When Vince Caruso became the manager of light heavyweight Anatoliy Dudchenko, the duo structured a plan designed to make the Ukrainian a financially successful titleholder within a relatively small window of time.
"Anatoliy knows our time frame. When we sat down a year ago, I said, 'Anatoliy, you're 35 years old, so we're going to have a three-year plan and in three years, I will guarantee you two things,'" said Caruso during a Thursday conference call.
"I said, 'Number one, you're going to make $1 million and, number two, you're going to be, in some form, a light heavyweight champion.' So he knows what he has to do. We will not box past the age of 40 and we know we have a small time frame to do it in."
Dudchenko (19-2, 13 knockouts), who turns 36 on June 29, could set the stage for his first title challenge with a victory over Nadjib Mohammedi (34-3, 20 KOs) in a June 21 IBF title eliminator bout live on NBC Sports Network's Fight Night from Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Promoted by Main Events, Dudchenko takes a 16-fight winning streak with 10 knockouts into his clash with Mohammedi, the winner of which becomes the mandatory challenger to Bernard Hopkins, holder of the IBF and WBA titles.
Nicknamed "The Gladiator," the 6-foot-3 Dudchenko was last in action for October's unanimous decision victory over previously unbeaten Robert Woge.
"You've got to remember something; this kid has been fighting for a long time," said Caruso of Dudchenko, who is trained by veteran Jesse Reid. "The only thing is that he's been ignored but on June 21, he's not going to be ignored anymore."
Although the IBF has ordered Hopkins to face the winner of Dudchenko-Mohammedi, there is an organization rule in place for Hopkins to take a unification bout against RING and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson. Stevenson scored knockdowns in the first and fifth rounds before rising from the canvas in the ninth of last Saturday's unanimous decision over Andrzej Fonfara.
Main Events CEO Kathy Duva said Stevenson suffered a hand injury against Fonfara, a development she surmises could delay a bout with Hopkins.
"By the way, Adonis Stevenson hurt his hand the other night," said Duva, "so if Stevenson can't fight within a reasonable period of time, the IBF just might order Bernard to fight the winner of this fight sooner than you think, so we'll see."
Dudchenko is also part of a Main Events stable of 175-pounders that includes unbeaten WBO beltholder Sergey Kovalev, undefeated Sullivan Barrera, once-beaten Ilshat Khusnulgatin, Isaac Chilemba and Lionell Thompson, although Thompson may be considering a drop to the super middleweight division.
Dudchenko might also be a longer-range prospect to face Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 KOs), who stopped previously unbeaten southpaw Cedric Agnew in March and could return to action on August 2, according to Duva.
"We have the luxury of being able to go to NBC Sports and we also have the luxury now of dates on HBO, so we'll see. But there are a lot of opportunities and the division is heating up," said Duva.
"I can come up with a couple of really good ideas to keep Anotoliy busy if he can't get that IBF title fight right away but one way or another, that title fight is coming - and it's going to come soon and it's going to be within the next six month or so, so there's a lot be excited about."
But Mohammedi, who turned 29 in March, is not to be overlooked, having won 10 straight bouts, eight by knockout since being stopped in the second round by Dmitry Sukhotsky in October 2011.
"I believe that this fight will end in a knockout. I am not here to play around. We came to fight. We're going to incorporate our own style of fighting," said Mohammedi, who was last in action for November's sixth-round stoppage of Oleksandr Cherviak.
"I'm pretty sure that it will end in a knockout. We're here to fight and a lot of people are saying that Anotoliy's going to win but I'm pretty sure that I'm the one who is going to win and I'm ready to fight anybody after that."
Dudchenko has a different perspective.
"The last time that he got knocked out, it was by a Russian," said Dudchenko, inferring that Mohammedi would yet again fall to a Slavic fighter. "I am also sure that the fight will end in a knockout but I will be the winner."
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