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Coming to America

Sergiy Dzinziruk is an elite fighter in Europe, but relatively unknown here. The Ukrainian is out to change that by taking on a huge challenge in Sergio Martinez, the 2010 Fighter of the Year. "Martinez is just a name," Dzinziruk says. "After I beat him, the American public will know who I am."

Just who is he? Start with the vitals. Dzinziruk is 37-0, a world champion since 2005, and had a tremendous amateur career with over 300 bouts, including a trip to the Olympics in 1996. His professional resume is not padded by chumps. He has fought the best Europe has to offer, beaten tough American fighters like Joel Julio, Daniel Santos and Daniel Dawson. His last 10 bouts were all title fights - three European, seven world championship. Over that stretch his opponents had a combined record of 272-16.
Artie Pelullo, Dzinziruk's co-promoter, sees a parallel between the way Martinez burst on the American scene from seemingly nowhere a little over two years ago, and his own fighter. "Before Martinez lost a controversial decision to Paul Williams, nobody knew who he was," Pelullo says. "Now that he has beaten Williams and Pavlik he's a star. Sergiy is going to do the same thing."
Pelullo has some recent experience with bringing over a fighter from Europe who made a big splash in the US with little pre-fight fanfare. Pelullo promotes middleweight Dmitry Pirog, who was unbeaten and unheralded in 16 fights -- all in Russia -- before he scored a shocking fifth round knockout last July of everybody's prospect of the year, Daniel Jacobs. "Pirog was unknown until he beat Jacobs. The difference is in Europe everybody knows Sergiy," Pelullo says.
Perhaps most remarkable about Dzinziruk is his confidence. He is not cocky in the American style, just dead sure of himself and his abilities. "Martinez is just another title defense," Dzinziruk says through translator Harry Kazigian. "Once I get in the ring with him, I will show him who I am."
Dzinziruk is also not fazed by having his first big professional bout in America. He fought the first 36 bouts of his pro career in Europe, then came over to the U.S. last May for what he calls a "tune up" against Daniel Dawson, who was 34-1. Dzinziruk knocked him out in the tenth round. "My amateur career helped give me a strong foundation. Over the years I have travelled all over the world and come to realize this is just a job, and I love doing it no matter where I fight. Fighting in front of an American audience is just another day at work."
Although Martinez scored a spectacular one-punch knockout of Williams in the second round of their rematch last November, Dzinziruk doesn't believe the Argentine poses the same kind of threat to him. "Just because he threw a left and knocked out Paul Williams doesn't make him Roberto Duran with hands of stone overnight," Dzinziruk says. "He has 50 fights, knocked out 25, which is 50 per cent. I am 37-0 with 23 knockouts (62 per cent). If anybody should be worried about power, it should be Martinez. Let's remember he got dropped by Williams in their first fight. I've never been knocked down in all my fights. I have a very good chin."
Dzinziruk put that chin on display when he beat Julio in 2008. Julio is one of the sport's biggest punchers, with 31 knock outs in his 36-victory career. He tagged Dzinziruk cleanly in the early rounds, yet his punches seemed to have no effect on the Ukrainian. Martinez, of course, is a much more accomplished fighter than Julio, and holds a distinct advantage over Dzinziruk in hand speed and lateral movement. What Martinez (46-2-2) can't match is Dzinziruk's powerful jab, one of the best in boxing. A southpaw like Martinez, some think Dzinziruk's jab is even stronger than his left hand. "My jab is a key to this fight," he says. "Martinez won't be able to do anything with my jab in his face."
This will be a middleweight championship fight, a weight Dzinziruk has never fought at. He says the step up from 154 pounds will not be an issue. "I feel very comfortable at this weight, very strong. I am six feet tall with a good frame and can put on the extra few pounds with no problem." The 5'-10 Martinez is also not exactly a natural middleweight, having fought at 160 only three times.
To help make the transition to American boxing, Dzinziruk trained for this fight with Buddy McGirt, who has conditioned many champions. "Sergiy is using McGirt because he wanted an American trainer in his corner who'd been involved in big fights," Pelullo says. Dzinziruk says McGirt has been a good fit for him. "Buddy knows my style and habits. He didn't come in to change everything. He's just filling up the puzzle, trying to add a few things to my ammunition."
Dzinziruk's junior middleweight title will not be on the line, just Martinez's 160-pound belt. In all likelihood, he'll go back to 154 at some point whether he wins or loses.. What's certain is his days as a European fighter are over. "All my future fights will be in the US," Dzinziruk says. After his March 12 clash with Martinez, American fight fans will know his name.

"Martinez is just a name," Dzinziruk says. "After I beat him, the American public will know who I am."

Posted 12:00 AM | Mar 7, 2011

Sergio Martinez vs Sergiy Dzinziruk

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