What's It Like To Be Hit By Sultan Ibragimov?…Exclusive Interview With Sultan's Sparring Partner Danny Batchelder
08.10.07 - By Wray Edwards: Photos © Wray Edwards/ESB. So with all the yap-yap about whether Sultan should fight Evander, and the prognostications about the eventual outcome, it occurred to me that there should be at least one guy out there who has spent more time in the ring with Ibragimov than any of his opponents or fans. After all, a Boxing match only puts two guys together for thirty-six minutes at most. The opponents, hopefully, see each other at their best, but only for that short time. On the other hand, a sparring partner spends weeks and weeks with the boxer in training..
This guy gets into the ring day-after-day with the boxer, as well as witnessing the fighter's relationship with his trainer, manager and others on the team. The interplay between a sparring partner and the boxer he is helping to train, is one of the most intense in all of sports. As this is a contact sport, the immediate power of the contact makes the sparring partner a virtual expert on the effectiveness of the other guy in the ring and, obviously, one who has a great opportunity to asses his personality.
Therefore, ESB asked Sultan's latest sparring partner Danny Batchelder (25-5) to give us his take on Ibragimov the Boxer and the man.
ESB: Hey man, thanks for getting back to us. Now that your training assignment with Ibragimov is complete, we would like to know what are your most vivid impressions of sparring with Sultan?
Danny: "Man, that guy can crack! Even with big, fat sparring gloves his power comes right through. I just lost a split decision to James Toney in May (92-98, 93-97, 96-94). I know he was great at one time…you can't take that away from him, but lately I don't have much respect for him. Sultan is so different in every way.
ESB: How long did you spar with Sultan…is this the first time?
Danny: "Yes, this was the first time, and it lasted about three weeks."
ESB: Since you mentioned Toney, tell us about your fight with Alexander Dimitrenko for background leading up to sparring Sultan.
Danny: "That guy is 6'7"-254 pounds, he's from Ukraine and fights in Germany…think he's number one or two in the WBO…Continental Champion…he's a good fighter, great boxer…I had him down in the fifth round, but they didn't count him. He caught me with a couple of good shots when he came back in the seventh and they stopped it…you know, I tell it how it is.
After fighting those two guys then working with Sultan, I was very very impressed with him. Sultan's a guy, you know, he's not a big heavyweight. I think a lot of people look at him, and I think they underestimate him by lookin' at him, but you know…I also sparred David Tua…I've been in there with some pretty big guys and Sultan can bring the power big time."
ESB: You say he can punch, but how about boxing? He's got a rep for being an amateurish slugger…is that what you experienced when you fought with him?
Danny: "Jeff Mayweather, who I have a lot of respect for…he's a great trainer, he has Sultan boxin' very good now…a lot of people I know don't think of Sultan as a fighter…as a good boxer you know, but I'm tellin' ya Sultan can box…and he's a great person too on top of all of that. And, um…I was very impressed with Sultan, he's probably one of the most impressive guys I've been in the ring with.
I mean he's…you got to watch yourself every second of every round. You have to…I mean you gotta come in there sharp because if you don't I mean man he can punch, and he will…he'll light you up if you make a mistake."
ESB: In a way I feel ill equipped to evaluate the guy because, as a Boxing reporter, all I get is polite conversation, but you guys are out there on the edge where few humans ever go risking complete exposure.
Danny: Your right about that, but I'm one of the guys that's been in there with him and I really respect him as a man as well as a fighter…and uh there's so many people who can't know by combat experience with him, but I'm tellin' ya, you better not look at him and think this or that because that man can fight, he's got a great chin, that man can punch with the best of them.
I really don't expect this Holyfield fight…I mean you know, Holyfield's tricky, he's dirty…who knows how long he might be able to last but…I just see Sultan…I mean he's just too fast, he's younger…I just really see Sultan just destroyin' him. That's the only way I see the fight" ending up."
ESB: What's it like to get hit by Sultan?
Danny: "I guess I've been hit by a lot of people and, you know, I'm a fighter myself, I have pride you know…I've been hit by a lot of guys…guys that can punch and I'm tellin' you Sultan can ruin your day.
