Article posted on 15.11.2005

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