The COVID-19 pandemic has not deterred Nikita Ababiy
One day he wears the mask, the next day he doesn’t. It’s been an up-and-down time for Nikita Ababiy, the flamboyant 22-year-old middleweight, like it has been for every pro athlete trying to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Take, for example, Ababiy’s last fight.
He struggled to make 160, coming in at 160¼ in going the six-round distance in beating Jarvis Williams back in August.
Ababiy (9-0, 6 knockouts) swears he will not put his body—nor his team—through that again, as he goes against 34-year-old Brandon Maddox (7-3-1, 5 KOs) this Friday night in a six-round middleweight bout from the Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, in Hollywood, Florida, live on DAZN (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).
The fight will appear on the Danny Jacobs-Gabriel Rosado undercard.
Maddox is 0-3-1 over his last four fights.
Ababiy is not concerned about that. He’s invested his prime time into himself and making sure the drudgery he endured last time doesn’t repeat itself.
“With the COVID-19, I had to lose weight for (Williams), and I remember I had to lose 10 pounds in a week leading up to that fight,” Ababiy said. “The hotel food was horrible, and I had to turn up the hot water in the bathroom, close the door and make it a personal sauna.
“I lost the weight, averaging two pounds each day. I made the weight, but I could have felt a lot better in the ring. There are no excuses, and I learned at the end of the day, it’s only me, myself and I in that ring. If things don’t work out for me, if things so south, I only have myself to blame.
“It was hard, but I had to man-up.”
Ababiy says this training camp has been easier. He shed the weight far more comfortably than he did for Williams.
“I can’t wait for what the future has in store for me,” Ababiy said. “It was the second time that I went the distance. This is a six-rounder, too. I want to look good. Boxing is a short-term memory sport.
“If I do much better this fight, fans and boxing people will forget what I did last time. They’ll remember that and forget about what happened my last fight, two fights ago.
“I know I have to make a statement with this fight. I’m going in for the kill. My weight was right where it should be for this fight. I’m training hard, and make sure that I’m eating healthy.”
Keith Connolly, the Boxing Writers Association of America 2019 Manager of the Year, manages Ababiy and likes his progress.
“Nikita has a lot of knockout power, which catches everybody’s eye, but the last two guys he’s fought weren’t going down no matter what you hit them with,” Connolly said. “I know Nikita can go rounds, which with someone who has his knockout power can always be a question mark in the back of your mind. I know he can go rounds.
“Nikita’s first fight after the pandemic he was not in the best shape, but this time, he’s working with a conditioning coach (David ‘Scooter’ Honig) who says he’s in amazing shape. Three days of ‘Scooter’ is like three days of hell.
“Nikita looks great for this fight.”
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Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.
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