He's one of the few guys I've been in the ring with, and when he hits you, if he hits you good boy, even in sparring, you say whoa! You ain't going to want that again, and you find out real quick you got to be on the ball with him."
ESB: How do you think he would do if he got inside on Wlad?
Danny: "Interesting you bring that up. I recently told Jeff Mayweather I think Sultan's the guy that can beat Klitschko because I think he has so much will and determination, and he is a tough tough character. And he can hit hard enough…I think that umm…I think he can make Klitschko quit."
ESB: You know I have interviewed a couple of boxers that went over there to fight him and it seems that all the fireworks, music and cheering intimidates them before they ever get in the ring with him.
Danny: "You know when I went over there to fight Dimitrenko they had all the fireworks, smoke and they had a packed crowd like fourteen thousand people all cheering for him that night…I mean you know you just gotta stay focused, and Sultan's a guy…I don't think that would even phase him. I don't think he'd think about it.
After the tenth round Wlad wanted to quit when he fought Peter. Manny Steward had to literally push him out there because when they get tired they get scared, and Sultan's the guy, I know is the guy that could make them guys tired…I think he could make them panic."
ESB: Uh huh, I've seen him panic a couple of times.
Danny: "Even though Sultan's a great person, a great individual and he laughs, he jokes and is a real nice guy, but I'm tellin' you what, when he gets in the ring though boy, there ain't no jokin' there."
ESB: I have noticed many boxers put on a game face when they get in the ring, but he makes as big a transition as I've ever seen.
Danny: "I've got a friend James Walton who fought Sultan and I told him about Mayweather's training, which has Sultan boxing, and he said, 'Really?!' and I said yeah. I'm tellin' you he can move, he can punch, he's got a great jab when he uses it, he's got a lot of weapons. I'm tellin' you Sultan's one of them heavyweights that he does belong there, and he's gonna be there whether people want him to or not, they're gonna have to deal with him or look chicken."
Hey, do me a favor. I want everybody to know that I think Toney got a bit of home town in that fight with me, and a lot of people believe that I actually beat him. I know I beat him and he knows it too. I could tell by the look in his eyes he knew it too, just like that time with Oscar and Felix. I think he's afraid of me because the split was so close, and he knows I went to school on him during that fight enough to take him out next time. If he doesn't give me a rematch, that will just prove my point."
ESB: Thank you for taking time to give us the benefit of your thoughts about Sultan. His camp sends their regards, and they believe that your sparring with Sultan was very effective in preparing him for this fight.
Well, the Embassy of the Russian Federation has just sent the author his visa to cover the fight in Moscow. It should be quite an adventure to witness this benchmark fight near the Russian Capitol, in which a western challenger will take on a hero of that nation.
Those who have denigrated this contest, fail to realize that Sultan's emphasis is on excellence and participation at the highest professional level which can be arranged. Despite the quagmire which the sanctions are making of the divisional championships, Golden Grain, NAFTA Moskva and Warriors Boxing refuse to participate in their petty politics. Their creed: Just bring it dudes…if you've got the stones.
Time will tell if Sultan's people will be able to cut through the various sanction's and promoter's juvenile BS, and if he can match their efforts in the ring. One thing for sure: This guy is not one of your trash-talking hype-yackers who slides around in the oily politics of nepotistic promoters. Their simple aim is to challenge anybody out there with the kahones to step up, be professional, and defend their hoarded and protected championships.
If Sultan is supposedly such easy meat, how come these other "champions" aren't calling him out? Their mewling and pewking about unification seems no more than phony bravado, for all the bling in the world cannot hide dishonesty. After all, if he's so wimpy, the WBO strap would make an easy start. Perhaps their risk benefit assessments have uncovered just enough doubt to make them timid. Perhaps their juevos are about the size of sesame seeds.
Some say Sultan's effort in fighting Evander is a lose-lose endeavor. If he loses to the old dude he's disgraced…If he wins, it's only against an old dude. Hogwash!! Every fight at this level is important. Also, IMO every Boxing match is for the championship of the ring that night. The whole world falls away as two solitary souls engage in mortal combat. At the very least it will be historic. This Saturday, October 13th one of the most unusual Boxing matches in the history of the sport will be beamed around the world. See you at the fights.
Article posted on 08.10.2007
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