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Jacobs, Pirog ready for big stage despite pro inexperience

29
Jul

Do relatively inexperienced Daniel Jacobs (left) and Dmitry Pirog deserve the right to fight for a vacant middleweight title? Photo / Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions

Danny Jacobs and Dmitry Pirog will battle for a vacant 160-pound title underneath the biggest fight of the summer on Saturday, a fact that begs a few questions.

Do the young middleweights deserve to be the main supporting bout to the Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz rematch at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas?

Should they be on top of more experienced fighters such as former champ Joel Casamayor, former two-division beltholders Robert Guerrero and Jorge Linares, and perennial contender Rocky Juarez on the HBO Pay-Per-View telecast?



Should the two fighters, who are basically prospects (neither are ranked at middleweight by THE RING), be fighting for a “major” title?

Jacobs (20-0, 17 knockouts) and Priog (16-0, 13 KOs) believe so.

“We’re both top-level fighters,” Priog said through an interpreter at Thursday’s press conference for the Marquez-Diaz undercard. “If we bring our best on Saturday, and both of us will, I promise that fans will get a good fight.”

When Pirog, a crafty 30-year-old technician from Temryuk, Russia, who makes his U.S. debut on Saturday, says he and Jacobs are “top-level,” he’s mostly referring to their talent.

Both undefeated fighters had extensive amateur careers before turning pro, but neither has faced a bona fide contender on their road to Saturday’s title bout.

The best fighter on Pirog’s record is former title challenger Kofi Jantuah, who the Russian boxer outpointed over 12 rounds last June. The best fighter on the resume of Jacobs, an athletic 23-year-old boxer-puncher from Brooklyn, is tough veteran gate-keeper Ishe Smith, who the former U.S. amateur champ outpointed over 10 rounds last August.

Pirog says his fights with Jantuah, and fellow Russian standouts Aslanbek Kodzoev (KO 4) and Uzbek veteran Kuvanych Toygonbayev (RTD 5) were all the seasoning he needs to be ready for Jacobs.

“I can’t say that he’s been tested as much as I have been because he hasn’t fought the fighters I’ve fought,” Pirog said at a media workout in Hollywood, Calif., on Monday.

Jacobs believes he’s better tested than Pirog and ready to hold a major title belt.

“I always knew I had the talent to be a world champ,” he said after Thursday’s press conference, “it was just a matter of gaining the experience to be able to go 12 rounds if need be. I feel I have that experience because of guys like Ishe Smith, who’s a crafty veteran, and (George) Walton, who was very stern, and (Michael) Walker, who made me work in every round. Those guys made me change up my style at times, forced me to adapt.

“I’ve watched most of Pirog’s fights. He has fought 10 and 12 rounds before but he wasn’t made to fight hard for those rounds. Nobody’s ever forced him to switch up his style. I don’t think this guy’s the type to make me work for three minutes of a round, but I’m ready for that if he is.”

Pirog says both are ready for anything the other might bring to the ring because of their amateur experience.

“Who we’ve fought as pros really doesn’t matter in this fight because we both had great amateur backgrounds,” said Pirog, who had more than 200 amateur bouts. “When you have as many amateur fights as we do, you can adapt to any style.”

That one thing Pirog and Jacobs can agree on.

“The amateurs is the blueprint for professional fighters,” said Jacobs, who had around 150 amateur bouts. “It teaches how to deal with different situations in the ring. We’re not like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who’s still learning on the job 40 bouts into his pro career. We can be moved faster as pros.”

Saturday’s fight is proof of that.

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