It’s been over a year since HBO subscribers (or anyone else for that matter) saw former junior middleweight titleholder Serhiy Dzinziruk, 37-1 (24), who co-features against Jonathan Gonzalez, 15-0 (13), on the undercard to Gennady Golovkin vs. Grzegorz Proksa (on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark”, 9:45 p.m., ET/PT) at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY tonight. It was March 12, 2011 to be exact and Dzinziruk was making his HBO debut, vying for the middleweight title against Sergio Martinez. The bout had been approved by the network in place of Martinez’s mandatory, Sebastian Zbik, who ended up fighting Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on HBO for the WBC belt lost fighting Dzinziruk instead.
Five knockdowns later and stopped in the eighth, Dzinziruk got the rudest welcome possible to the middleweight division and pay cable. The lost was inexplicable. Dzinziruk had never been down as a pro or amateur and was undefeated to that point, carving out a short reign as a WBO 154-pound titleholder before injury and promotional issues sidelined him. He was as ready for his close-up as he could have been but when the lights hit him (along with Martinez), everything went out the window.
“In that fight, I was very sure of myself,” Dzinziruk told Maxboxing.com this past week. “I was 120% ready for the fight but when I got into the ring, I forgot about everything I was told to do in terms of defense. I was in attack mode. That prepared me for this next fight. I am going to be fighting physically but also thinking about every move I make.”
A normally defensive fighter prepared to go the distance behind his southpaw jab and straight left, Dzinziruk was out of character as the aggressor against Martinez and paid for it. The fight is proof that you can still learn important lessons at the highest of levels of this game.
“It wasn't Martinez so much as it was about me being so ambitious,” said Dzinziruk. “Martinez, to me, is someone I really look up to. I was very excited to have the opportunity to be in the ring with him. It wasn't him. It was my ambitions that overtook me.”
The fight also showed Dzinziruk where he belongs in terms of weight.
“Yes. 160 is not really my weight,” he said. “It’s 154.”
For this fight, Dzinziruk will employ the services of trainer Justin Fortune. Working out of Fortune’s Hollywood, CA gym the past month, Dzinziruk has sharpened his tools and added a few wrinkles to his game. The trick will be letting his hands go in combination. After so many amateur and pro fights, getting Dzinziruk out of his comfort zone and into a medium between fighting aggressively and boxing smart will be tough.
“Very intense training since I have been here for the last month,” Dzinziruk said of Fortune, who is known for laying the groundwork for Manny Pacquiao’s conditioning for the first six-plus years of the Filipino icon’s Wild Card campaign. “I had been at his gym in my previous visit. I have been working with a trainer back in the Ukraine but when he had legal issues with not being able to get his papers to come into the U.S., I decided to work with Justin.”
In Gonzalez, Dzinziruk faces a young fighter from Puerto Rico with a solid amateur background who some whisper may not be the hardest worker on the planet in the gym. On Friday, Gonzalez hammered those whispers home when he missed weight. As reported by Fightnews.com, he was 163 to Dzinziruk’s 156.5 (he was allowed to weigh in over the limit since Gonzalez was grossly overweight). Beyond that misfire, Dzinziruk sees an overall immaturity that speaks to why Gonzalez is vulnerable late in fights.
“I’ve seen videos of his fights. He’s young; he's aggressive but I am ready for all of it. I am in great shape and I know I am going to come out victorious,” said Dzinziruk, who added that the reason the 23-year-old Gonzalez tires is his youth makes him want to impress. That tension tires you out. “It’s youth and ambition because he is a young fighter. That is how I felt with Martinez. So now I am really ready to go out there and box smart.”
This is an odd fight. Gonzalez is a young prospect who has fought some solid opposition but at 15 fights, the question is, will he be ready for an experienced ex-champion who knows how to go 12 rounds?
This fight date was guaranteed to Dzinziruk as part of his deal to fight Martinez which was attached to the Tim Bradley vs. Devon Alexander fight in January 2011. But the fight was up to Serhiy. When I asked Dzinziruk why he took a fight like this after taking on a name like Martinez, he said, “Because there was such a big gap between the Martinez fight and the ones coming up, so I wanted to tune up a little. If I win on September 1, God willing, I am looking forward to bigger names.”
This is what “Boxing After Dark” was supposed to be about, a true crossroads fight between a young lion and an aging one. It will be interesting to see what Dzinziruk has left after that Martinez fight and if he can to find that exciting medium between pure boxing and pure fighting. For Gonzalez, all of his question marks just got bigger.