Jan Zaveck was coming on.
His vision was impaired, his right eye a pool of blood. But he was coming on.
He started slow in his lone HBO fight, a fall 2011 date with Andre Berto. It was his chance on the big stage. He was starting to get to his foe, but referee Fred Steinwinder III halted the bout following the fifth round due to Zaveck’s vision.
Zaveck (32-2, 18 knockouts) furiously protested the decision, screaming for a chance to continue as blood poured down his face. He waited a long time for this opportunity and it was over in the blink of an eye. At 35, he knew he might not get another chance.
But the Slovenian veteran has his second opportunity to impress the American audience on Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. when takes on rising power punching welterweight Keith Thurman (HBO, 9:00 p.m. ET).
“He’s a very young, very good fighter, strong fighter,” said Zaveck of Thurman. “He has much time to grow, he’s 24; he has a great future in boxing. But sorry, [a win is] not happening this time. He will have another chance.”
Zaveck, who turns 37 on Wednesday, got into boxing at the advanced age of 16, but still went on to have an accomplished amateur career. The Germany-based pressure fighter compiled a 117-15-19 record in the unpaid ranks and was a seven-time amateur champion in his native Slovenia.
He turned pro in 2003 just days before his 27th birthday, a rarity for a world class boxer, but his blend of power, grit and infighting moved him up the ranks.
Zaveck earned his first world title shot in 2009 and capitalized, claiming the IBF welterweight title with a third round KO of Issac Hlatshwayo. He made three successful defenses and avenged his first loss along the way, scoring a decision over Rafal Jackiewicz. But his title reign ended after a cut halted his fight with Berto and he’s had just one fight since, approaching a one-year layoff, a career high.
Thurman is listed as high an 8-1 favorite over Zaveck, but is it possible he’s being overlooked with the American audience having such a small glimpse of his talents?
“I think they’re underestimating me,” said Zaveck. “I didn’t have much time against Berto because my strategy was for the second half of the fight. Injuries happen, we butted heads (it was ruled as a punch) and I couldn’t go on. I would like to show this time out that it was just bad luck.”
Saturday’s bout is a WBO Welterweight title eliminator. If Zaveck is victorious, he will become the mandatory to the winner of next weekend’s HBO bout between Tim Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov and will have a chance at something else – validation.
“Everybody needs experience,” Zaveck remarked. “In boxing you have to go alone, nobody can help you. I have experience, Keith must wait for that. He’s going to be a good champion in the future, but his time is not on Saturday night.”
Photo / Rich Kane – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
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