He is a boxing pro and a believing muslim. And now Mohammad Abdullaev, 31, is facing his dream fight at the â€žMecca of Boxing“, New York ’s Madison Square Garden . Abdullaev (15 victories, 12 KOs , 1 loss) challenges the unbeaten superlightweight world champion (WBO) Miguel Cotto (23-0/19 KOs ). The fight draws big attention from fans, experts and the media. HBO will televise live.
This fight has a history: In the 2000 Olympics at Sydney/Australia, Abdullaev beat Cotto en route to his gold medal for Uzbekistan . “I beat him then, I will do it again”, says Abdullaev. “I have his movements in my brain just like information or data on a computer harddisk. He can’t change it even after some years as a pro. I know I have to do twice he does in our fight to win the title in front of his crowd at the Madison Square Garden . I am honored to box the best in New York .” Repeat or Revenge?
In an interview with boxing.de, Abdullaev speaks about the upcoming fight, being a boxing pro, starting in the U.S. and moving to Europe , he talks about trainer Fritz Sdunek, his only and somehow funny loss as a pro and about his creed.
Boxing.de: Mohammad, you’re from Usbekistan. There are political unrests in your country. How is your family?
Mohammad Abdullaev: Meanwhile the situation calmed down and it’s more peaceful there now. I’m extremely relieved because my wife is living there and my four sisters. Ruslan Chagaev (heavyweight boxing pro for Universum) recently travelled to our country as well and shortly thereafter the turmoil ended. Maybe it had something to do with his impressive appearance. I’m just kidding. But what I would like to state at this point is that I dedicate my fight and my victory on June 11 to my country and to my fellow Uzbekistanis. I dedicate it in memory to the people who died in the fights.
At the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000 you captured gold. Where do you keep your medal?
My gold medal is at home in Uzbekistan with my family.
In the Olympic tournament you beat Miguel Cotto. What do you remember about your fight?
Cotto was strong opposition. But I dominated him and outscored him clearly by 17:2. In the professionals Cotto is the yongest and strongest champion at jr. welterweight. Of course things are a bit different in the pros. I will give everything on June 11 and I want that title.
How did Miguel Cotto grow in the professionals?
While I was living in Las Vegas I saw Cotto box live several times. In addition, I watched his last three contests on video. He’s a terrific fighter. However, I don’t see a problem to repeat my victory. Universum Box-Promotion gave me the great chance to fight for the world title. I’m very grateful to my management. I will do everything I can to capture the title.
How did it come you started your professional career in the U.S. ?
Things just happened. After the Olympic games people approached me in the U.S. We sat together and talked and eventually I signed a contract. At that point I had no clue about the business of professional boxing. But with my training the US I learned a lot. By fighting there I also gained recognition in Las Vegas . When I go shopping on the streets people recognize me and talk to me. A few years ago pro boxing to me ment just training and fighting. Nowadays I know much more about the business.
In 2003 you suffered your single loss against Emmanuel Clottey from Ghana . I heard there is a strange story attached to this knockout.
Yes, this is a long story. Initially this fight had been postponed several times. I received the first notification two weeks prior to the fight and I had to lose weight quickly. Two days prior to the fight it was called off, but later they reannounced it one week prior to a new date. Then finally we fought and in the tenth and final round he caught me with a good uppercut and then he hit the back of my head. I stumbled through the ropes with my head and the referee started to count. The referee may have already reached “5” or “6” when I looked into my corner. To my confusion my cornermen gestured me to take a knee which I did. But at that moment the referee counted “nine” and “ten” and stopped the fight. I had been counted out due to a misunderstanding. At my first day with my new promoter Universum they offered Clottey a rematch, but he declined.
What was your best fight?
In January 2004 I fought against former world champion Philip Holiday in Australia . I knocked him out with a straight right hand in round four and captured the WBO intercontinental title. I believe this was my best fight.
What’s more imporant for your fighting: Power or stamina?
Great stamina plus technique is most important. This is more important than just a hard punch. When you have a good technique, good boxing skills the power comes automatically.
How is your relation to your coaches Fritz Sdunek and Artur Grigorian? (Note: Artur Grigorian, originating from Uzbekistan, too, was WBO Lightweight Champion of the world from 1996 to 2004)
When I came to Hamburg I had already eleven professional fights and I had collected a lot of experience in the US . But to me Fritz is the trainer number one. I learned so much from him and he told me many new things. I really like how Fritz is handling his job. There is no better coach than him. In case I win the world title Fritz will be the greatest to me anyway. And Artur of course is a very good friend who supports me a lot. In boxing I have two fathers: My American coach Kenny Adam s and Fritz. With my time in the U.S. plus my move to Germany I learned two boxing styles. I learned American boxing and European boxing. I picked up the best from both styles, I unified them.
What are your advantages over Miguel Cotto?
I have very good movement and very good technique. And I can punch hard. I also have big heart. I don’t see that Cotto has the same big heart like me. This fight is my great chance. It was clear to me that I would accept this chance because at age 31 I wanto to try to do it now. I don’t want to wait. I learned a lot from my single defeat and now I want to go round again. Currently I accept no detraction. I completely focus on this fight. On June 11 I will give my maximum.
What will be your walk-in music?
It’s a song from my home country Uzbekistan . A group composed and sang this song especially for me.
You are a believing muslim. Do you pray prior to your fights?
I don’t only pray prior to my fights. I pray several times each day, if I have the time for it. Allah is following me through my entire day: While I’m eating, training, when I stand up and when I go to sleep. And when I fight I put my trust in Allah’s protection.