Photos by Sumio Yamada
SULTAN IBRAGIMOV vs JAVIER MORA
After looking forward to meeting Shannon Briggs in a heavyweight title fight, Sultan Ibragimov instead finds himself in a routine, off-TV 10-rounder against Javier Mora on Saturday after Briggss withdrawal due to pneumonia.
Ibragimov could have waited until Briggs is fit enough to fight, but he did not want to waste the time he had spent in training, and obviously his people feel that Mora is not much of a risk to the Miami-based Russian.
Sometimes things can go wrong in these stay-busy fights. It happened in 1973 in London. A heavyweight fight had been scheduled that would have been very big in Britain: Joe Bugner against the British champion at the time, Danny McAlinden. McAlinden got stopped by trial horse Morris Jackson, from Omaha, in a huge upset in what was supposed to have been a tune-up bout. I was ringside at the World Sporting Club in Londons West End that night. The veteran boxing writer Reg Gutteridge had been requested to phone the result to Jarvis Astaire, an influential figure in British boxing who was involved in the Bugner-McAlinden promotion. To this day I can recall Reggie yelling exasperatedly into the phone, after relating the shocking turn of events: Jarvis, I am not joking!
Bugner ended up meeting ex-champ Joe Frazier and gave probably his best, gutsiest performance even though he lost on points.
Before that, in 1956, promoter Jack Solomons had a British heavyweight title fight scheduled between Don Cockell and Jack Gardner. He featured both men on the same show at Earls Court in London in supposed tune-ups designed to increase public interest in the forthcoming big fight: astonishingly, both fighters got stopped in two rounds, Cockell by the Tongan, Kitione Lave, Gardner by Joe Bygraves, a Jamaican who lived in Britain. Neither Cockell nor Gardner boxed again.
More recently there was Tommy Morrisons disastrous keep-busy fight with Michael Bentt.
I very much doubt if anything will go wrong for Ibragimov on Saturday, however. Mora, a Los-Angeles-based Mexican, is a game but plodding fighter who has won two bouts since being outclassed by Fres Oquendo last May. Before that he had one of those rare act-of-God wins when Kirk Johnson, who was outboxing him, tripped and suffered a fight-ending knee injury in the seventh round.
Mora has always been considered a durable type, but he is what boxing-trade people call hittable, and Ibragimov hits hard with the left hand from his southpaw stance.
When Mora lost to Oquendo he was hurt early and very nearly got stopped in the first round. That may have been a question of Mora getting nailed before he was mentally prepared to get hit, because he stood up to some heavy punching from Kirk Johnson.
If Mora gets caught early by Ibragimov he might find it hard to survive, but if the Mexican fighter can get through the first round or two without taking too many big punches he might be able to crowd and smother the Russian and go into the later rounds or even all 10.
The sportsbooks have an over/under of 6.5 rounds and this looks exactly right. I have noticed two-way action on this proposition, which is the way the books like it. A sharp player who reads this site told me he has gone for the under but added ruefully that he wished he had another round.
There is the chance that Ibragimov could be a little deflated emotionally, going from the big occasion with Briggs to a run-of-the-mill fight, but he is usually an all-business type and I would expect him to set about Mora quite vigorously. This looks like a seven-round fight to me, give or take a round, with Ibragimovs accumulation of punches eventually wearing down a willing opponent.