Eighteen months ago, Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam was in the biggest fight of his career. He was defending his WBO middleweight title belt against another unbeaten fighter in Peter Quillin.
After 12 compelling and hard-fought rounds, N'Jikam fell short in defending that title, losing by unanimous decision. N'Jikam was dropped a total of six times in the fight, but there is more to the story than the naked eye.
N'Jikam got up each time he was knocked down and he was out-boxing Quillin during a lot of the exchanges.
Despite the loss, many boxing writers and diehard fans put N'Jikam in the world-class mix at middleweight or super middleweight because of his bold stand against Quillin.
N'Jikam continues his road to another big fight opportunity when he faces Fernando Zuniga at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, Calif., on Wednesday night.
The bout will be part of the inaugural card put together by King Sports Worldwide, which was started by entertainment entrepreneur Michael King.
After the loss to Quillin, N'Jikam (29-1, 18 KOs) returned to the ring over a year later and won two tune-up bouts. He stopped Ricardo Marcelo Ramallo in the fourth round of his last bout on Feb. 15 in Dublin, Ireland.
He will face a dangerous puncher in Zuniga, who has lost four of his last six bouts.
"We train hard for any opponent, but we put together a good game-plan for (Zuniga)," N'Jikam told RingTV.com through an interpreter at an open media workout in Carson, Calif., on Monday. "He's a dangerous puncher, so we are going to move in and out. Our goal is to box and not get caught."
N'Jikam is still smarting from his fight against Quillin and the fallout from it. There was talk of a possible rematch between the two combatants but that never materialized. N'Jikam made it clear his only objective in the first half of 2013 was a rematch.
According to N'Jikam, his team sent a letter to the World Boxing Organization (WBO), claiming there was a rematch clause in the contract when they met in October of 2012.
N'Jikam further explained that he was not at 100 percent for the fight, as he dealt with dental work before the fight, which he believes may have affected his performance.
N'Jikam has since moved on. While he admits, he may have spent more time than he should have to get a rematch with Quillin, he has set his eyes on one particular fighter: Gennady Golvokin.
"I had an infection in my teeth where I had to get my wisdom teeth pulled," said N'Jikam, who was born in Cameroon and now lives in a suburb of Paris. "When I went to get dental work done on them, I was given anesthesia six times before the fight. The last shot I got was less than two week before (the Quillin) fight. I know I can beat him because I was at 30 percent of my potential that night we fought.
"Now I'm focused on a fight with Golovkin. He's the best middleweight in the world. I would like to fight him later this year or early next year."
The goal of fighting Golovkin could become a reality so long as N'Jikam continues winning. While he has experienced most of his success fighting in Europe, N'Jikam understands that most the big money can be made in the United States.
Thus, he wants to hold his training camps in the Los Angeles-area, which has the reputation of having some of the best gyms and sparring in the country.
"The United States is the country where one can succeed in boxing,” he said. “There are people in boxing who understand and know the fight game well. King Sports has invested and believe in me. I want to be a world champion again and they are going to get me there as long as I continue winning.
"Realistically, I would like two more fight against fighters like Gabriel Rosado to position myself to fight for a title."
N'Jikam is only 30 years old, so he may be at the peak of his career. With a deep middleweight division and possible big fights at 168 pounds, the future looks bright for him.
"I'm not going to be over-confident. I know I can win and be the best."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing got the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing