Kudratillo Abdukakhorov will meet Keita Obara in an IBF welterweight title eliminator on the undercard of Oleksandr Gvozdyk-Doudou Ngumbu at 2300 Arena, Philadelphia, on Saturday.
The winner will become the mandatory challenger for pound-for-pound star and IBF titleholder Errol Spence Jr., who is fresh off his eye-catching domination of current WBC ligthweight beltholder Mikey Garcia earlier this month.
This marks a significant step in the career of Abdukakhorov, who will be fighting in America for the first time.
“I am very excited to be fighting in a world title eliminator,” Abdukakhorov (15-0, 9 knockouts) told RingTV.com through his trainer Ilgar Aliev. “I believe I will beat Obara. He is a good fighter but one I must beat to fight for the title.
“He is experienced and punches good but I think I will be too strong for him. We will see. It will be fun for the boxing fans to watch.”
Over the years Philadelphia has been one of the most popular fight cities in America. Its rich boxing history adds a different layer for the Uzbek boxer-puncher.
“I am told Philadelphia is the home of many boxing greats like Bernard Hopkins, Joe Frazier and, of course, Rocky (Balboa),” Abdukakhorov said, laughing. “It is an honor to go and fight in front of such knowledgeable boxing fans.
“This is my chance to make my mark on boxing at a high level. My dream is to be world champion and now I am close to that goal.”
But first Abdukakhorov has to turn back the challenge of Obara (20-3-1, 18 KOs). The 32-year-old Japanese fighter fought Eduard Troyanovsky for the IBF junior welterweight title in September 2016 but was disappointingly stopped in two rounds. The former OPBF 140-pound champion decided to step up to welterweight in 2017.
Abdukakhorov fought close to 200 times in the unpaid ranks, winning four national titles before turning professional in October 2015. Since then, “The Punisher” has beaten Manny Pacquiao protege Adones Cabalquinto (UD 12), Charles Manyuchi (TKO 1), Dmitry Mikhaylenko (UD 12) and Laszlo Toth (UD 12).
Those wins helped position him in the top five of the IBFand WBC. When the opportunity came to fight in an IBF eliminator, Abdukakhorov and his team accepted.
While many welterweights are keen to avoid Spence, Abdukakhorov’s manager Vikram Sivapragasam is actually aiming for the fight.
“That is the fight we want. We are in boxing to face the best and we welcome that fight but first we have to beat Obara,” said the Malaysian businessman. “People say, ‘Why do you want to face Spence?’ People talk about him like he can’t be beaten. ALL fighters can beat beaten. If he is the boogeyman, then we have the man they send to get the boogeyman (laughs).
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