Preview: Docherty vs Sinitsin
By Gavin Macleod (October 15, 2004) 
Photo © James Williamson
Tonight is the night of reckoning for two men who will contest the European Super-featherweight at the legendary Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. For the champion Boris Sinitsin and his challenger, the Commonwealth champion Craig Docherty, it is time to see if they will take one step forward or two steps back in terms of their individual pursuit of a world title shot. For the winner it will be onwards and upwards to a valley of greener pastures lined with trees that bear the fruits of opportunity, for the loser it may be the end of a good career or time to go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate how to come back.

Of the two losing scenarios you would imagine that the first is in the thoughts of the champion from Moscow. At age 33 father time is no longer his friend and a defeat now could well be the indication that there is a peg waiting in the gym, upon which Sinitsin should hang his gloves. Certainly there would be no shame in this as Sinitsin has had a very creditable career.

The Russian started punching for pay in 1992 at age 20, and over the course of his first two years as a pro he fought nineteen times, amassing an impressive slate of 15-3-1. This was accomplished by keeping extremely busy and fighting just about every month, which was rewarded by Sinitsin claiming the Russian super-featherweight title and then stepping up and winning the IBF intercontinental strap at the same weight.

Of his three stoppages in that period all came when fighting away from home. He lost to Hvica Hdrian in Kazakhstan (Pts 6), the vastly more experienced Regilio Tuur in Holland (Pts 10) and to Manuel Calvo in Spain (Pts 8) who would go onto become European featherweight champion and a world title challenger. It is believed that not all the decisions were fair and may have been given to the local favourite, but this never stopped Sinitsin from clocking up the air miles and also from winning his next ten fights in such countries as Spain, Costa Rica and France.

Indeed, it was in France that this winning run came to an end as Sinitsin was stopped for the only time in his career (TKO 7) in a European title challenge against the very classy Julien Lorcy, who two years later would win the WBA lightweight title. This defeat was followed by two more wins before Sinitsin again fouled his loss column being added to as he was outpointed over twelve rounds by Djamel Lifa for the European title, but if ever there was a man who believes in the rule of "if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again" then it's Sintisin.

The Lifa defeat was followed by a run of eight wins, including a very impressive third round sparking of Denmark's Dennis Holbaek Pedersen, a fight that eventually landed Sinitsin the European super-featherweight title. He then relinquished the title via a twelve round points decision to Pedersen eight months later in Denmark. Again Sinitsin just kept plugging away and moved himself into the mandatory position for another crack at the title. Pedersen vacated in pursuit of bigger fights and that left Sinitsin to outpoint Pedro Miranda for the vacant title, which he defended once before surrendering it via a questionable majority to decision to Miranda in February 2002. At this stage Sinitsin was thirty years old and some had already mentioned retirement but he wasn't quite prepared to give up his European title without a fight and eighteen months after losing it to Miranda he stopped the renowned French tough guy Affif Djelti in ten rounds to claim the title for a third time, and that is definitely a win to be respected. He has since defended the belt twice in 2004 beating Antonio Bento (UD 12) in Portugal and Ali Oubaali (MD 12) in France.

That maps out Sinitisin's past but what about his style? From speaking with Craig Docherty and his trainer John McDermott and also having seen the Bento fight it is clear that Sinitsin tucks up nice and tight and looks to establish a presence in the fight early doors. He is also a man who will impose his will and not let up should he have you hurt and on the retreat. While not a concussive puncher, he has enough of a dig to have scored no less than twenty-four stoppages in his career, that now reads 45-7-1, and also brings good workrate and stamina with him.

And of the man and his mindset? Meeting the champion on Monday it seemed that he was entirely unfazed by the prospect of fighting in front of Docherty's hometown crowd, saying through a translator "I'm very comfortable fighting outside of Russia as I'm now used to it. I'm used to the hostile crowds and they don't bother me." He also had comments regarding his outlook for the fight and on his opponent, "It is important for me to represent my country, I also want to win for my wife and two sons (aged 13 & 7) and hopefully one day I can fight for a world title. I've seen tapes of Craig and he is quite good, everyone has good points and bad points though. On the tapes I've seen the bad points and I will use them in the fight. He looks like how I imagined him and I expect him to be there fighting his heart out until the final bell."

Those are words which are echoed by most in the boxing world, but a lot of people's perception of who will be winning at the end of the twelve rounds is slightly different from that of Boris Sinitsin and his trainer Vladimir Gregoriev. Most of the media in attendance at this weeks press conferences are of the opinion that it will be close but Docherty will go home with a new blue and gold belt to sit atop his mantlepiece.

His preparation for the fight has been "spot on" according to John McDemott and this was illustrated at yesterdays weigh-in when Docherty scaled 9st 3lbs 10oz, a weight on which McDermott commented "that's perfect weight for the fight, I'm delighted." Docherty looked very fresh and strong at the weight and his shoulders were looking extremely broad and definitely broader than his opponents, who scaled in at a trim and healthy looking 9st 2lbs 10oz.

In the build-up to this fight the twenty-five year old Docherty, 18-1-1 (8) has been sparring with the likes of Scottish lightweight contender Martin Watson and fellow Glaswegian super-featherweight, Willie Limond. It has been an intense training camp and involved sparring which Docherty described as "Good hard rounds. Martin Watson is a strong boy and Willie's fast so that's really helped me prepare, it's been tough, but that's a good thing."

So with the build-up completed and fight night almost with us I suppose it's time for this writer to put his neck on the line and comment on how I see the fight going.

The obvious talking point to begin with is the hometown advantage for Docherty. He will be fighting in front of a sold out crowd of 2,500 partisan Scots and on top of that his manager and promoter Tommy Gilmour has even managed to arrange with the champion so that his charge can enter the ring second, in a bid to whip the crowd into a frenzy. "We asked Boris if he would agree to this and he has, but we will ensure that he is announced second to give him the respect he deserves as the champion," said Gilmour, who also this week remarked that it is his belief that the Kelvin Hall is one of the most intense and daunting atmospheres in world boxing, and that he didn't care where Sinitisin has been, this would get to him. It is a statement that the Russian camp are denying but I would be inclined to agree with. Two and a half thousand may not seem like a huge figure but within the acoustic confines of the Kelvin Hall it may well sound like an entire nation, and in some respects that is an accurate assessment of this fight's importance north of the border.

I will be looking for both men to come out and just give and take a taster of what the other has to offer in the opening two rounds but then I expect to see the fireworks lit. Sinitsin for all his experience and durability may not have met anyone who bangs the body with the sustained aggression and accuracy of Docherty before and this is where I see the key to this fight. The rib benders coming the champions way should take some of the edge out of his work, certainly in the later rounds, and I will expect to see Docherty taking on the role of the aggressor from round five onwards. Up until that point it should be a turf war. Of course it is not inconceivable that Sinitisin will match and even outstrip Docherty in the early rounds, whilst going on to establish a strong foothold in the fight and building an insurmountable lead to take a decision, it is just not how this writer sees the action unfolding. With Sinitsin tiring from the body shots, and possibly from the effects of being a thirty three year old veteran of some hard fought contests, I envisage the challenger keeping his foot on the gas and possibly having his opponent on the verge of being stopped in the last two rounds but ultimately pulling out a well earned decision win on all three judges score cards.

For profile information on Craig Docherty, see this link

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