Petr Petrov hits the road for title opportunity
This Saturday from the Manchester Arena in England, Petr Petrov challenges Terry Flanagan for the WBO lightweight title. Petrov is once again playing the role of road warrior as he travels into Flanagan’s home turf.
But, for Petrov, it’s a familiar role he’s played time and time again.
Hey, when you’re a Russian boxer, who now resides in Spain and trains in America, well, this is par for the course.
“I’m not concerned about it because I know we had a great training camp. I’m very, very ready and (have had) no problems,” said Petrov (who speaks fluent Spanish) through his trainer-turned -translator Danny Zamora, a couple of weeks ago from the Sarabia Gym in Pico Rivera, California, before their final day of sparring in the United States.
“I’ve always fought out of my home. I haven’t fought at home in the last six, seven fights. It’s always away from home, so it’s no problem,” pointed out Petrov, who last fought in Spain in 2012. In recent fights, under Banner Promotions, he has performed in exotic locales like the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York and even 4 Bears Casino & Lodge in New Town, North Dakota.
Along with his boxing gear, Petrov always packs his passport. For this particular fight, he and his trainer left two weeks early to spend some time in Spain before heading off to Jolly Ol’ England.
“Just to adjust to everything, the time difference,” explained Zamora. “(Petrov)’s been out here for two months. Going out there, you have to adjust the sleep schedule, everything. So that’s why I strongly believe in going out so early. It is hard. I mean, when he gets here, it takes him almost a week to adjust to our time. So now that he’s adjusted to our time, now we’ve got to adjust to go back there. I think that’s the smartest things we can do.”
Petrov has a record of 38-4-2 (19) and he came into prominence by winning ESPN2’s “Boxcino” tournament in 2014. He has firmly established himself as legitimate lightweight contender with his hard-nosed, physical style. Two of his losses came against Marcos Maidana (who halted him in four in 2011) and Dejan Zlaticanin (in 2013). He comes into the Flanagan contest on a six-bout winning streak.
Zamora, who has trained Petrov the last four years, says his fighter is a different guy from whom he first met, “He’s evolved a lot. I’m not saying because of the training that we have and I’m not saying I’m the best trainer but the quality of the work here, the sparring. He spars with the best. He has a great strength-and-conditioning coach here, Jerry Arias, who has put him to a different level, taking the supplements from SNAC. I mean, everything (Petrov) didn’t have he has now and just the adjustments we’ve made with his style.”
At age 34, Zamora believes his fighter’s time has come.
“It’s been his time for the last year-and-a-half. The kid’s just a workhorse, just the maturity that he’s gotten. It’s his time,” says the underrated trainer, who also works with highly-regarded prospects Michael Dutchover and Ruben Villa. “There’s not another fighter I’ve been around that works has hard as him.”
In Flanagan, they are facing an undefeated southpaw, with some size and ranginess. It’s not the easiest puzzle to put together. “(Flanagan)’s tall; he can be a mover. We’re preparing for that. I don’t think anyone is going to set in front of Petr,” opined Zamora, while Petrov says of the defending champion, “I don’t see anything complicated. The only thing I can really tell you is that when I get in the ring is when I can tell you what problems he’s going to give me but the only thing I can really think of is his height. That is a problem.”
When you go on the road, judging is always a concern and, with that, Zamora, who has experience taking fighters to foreign lands and winning belts, says he will consistently go to the whip in the corner this weekend.
“Oh yes. Just because were on he road, it’s different because we’re fighting in his actual hometown,” he says of Flanagan, “so the crowd’s going to be loud; the judges are going to listen to that, so anything close is going to Flanagan. So we always have to say – even if he won a round by a little bit – ‘Hey, you’re down.'”
Petrov says, “I don’t want to worry about the judges but anytime you fight a hometown guy, you really have to beat the guy or knock him out.”
There’s no denying just how big a fight this is for Petrov.
“It’s a big opportunity and we think it’s the right fight at the right time of his career. He won the Boxcino tournament (three) years ago; he’s in real good shape. He’s fighting a good young fighter, so it’s going to be a terrific fight,” said Artie Pelullo, the head of Banner Promotions. “It’s what we always want as promoters and you guys. It’s TV-friendly and fan-friendly. It’s a very good fight and the winner, the outcome is in the air, which makes it an even better fight.”
And should Petrov capture this belt, well, he’ll be able to parlay that into lucrative paydays. (Again, belts absolutely matter.) Pelullo says, “Right now, (WBC lightweight titleholder) Mikey Garcia has announced he is waiting for the winner of this fight. He’d like to fight the winner. (THE RING Magazine/WBA champion) Jorge Linares would like to fight the winner. (Top Rank Promotions CEO) Bob Arum has already called me about (WBO junior lightweight titlist Vasyl) Lomachenko fighting Petrov on HBO. So it’s the kind of fight where the winner – whether its Petr Petrov or Flanagan – they’re going to be in a unification fight or a Lomachenko fight, if he’s moving up to 135. That’s how I look at it.”
All Petrov has to do is get over the hump.
“I’ve trained 100 percent to win this world title and, after that, I just want to fight the best,” he says. Petrov has taken the road less traveled throughout his career. A win could lead to much bigger and better things. “This is the right time; I’m at my best. My experience, I feel like I’ve matured as a boxer, physically and mentally. Right now is the right time.”
So yes, the IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight titlist Ward did not retire and Kovalev will get a chance to recapture his belts.
The three-city press tour (New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles) will take place next week.
OPENING DAY FLURRIES
The WBC has mandated an immediate rematch between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Roman Gonzalez for its super flyweight title…THE RING Magazine/WBA/WBC junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford and Felix Diaz will fight on May 20 at the Madison Square Garden and tickets go on sale today ($250, $150, $100, $75, $50 and $35). Speaking of that card, lightweight contender Ray Beltran will face Jonathan Maicelo as its co-feature on HBO…Seriously, UNC-Gonzaga was hard to watch but, as always, “One Shining Moment” was great…Yes, those in the States will be able to view Flanagan-Petrov. An announcement will be made this afternoon…Hey, when are the Zimas returning? I got a craving for a six-pack…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.