Cruiserweight contender Mateusz Masternak (32-1, 23 KOs) believes next weekend’s WBA interim championship bout against Youri Kalenga (19-1, 13 KOs) in Monte Carlo is the most important of his career.
The two will fight on the “KO at the Casino” Golden Gloves card on June 21 alongside the likes of Martin Murray and Hekkie Budler.
“If I win, I will be just one step away from the world championship,” said the 27-year-old from his base at coach’s Piotr Wilczewski’s gym, which is located in Dzierżoniów in south-western Poland.
Masternak is rated #12 by the WBC, #6 by the WBA and #9 by the IBF.
He expects nothing less than a gruelling fight against Kalenga (WBA #7), who is based in France but is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. “I know that Kalenga is a really dangerous, hard-hitting fighter. He can knock out his opponent with a single punch. I am expecting a tough fight but we’ve prepared a good game plan. I am confident it will be successful.”
Masternak is fresh off a keep-busy fight against Stjepan Vugdelija, a routine assignment he won easily enough over eight rounds in Denmark in April.
“My last opponent was not a real challenge, so I could treat that fight as training. I had the opportunity to try out new techniques. I was very pleased with my efforts,” he said.
Subsequently, he spent eight weeks in camp ahead of the Monaco assignment.
“The first four I spent training in Dzierżoniów, and for the sparring sessions we decided to travel to the Polish mountains so that there would be no distractions. I’ve had great sparring partners – they’ve been imitating my opponent’s style. Everything has gone great.
“My coach and I both prefer traditional training methods – running, technique and sparring sessions. This has always worked for us so we see no reason to change anything.”
It’s all been boxing for the big-hitting former European champion.
“The last few months have been really hectic, so I couldn’t afford to spend a second on something that was not boxing related. Any spare time I have, I try to spend with my kids and family – that’s my perfect way to relax.”
Masternak has the extraordinary benefit of being in a stable that includes WBO champion Marco Huck and IBF champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez. Naturally, he soon hopes to add a glittering belt of his own to the illustrious collection.
“I have the utmost respect for Huck and Hernandez,” he says. “Just take a quick look at their achievements – it really is something! They are the two best fighters in the cruiserweight division and I believe I am on the right path to join them soon.”
Having fought for times in the United States, the last time in 2009, Masternak is not an entirely unknown talent beyond Europe. But those who may be unfamiliar with him can, he says, “expect good boxing with lots of emotion and excitement.”
His only defeat in an otherwise stellar career came in 2013 when he was stopped in the 11th round by Grigory Drozd. It is not a defeat the Pole prefers to dwell on.
“There is no need to look backward. I’ve learnt a lot from this defeat. I hope it was my last loss, because now I know how much it hurts.”
He has learned many lessons along the way. “The most important,” he says, “is to always believe in yourself, no matter what the current situation inside the ring.”
He credits Muhammed Ali as his boxing idol, admiring him for his great character inside and outside the ring.
For now, Masternak is determined to forge his own path, one that he hopes will end in championship glory.
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