By James Slater – “I’m ready now for a title shot. If my promoters give me this chance, I will undoubtedly accept it,” unbeaten heavyweight contender Alexander Ustinov, 27-0(21).
“Of course it is my dream to become world champion one day, and I’m confident my chance will come,” unbeaten heavyweight contender Kubrat Pulev, 16-0(8).
An interesting and significant heavyweight clash between two highly ranked, unbeaten contenders will take place in Hamburg, Germany on September 29th. 35-year-old, 6’7.5” giant Alexander Ustinov of Russia will face 31-year-old Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev, himself no small heavyweight at a little above 6’4.” The fight will be an IBF eliminator, and the idea is that the winner will go on to give reigning IBF heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko (who of course also holds The Ring Magazine belt, and the WBA, WBO, IBO straps) a good challenge.
A solid match-up, a case can be made for both 300-pound (approx) Ustinov and 250-pound (approx) Pulev winning. Both men have good amateur and pro credentials (younger man Pulev, known as “The Cobra,” especially when it comes to the unpaid ranks) and both big men have size, physical strength and at least respectable power. Pulev, a pro since just September of 2009, has made more progress than has Ustinov, with wins picked up over Dominick Guinn, Matt Skelton, Travis Walker (next for Tomasz Adamek of course) and, last time out, Alexander Dimitrenko. Not a bad list of “victims.”
Ustinov, deceptively speedy for such a huge man, turned pro back in May of 2005, yet he has not beaten the recognisable names Pulev has – although wins over Monte Barrett, Paolo Vidoz, common opponent Michael Sprott and, last time out, Jason Gavern, aren’t too bad either (and some good judges feel Ustinov might be the division’s dark horse). The September fight will be crunch time for both contenders.
I see a distance fight (both men have gone eight, ten and 12 rounds quite a few times and both have thus far shown a reliable chin) and the action could produce a fight that is a battle of attrition. Pulev, younger and having been tested harder, looks to be a slight favourite to me. A KO from either man would be very impressive, but I can’t see it.
Pulev has had tough, fatiguing fights before, and this should hold him in good stead against his biggest fight yet. I go for Pulev to pull out a close one on the cards. But can “The Cobra” give “Dr. Steel Hammer” a real challenge either later this year or early next?