HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Amir Khan and Timur Ibragimov are separated by about 90 pounds and sit at opposite ends of the boxing spectrum.
Khan, THE RING’s No. 1-rated junior welterweight who is set to defend his WBA and IBF titles against Lamont Peterson on Dec. 10, is famous in the UK and appears poised to break into pound-for-pound ratings soon.
Ibragimov, who faces Seth Mitchell on Khan-Peterson undercard, is a little-known, unranked heavyweight from Uzbekistan who carries the dreaded “opponent” label into his scheduled 10-round bout with the unbeaten American prospect.
However, the former amateur standouts have something in common going into their HBO-televised bouts from the Convention Center in Washington, D.C.: Confidence.
Both Khan and Ibragimov believe their experience will trump the will, skill, athletic ability and any hometown advantage that Peterson, a D.C. native, and Mitchell, of nearby Brandywine, Md., bring to their respective showdowns.
“Peterson is tough and he’s versatile,” Khan told RingTV.com while his hands were being wrapped before a recent media workout at the Wild Card Boxing Club. “He’s got solid fundamentals.
“But it’s nothing I haven’t seen. I’ve fought just about every style there is. I’ve fought punchers and pure boxers. I’ve fought technicians and southpaws. I’ve faced fast fighters, pressure fighters, clever boxers and stick-and-move guys. All of that experience will help me come fight time. I’m confident that I know how to beat Peterson.”
Khan (26-1, 18 knockouts) describes Peterson, THE RING’s No. 6-rated junior welterweight, as a top contender who relies on his fighter instincts as much as he does his skill and technique.
“He’s a ‘boxer-fighter,’” Khan said. “He boxes now and then, but he can change tactics and start fighting at any moment during a fight. He’s a good boxer who likes to fight inside.”
The blend of styles has served Peterson (29-1-1, 15 KOs) well. The 27-year-old former U.S. amateur champ has only lost once, a unanimous decision to undefeated WBO 140-pound titleholder Timothy Bradley in 2009. The only other blemish on his record is a draw to former WBC welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz last December.
Peterson got up from two knockdowns in the second round against Ortiz and fought the bigger, harder-punching southpaw hard enough to win the bout by a 95-93 tally on one of the scorecards.
“Lamont has also fought a good mixture of styles and he’s done well,” Khan acknowledged, “but I don’t think he’s fought anyone as fast and active as I am who is also accurate. I’m going to beat him with my accuracy and speed.”
Ibragimov (30-3-1, 16 KOs) does not have the edge in speed over his opponent as Khan does. The 11-year veteran admits that Mitchell, a former high school and college football standout, is the bigger, stronger, faster athlete.
However, Ibragimov, who lives in Florida but has trained in Southern California for the past three weeks, does not view his 29-year-old opponent as a “boxer,” at least not a seasoned one.
Ibragimov, who represented his native Uzbekistan at the 1996 Olympic Games, believes Mitchell’s lack of amateur experience will cost him when they fight.
“It’s my opinion that amateur boxing is like school,” said Ibragimov, a senior member of the Uzbekistan national team that included former WBA heavyweight titleholder Ruslan Chagaev. “It’s where you learn how to do all the little things that make a pro a pro, like feinting and moving your head, things I do not see from Mitchell.
“From what I see of Mitchell, he trains for explosiveness, almost like he’s still playing football. It doesn’t look like he trains for the distance. This will be a key in beating him, taking him into deep water.”
Ibragimov, who recently hooked up with veteran L.A.-area trainer Rudy Hernandez, doesn’t have an impressive record against notable American heavyweights.
He was held to a four-round draw by Kevin Johnson in 2004. He lost back-to-back bouts to Calvin Brock and Tony Thompson in 2006 and 2007. He beat former cruiserweight titleholder Al Cole in 2009 and out-pointed former heavyweight titleholder Oliver McCall last June, but it must be noted that Cole is 47 and McCall is 46.
Still, the fights with Brock and McCall went 12 rounds, a distance Ibragimov has fought four times. He has gone 10 rounds five times, including the loss to Thompson.
Mitchell (23-0-1, 17 knockouts), who didn‘t begin boxing until 2006, has never fought past eight rounds, a distance he’s only gone once. The stocky pressure fighter, who normally fights around 245 pounds, has stopped his last eight opponents, seven of whom failed to make it out of the third round.
“He’s strong, very strong,” said Ibragimov, who had more than 200 bouts during his 15-year amateur career. “He’s also fast, but not too fast. The most special thing about him is that he’s undefeated, but not for long.”
Photos by Gene Blevins / Hoganphotos.com-Golden Boy Promotions