Walking on the streets of Los Angeles, Roman Karmazin looks like any other 5-11 tall guy checking out the sights and enjoying the weather.
But he’s on a mission to remedy a slight case of anonymity when he faces Cory Spinks (34-3, 11 KOs) on July 8 at the Savvis Center in St. Louis. The IBF junior middleweight title will be up for grabs and the fight televised on Showtime.
Only a few people remember Karmazin meeting Oscar De La Hoya at a Beverly Hills hotel several years ago to announce a proposed fight between the pair.
It evaporated quickly when De La Hoya was injured.
Poor Karmazin. He had to wait.
“It was my lifelong dream,” said Karmazin (34-1-1, 21 KOs) reflecting on his missed opportunity against Oscar De La Hoya back in 2002.
But a quick loss to Spain’s Javier Castillejo slipped up his effort to convince the boxing world he belonged on the same planet as De La Hoya or any of the other top rated junior middleweights at the time.
For years Karmazin fingered his way through the list of ranked contenders he could convince to fight in hopes of proving his boxing pedigree.
After years of fighting unknowns like Jorge Araujo, Michael Rask and David Walker, the Russian boxer met former middleweight champion Keith Holmes and eked out a majority decision a little over a year ago. Then he stepped to the table to meet Golden Boy Promotions newly signed Kassim Ouma.
Ouma, the IBF junior middleweight titleholder, strutted around Las Vegas with his new hefty contract bragging to anyone within earshot that he would rather fight his new bosses De La Hoya, Shane Mosley or Bernard Hopkins. But Karmazin would do for the moment.
That night at the Orleans Hotel and Casino Arena, only a few thousand people saw Karmazin run over Ouma like one of those Russian T-34 tanks rolling through Berlin during the end of World War II.
It wasn’t pretty.
“If you watched the fight closely, on at least two occasions I winked at De La Hoya and Mosley when they were mentioning something to their fighter,” said Karmazin through a translator. “The fact that De La Hoya and Mosley were sitting at ringside motivated me a lot.”
Now the Russian boxer finally has a fixed audience, but facing him will be the very movement-inclined Spinks.
“Everybody is going to be on his side,” said Karmazin who’s been training at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. “I fought everybody in Russia and Europe and specifically came to the US to prove I’m the best.”
Spinks on the other hand was considered the undisputed welterweight world champion but was zinged by a couple of Zab Judah lefts and disappeared.
“I had some personal problems,” says Spinks, who hasn’t fought since losing to Judah 14 months ago in St. Louis. Now he’s back again in the same arena but fighting at a heavier weight.
“We had some problems making weight. My manager wanted to call it off,” Spinks says of his last loss. “Trust me, I’m ready.”
Though Karmazin knows he has almost no chance of ever meeting De La Hoya in the ring, he’d love to beat a respected American fighter like Spinks.
“Once I beat Spinks, any doubters that exist, will no longer exist,” Karmazin says.
Kevin Cunningham, trainer and manager of Spinks, says Karmazin will be a foil for Spinks march to another world title.
“He (Karmazin) does a lot of things good, but nothing great,” Cunningham said. “He’s a solid fighter and well-conditioned.”
The Russian fighter has heard it all before. In fact, he heard it with Ouma before he took the title convincingly.
“I just want to show I’m the best,” Karmazin said.
Other junior middleweights
Even with Oscar De La Hoya one fight from retiring for good, the junior middleweight division is filled with heavyweight talent from top to bottom. Because none of the current titleholders are known, there are a few who can really shake up things like the winner between Sugar Shane Mosley (if he decides to stay at this weight) and Fernando Vargas. If one of them wins or if someone like Vernon Forrest, Ike Quartey, or even Kassim Ouma pick up a belt, then the division immediately picks up star power.
Kassim Ouma (24-2-1) – Despite the surprising loss to Roman Karmazin, Ouma remains one of the better fighters in the division simply because the African fighter is a punching machine. He’s like a Maytag washer. He cleans out opponents with volume punching.
Ike Quartey (37-2-1) – Ghana’s best present-day fighter only has two losses, both to quality fighters of Mexican descent (De La Hoya and Vargas) and a draw against a Mexican fighter (Jose Luis Lopez). He doesn’t do well against them. This time Quartey, 36, gets to fight the long arm of the law Vernon Forrest. It should be very interesting in New York City on August 5.
Sechew Powell (20-0) – The American junior middleweight Powell, 27, has been laboring around in the B league and now has a chance to step up and show what he’s got. Now he faces Ouma, a nonstop puncher who does not wilt. It should make or break Powell.
Joachim Alcine (27-0) – Canada’s Alcine may be undefeated and may even be a great fighter, but he’s never fought outside of his country. Right now, Alcine, 30, doesn’t have much time to prove he’s the real deal. To prove he can fight, he’s got to get out of Canada. No titleholder with sense is going there.
Rodney Jones (37-3-1) – No other junior middleweight causes potential opponent’s to shake in their boots than Jones, 37. He’s a 6-1 southpaw with speed and power that can’t seem to get a fight against a good fighter. Time is running out for the boxer out of San Diego. Supposedly he’s in line to face the Roman Karmazin-Cory Spinks winner. We’ll see.
Vernon Forrest (37-2) – The Viper has problems with staying healthy. Other than that, he only has two losses in his entire professional career. Both to Ricardo Mayorga. Forrest, 35, has a big opportunity to show what’s left when he meets Ike Quartey in New York City in August 5.
Ishe Smith (17-1) – Now signed with Golden Boy Promotions, Smith, 27, has the tools to do more damage than water logged ceilings. His only loss was to middleweight Sergio Mora and that’s no disgrace. Smith has the speed and technique to win a world title. He just needs a little more experience.