Sergei Dzinziruk is living his dream.
The undefeated junior middleweight titleholder has wanted to test himself against the sport’s best fighters since he turned pro after concluding a stellar amateur career in his native Ukraine.
After 12½ years, 37 pro bouts and six title defenses, the 35-year-old veteran is finally getting his wish with his challenge ofo RING middleweight champ Sergio Martinez on Saturday in Mashantucket, Conn., on HBO.
“Every professional boxer wishes he could come to the United States to show his worth,” Dzinziruk told RingTV.com through a translator after a recent workout in Reseda, Calif., where he held camp.
It’s a nice ideal in which the 6-foot southpaw believes, but it’s not true.
There are plenty of world-rated fighters who are have no plans to ever leave their native lands or their adopted countries, as Dzinziruk did when he split with Germany-based promoter Universum to campaign in the U.S. last year. Those who are talented and fortunate enough to win an alphabet title, as Dzinziruk did in December of 2005, are usually happy to stay at home and make good money defending their belts against mid-level opposition.
Sebastian Sylvester is a good example. The middleweight beltholder, who is based in Germany, won his IBF title with a split decision over marginally talented fringe contender Giovani Lorenzo. He needed help from the judges to retain the belt via a controversial draw against aging veteran Roman Karmazin last summer.
It’s safe to say that that Sylvester is not going to come to the U.S. and call out Martinez or Paul Williams, as Dzinziruk did last year after sitting out 2009 during his legal transition from Universum to his new American co-promoters Gary Shaw and Artie Pellulo.
Dzinziruk didn’t leave Germany and Universum because he was treated badly. On the contrary, the 1996 Olympian and 1997 world amateur champ had a good deal. Universum guided him to a major belt and set him up with respectable opposition. That includes two-division beltholder Daniel Santos, who Dzinziruk beat to win the WBO strap, and hard-punching Joel Julio.
The combined records of the opponents Dzinziruk fought in title bouts while in Germany is 155-9-3. It wasn’t enough.
Dzinziruk wanted the best, and he says Universum couldn’t deliver.
“A lot of time was wasted in Germany,” he said through translator Yana Bakshiy. “I was promised these great fights. Paul Williams was one of the names. Some of the other names that were mentioned to me were (Floyd) Mayweather, (Manny) Pacquiao, and even Oscar De La Hoya at one point. Being a professional boxer you always want a chance against the best, but (these fights) simply were not possible for me.”
Not while he was based in Germany.
“I’m very happy to be living and training in the U.S.,” Dzinziruk said. “My first fight since moving here (a 10th-round TKO of Daniel Dawson last May) was televised on Showtime. Now I’m fighting the middleweight champion of the world on HBO.
“I didn’t expect to get the fight (with Martinez) when I was told that I was being considered. When I heard that I would fight him, I was thrilled and amazed. I’ve watched his recent fights on tape. He’s one of the best, and to be in with the best is an honor.”
Dzinziruk is no slouch himself. The rangy technician didn’t compile his impressive pro record (37-0, 23 knockouts) by accident.
“He’s got a great deal of talent, and he still hasn’t used it all,” said Buddy McGirt, who has trained Dzinziruk for the past six weeks. “He’s so technically sound and accurate with his punches, especially his jab, that he got away with using just the basics.”
Those who watched Dzinziruk dismantle Dawson primarily with his piston-like jab on ShoBox last spring know what McGirt is talking about.
McGirt, a former two-division titleholder who possessed an excellent jab, usually has to beg his fighters to use boxing’s most-basic punch during their fights. With Dzinziruk, he says his job will be getting him to use the other, underused punches in the Ukrainian’s arsenal.
“I’m learning how to say ‘left hand’ in Russian,” McGirt chuckled. “He’s got a good straight left and right hook. He puts punches together well. He also changes the speed and tempo on his punches, which is good. He’s going to need to bring a complete game to beat Martinez, but I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think he could do it.
“I told him the other day that this is the big dance, and he’s got to be at a new level. I said ‘You want to lay all your cards on the table, baby.’ Martinez is a lot like Dzinziruk. He’s a smart, talented southpaw, and he’s probably a better athlete than Sergei. But Dzinziruk has better technique and he’s deceiving, because he’s more athletic than he looks. Trust me, this is going to be a good fight.”
Good or bad, barnburner or chess match, Dzinziruk is confident that he will win it.
“Going from junior middleweight, where I’ve fought for a while, to middleweight makes me better, stronger,” he said. “Boxing is my life. I’ve given everything to this sport, so I can only see myself as a champion going into the ring with somebody like Sergio.”
Razor sharp: Dzinziruk looked as sharp as his nickname “The Razor” during his sparsely attended media workout at The Sports Club gym in Reseda last week.
Dzinziruk sparred 10 brisk rounds with Ukranian middleweight David Tabatadze (6-1-1, 1 KO) and Scottish junior middleweight Craig McEwen (19-0, 10 KOs), and the veteran gave the prospects all they could handle with his well-timed jab and pin-point combinations.
McEwan, who faces Irish middleweight standout Andy Lee in the co-feature to the Martinez-Dzinziruk fight on HBO, was awed by the Ukrainian‘s ability.
“I’ve been sparring with the best fighters at the Wild Card gym but nobody there compares to Dzinziruk,” said McEwan, who has sparred the last three weeks with the 154-pound titleholder. “If I can hold my own with Sergei Dzinziruk, I can handle Andy Lee.”