Denis Grachev may be the underdog, but he’s training with the will of a champion ahead of his July 13 fight with Edwin Rodriguez for the Million Dollar Super Four crown in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
The tournament is promoted by Golden Gloves.
Grachev (13-1, 8 KOs) is holed up at Abel Sanchez’s Summit Gym in Big Bear, California, where the stable includes WBA and IBO middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, who fights in the US later this month.
Grachev earned his place in the final against Rodriguez (23-0, 15 KOs) with a rugged 10-round split-decision defeat of undefeated two-time champion Zsolt Erdei in Monaco in March.
The man who trades by the name “The Son of Drago” says that while he was only in camp for 10 days for the Erdei fight, this camp would total six weeks’ training, leaving him in “the best form ever”.
“We are high in the mountains, eight of us fighters, just boxing and training. It is hard work, very intensive, with jogging in the morning and much training the rest of the day. I wasn’t in my best shape last time, but this will be different.”
Grachev says the fight with Erdei was the hardest of his career. “With his boxing style and experience, it was my most difficult fight. It was hard to find the key to beating him. I think it will be easier with Rodriguez. He is the favourite according to many boxing fans, but they are going to be disappointed. It will probably be his first loss.”
Sparring with Golovkin has added sharpness to the Russian’s repertoire, but he’s also trained with Zaurbek Baysangurov, the WBO junior-middleweight champion, and two other Russians.
“I’ve had very good sparring, especially Gennady [whose last defence topped the Monte Carlo card]. We are studying Rodriguez’s style and sparring accordingly.”
A former champion kickboxer and mixed martial artist who has fought all over the world, he especially enjoyed the Monte Carlo experience. “It’s a fantastic place and I learned good boxing lessons there. I found out some of my mistakes and I am now working on them. Winning Super Four would mean a lot; it would be a great honour being better than Erdei and Rodriguez.”
The Monte Carlo card includes champion Khabib Allakhverdiev (18-0, 8 KOs) versus Souleymane M’baye (40-4-1, 22 KOs) for the WBA and IBO light-welterweight championship, the WBC Silver cruiserweight fight between title holder Dmytro Kucher (21-0, 15 KOs) and Junior Makabu (13-1, 13 KOs) and a European middleweight title fight between Maksym Bursak (26-1-1, 2 KOs) and Prince Arron (23-4-1, 5 KOs).