It’s no superfight, but Kassim “The Dream” Ouma has plenty to be excited about heading into his mandatory title defense against Roman Karmazian this Thursday night. The fight represents more than a mandatory challenge. It’s a fresh start with a new promotional outfit (Golden Boy Promotions), one who promises to look out for his best interests.
It’s also his debut on HBO Latino, as he headlines this month’s installment of “Boxeo de Oro.” The series is normally reserved for up and coming Latino fighters among the Golden Boy stable. Much like preparing for his opposition, Kassim adapts and embraces the opportunity.
“I’ve always dreamed of being world champion,” says Kassim (21-1-1-1NC, 13KO). “Now I’ll just have to be el campeon del mundo.”
Outside the ropes, Ouma has the uncanny ability to put a positive spin on anything negative. A normal conversation with the IBF junior middleweight champion will have you feeling as if you presented a kid with the Christmas gift he has always wanted.
The past few months have been difficult prior to signing with Golden Boy Promotions. Ouma was watching one superfight after another take place, none resulting in his number getting called. He did all that was asked of him, partaking in a series of elimination bouts before finally receiving a world title shot.
By the time he arrived, the opponent and the payday did not exactly equate to a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Having chased consensus champion Winky Wright for over a year, Ouma was forced to settle for a rematch with Verno Phillips. Kassim took the fight and very short money, believing the investment would reap benefits down the road. He won the fight and the title, but managed to lose his place in line after Wright announced his plans to move up to the middleweight division.
For the first part of 2005, Ouma couldn’t help but vent his frustration. He watched Wright collect a career-high payday three fights in a row (twice against Shane Mosley, then this past May against Felix “Tito” Trinidad) and not call out his name on any of the occasions. Kassim’s HBO debut earlier this year – a lopsided points win over Kofi Jantuah – turned out to be one and done. Promised a return slot in June, Ouma instead sat and watched as Ike Quartey was given his slot. To add insult to injury, the man standing in the opposite corner was Phillips, whom Ouma had already twice bested.
Ouma continued to search for his pot of gold, but ultimately settled for a Golden opportunity. He and his faithful manager, Tom Moran, inked an exclusive deal with Golden Boy Promotions prior to the start of the summer. The deal may have removed any chances of Ouma ever facing Oscar De La Hoya or longtime middleweight kingpin Bernard Hopkins, both of whom head GBP. What it provided, however, was instant opportunity.
Shortly after signing, Ouma was provided a TV date (July 14 on HBO Latino) and a career-high payday ($250,000). Granted, Karmazian (33-1-1, 21 KOs) is no walk in the park. His nickname “Made in Hell” is well-earned, as he has proven to be a tough out for any junior middleweight. Ouma is well aware of this; he has not mentioned any other possible future fight while training for the crafty Russian challenger.
“Karmazian is a tough cookie, and he has all of my focus,” insists Ouma. “What Winky Wright or Ike Quartey or anyone else wants to do right now doesn’t matter to me. All I want to do is beat Karmazian (this week) before worrying about my future.”
His future looks brighter than it did at the start of the year, even if by default. Wright temporarily abandoned the junior middleweight division in search of middleweight glory. He found instant fame in pitching a shutout against Trinidad, but little did Wright know it would shut him out of the middleweight picture in the process.
The win earned him the WBC middleweight mandatory slot, but Hopkins expressed zero interest in a fight with Wright anytime soon. Instead, Hopkins suggested plans of abandoning the middleweight division for the first time since his pro debut. He started as a light heavyweight, and may very well finish his career at the weight. Provided he gets past undefeated Jermain Taylor this weekend, Hopkins has hinted at a possible superfight with light heavyweight ruler Antonio Tarver in a bout that would presumably lead to Hopkins’ retirement, win, lose or draw.
Where does that leave Wright? Carefully observing Ouma’s fight this week … as well as rooting for a Taylor upset.
“Right now, I have to root for whoever wants to fight me next,” admits Wright, still regarded as the consensus junior middleweight champion. “Bernard has already ruled out a fight with me, so I might just have to root for Jermain Taylor to pull it off. If neither of them cats want to fight me, then I don’t rule out a return to junior middleweight. Kassim has been willing to fight me. The kid deserves his shot.”
Music to Kassim’s ears … or so one would think.
“Like I said, I’m not worried about Wright or anyone else,” says Kassim. “As far as I’m concerned, Wright is a middleweight right now, and this tough cookie (Karmazian) is my biggest threat. Once I get past this guy, then we can talk about who I fight next. Until then, I look forward to my fight on HBO Latino. Thanks to Golden Boy Promotions, I will be fighting in front of a new audience. I appreciate this opportunity, and want give my thanks in the ring.”
No es un problema, el gran campeon.