Russian southpaw Denis Shafikov is good enough as a junior welterweight to be ranked No. 8 in the division by THE RING, but small enough in stature at 5-foot-5 to consider fighting as a lightweight in his next bout.
Shafikov (31-0-1, 17 knockouts) will face 35-year-old countryman Alisher Rahimov (25-1, 12 KOs) in Noginsk, Russia, on March 16 in a clash of 135-pounders.
Shafikov, 27, who is coming off December’s unanimous decision over Albert Mensah, is also ranked highly in the 140-pound ratings of the IBF, whose beltholder is Lamont Peterson (31-1-1, 16 KOs).
Peterson is coming off last month’s eighth-round stoppage of ex-beltholder Kendall Holt, and Broner’s fifth-round knockout of ex-beltholder Gavin Rees on HBO last month represented his sixth consecutive stoppage.
“Right now, his next fight will be at lightweight. He’s trying lightweight for the first time,” said Steve Bash, Shafikov’s co-promoter with Ural Boxing, Russia.
“Depending on how he feels and how he looks, he’s thinking about staying at lightweight. The only thing is that he’s in line for the No. 1 eliminator fight for the IBF at 140.”
But Shafikov would prefer a shot at WBC lightweight titleholder Adrien “The Problem” Broner (26-0, 22 KOs), who is rated No. 6 among THE RING’s pound-for-pound best fighters.
“He’s always fought at 140, but he’s pretty small for a lot of the top guys at 140,” said Bash of Shafikov, whose manager is Oleg Bogdanov.
“So after the fight with Mensah, who was pretty big, you know, he dropped him but he couldn’t wear him down and knock him out. My guess is that he’s going to be a lightweight and fight Adrien Broner. Hopefully, he can get that shot.”
RingTV.com caught up to Shafikov, who also expressed his thoughts on former two-division beltholder Amir Khan, RING WBA and WBC 140-pound champion Danny Garcia and RING No. 1-rated junior welterweight Lucas Matthysse. Shafikov’s words were translated by Bash.
RingTV.com: Which weight do you prefer?
Denis Shafikov: Well, if I get a title offer at 140, I would certainly take it at 140. My desire is to take the quickest route to fighting for a world title.
RingTV.com: Would you rather face Broner or Peterson?
DS: If I had to choose between Broner and Peterson, or Broner and any of the other guys, then I would rather fight with Broner.
Because, today, I believe that Broner is in a weight class that I believe is my natural weight, so I would feel more comfortable taking that fight.
Plus, he’s this big name that everyone is getting excited about, so I would like that fight more as a high profile fight. If you asked me would I fight at 140, then I would tell you, absolutely, if I had a choice.
But if I had the choice between one of the guys, and that guy was at 135, then I would take the 135-pound fight.
RingTV.com: What did you think of what you saw in Peterson’s fight against Holt?
DS: He’s a good fighter. I think that it would be tough for me to fight somebody like that. At the beginning of the fight, I didn’t like Peterson’s approach because he was very passive.
But then, clearly, he turned it on and sort of flipped the switch and certainly looked good later on in the fight and got the knockout.
RingTV.com: What did you think of what you saw in Broner against Rees?
DS: I thought that Broner looked really good, but the only thing that is negative about watching that fight, and the first thing that came to my mind was that his opponent was of a different class.
Broner’s opponent was just a B-level fighter compared to what Broner was. I think that as good as Broner looked, it was a combination of his skills and the quality of opponent that he faced.
I don’t think that Broner, in looking at that fight and a couple of his other fights, would feel as comfortable in there with a different type of fighter.
RingTV.com: How do you rank Peterson, Matthysse, Khan and Garcia?
DS: I think that all four of those guys are on the same level. They’re mostly champions or former champions, and it’s hard to say who is better than the other with those four guys.
Obviously, with each one, they have their own strengths and different things that they bring to the table, but they’re all world class fighters, and they I can’t really say one is better than the other.
RingTV.com: What do you think they would find difficult about fighting you?
DS: As far as what I bring to the table, I feel that the ratings, I keep climbing up the ratings and I feel that I’m at a point where I deserve to fight one of these guys.
Eventually, based on a lot of the guys that I’ve seen them fight, recently, I think that I’m better than a lot of their opponents that they’ve been beating.
With respect to what I bring to the table in the ring, well, the ring action will show that, but I’m very confident in my abilities.
Based on what I’ve seen from them in the ring, and based on what I’ve seen in the guys that they’ve faced, they’ve never faced anyone like me.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]