Whatever your views on the above question one thing cannot be denied, Russian's are becoming stars in professional boxing and in a big way. We have fighters like Sergey Kovalev, Ruslan Provodnikov and Denis Lebedev who are insanely fun to watch, we have skilled prospects such as Konstantin Ponomarev and Arif Magomedov and we have a lot of fighters on the verges of making a name for themselves. One man who is hoping to make a name for himself this coming weekend is unbeaten former amateur stand out Matt Korobov (24-0, 14), a man once touted for major success though left in the shadows of many of his compatriots. To make a name for himself Korobov will need to get past popular Irishman Andy Lee (33-2, 23) and claim the WBO Middleweight title.
For those who haven't seen much of Korobov he's a man who combines genuine talent and power with real frustration. When he's on song he looks really fantastic however he can often look like he's going through the motions and as if he can't be bothered to really pick up the pace. It can be hard to watch him at times though you do so to see the odd spark of aggression or moment of magic.
The reason why Korobov is so frustrating is because we know how good he is. As an amateur he was sensational and a 2-time world amateur champion with notable wins over a who's who. He combined well drilled skills with solid speed and very impressive power. As a pro we've seen some of the skills and combinations he can rattle off, in fact at times we've been wowed by him. Sadly however those moments have been few and far between. It may be that Korobov is holding them in the locker for when he needs to draw on his immense ability and amateur experience or it maybe that he simply doesn't have it in him to show more than a few flashed of brilliance.
Like Korobov there has been a lot of expectation on the shoulders of Andy Lee. The Irish fighter was one of the final fighters working with the great Manny Steward before the trainer passed away and for years Steward told everyone that Lee was one of the best fighters he had worked with. Whatever Steward saw in Lee hasn't been fully shown to the world though it's clear he is a talented fighter with traits many top fighters wish they could have.
Stood at 6'2” with a huge wingspan and fighting from the southpaw stance Lee is certainly a tricky fighter when he's in full flow. Like many Steward protégés Lee makes the most of his natural size and is a pure outside fighter who makes the most of his sharp and rangy jab on the outside. On the inside Lee can be out worked though can often find a way to create distance with his clever movement and spiteful jab. Like many Steward fighters the jab is the key to Lee's boxing but his straight can be destructive and his right hook proved it's worth earlier this year when he detonated on John Jackson with a KO of the year contender.
Lee's KO of Jackson is fresh in the memory of most fans and will certainly be something that Korobov is aware of, like wise the jab of Lee. In many ways however we've seen the best of Lee and we've seen him twice cave in when the going got tough with both Brian Vera and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr breaking down the Irish man who was also in trouble against Jackson before landing the hail Mary. With that in mind we suspect Korobov will bring a lot of intelligent pressure, and try to grind down the Irishman who will be forced to box off the back foot. The big question is how does Lee handle the pressure form Korobov? We suspect he won't handle it well for long and although Lee will probably have great success early on with his jab we think by round 6 or 7 he'll be waning big time as Korobov starts to open up his locker and show us the tools he at the ready for when he needs them.
The winner of this bout is set to fight unbeaten British contender Billy Joe Saunders, who recently defeated Chris Eubank Jr. Although Saunders is unbeaten and talented we tend to feel that both Korobov and Lee will have too much for him.
(Image courtesy of instantboxing.com)