ARTEM LOBOV will be a name unfamiliar to most fans of the sweet science but he is, in a nutshell, to Conor McGregor what Adrien Broner is to Floyd Mayweather. He fights a bit like the Irishman; he follows him around; his reputation has been enhanced by association; he’s a sparring partner some days, mascot on others.
Interestingly (or not), since requesting his release from the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) this week, Lobov has signalled his intention to branch out from MMA and pursue opportunities in both kickboxing and boxing. Like McGregor, the Russian sees himself as a combat sports freelancer; a roaming warrior gifted enough to ignore the rules and blur the lines between disciplines – oh, and and make a bit more money in the process.
He leaves the UFC with a modest 2-5 record and it’s unlikely, despite his striking skills and toughness, he will fare much better in either boxing or kickboxing. The reality of this, however, probably won’t stop ‘The Russian Hammer’, also known as ‘The GOAT’, from trying.
Indeed, the Dublin-based 32-year-old has already taken to social media to say that K1 kickboxing “has always been on my radar, proper fights”, and to call out boxers Amir Khan and Paulie Malignaggi (well, some bloke called Malinagi) for a fight next Saturday.
The best we can say about the Khan and Malignaggi call-outs is this: at least it’s not Floyd Mayweather. Lessons have been learned.
Malinagi and Khan I am ready to go next saturday, where are yous at??!! 👊🇮🇪🇷🇺
— Artem Lobov (@RusHammerMMA) January 29, 2019
While heavyweights Anthony Joshua, Dillian Whyte and Jarrell Miller squabble over dates, venues and, crucially, money, the world cruiserweight champion, Oleksandr Usyk, monitors the situation from afar and plans his own move into the sport’s marquee division.
Thirty-two-year-old Usyk, the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO world cruiserweight king, was last seen stopping Britain’s Tony Bellew inside eight rounds in November and has since been weighing up his options – both as a cruiserweight and heavyweight.
Now, following talks between K2 Promotions and Matchroom Boxing in New York, it appears the brilliant Ukrainian has moved a stepped closer to making his decision.
“The main theme of our meeting was the return of Oleksandr Usyk. This is a subject that the world wants to learn about. We are in the process of making a decision,” Alexander Krassyuk, the general director of the Ukrainian section of K2 Promotions, told World Boxing News.
“We have determined that it is most likely that his return match will be as heavyweight on May 18 or 25.
“Usyk wants to face the best right away and conquer the division.”
Last July, Usyk, 16-0 (12), lifted the World Boxing Super Series’ Muhammad Ali Trophy following a comprehensive thrashing of cruiserweight puncher Murat Gassiev. It proved one of three reasons why he was the Boxing News ‘Fighter of the Year’ for 2018.
Should Usyk move to heavyweight and enjoy a similar spell of dominance, we could be looking at one of the sport’s all-time greats. All in good time, though. All in good time.