THE OTHER RUSSIANS ARE COMING !!

Billy the Kid rides alone. But this Friday night when he comes into town it would not be a bad idea if he brought along the James boys, the Daltons, Wyatt Earp and most definitely Doc Holliday. For Billy “The Kid” Zumbrun’s scheduled shootout at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino he is going to need all the help he can get.

Timor Ibragimov, undefeated in twenty-one professional fights is ready to take aim on the upper strata of the heavyweight division. The days of anonymity as the “other Russians” are soon to be a thing of the past.

Knock, knock!!

“Who’s there?

“Timor and Sultan.”

“Timor and Sultan who?”

Forget it! Timor and Sultan Ibragimov are no jokes; knock-knock or any other kind. They are for real, they are here and they are hungry. Also, they are looking to replace a couple of other Russian brothers as the crème d’ le crème of the heavyweight division.

“The Klitschkos may be bigger in size but Timor and Sultan will knock out both of them because they are bigger in heart,” stated Boris Grinberg, their manager. Timor and Sultan had just finished their workouts at Punch Fitness in Deerfirld Beach when Grinberg and their trainer, Panama Lewis, joined us at the front of the gym.

Timor, 31, is the senior member of the Dynamic Duo by seven weeks, but he does not have to be protective of his “baby” cousin, who was the heavyweight silver medalist in the 2000 Olympics. As far as being a ‘baby’, do not play kitchee-coo with Sultan. Lance Whitaker lived up to his nickname as “Goofy” when he tried that at a November press conference that turned into a riot at Gallagher’s in New York City after he kitcheed Sultan a little to emphatically for his enjoyment and Goofy wound up cooing on the canvas a month later at the Hard Rock.

As they are now ready to move to another level, it prompts one to wonder what happens if by a process of elimination, Timor and Sultan are left atop the heap facing each other. “I will never fight against my ‘brother’ in the ring.”

“Brother? Isn’t Sultan your cousin?” I asked. “In my Russia, the blood of family makes you the same as a brother.” Then he smiled. “If there are five championships out there we have enough to share. Sultan can have three. I will be happy with two.”

Sultan, questioned separately, had the same response, except he dug up an extra alphabet title and split the heavyweight crowns right down the middle – three and three.

It is truly wonderful what the new era of boxing does for family harmony.

Although Timor, who is in top shape, feels confident as he looks to the future, he is not taking his upcoming fight on February 24th against Billy Zumbrun as a stepping stone nor is he looking past Billy the Kid.

“One mistake against a heavyweight fighter and it’s all over. You must respect the power of the man in the ring with you.”

Both Timor and Sultan, who is also undefeated (19-0, 16 knockouts) are here on work visas. Timor, who has a master’s degree in physical education has two daughters, 11 and 6, who are with his wife in Uzbekistan and he yearns for the day he and his family can make Florida their home. Sultan is a bachelor but he, too, has fallen in love with the Florida sunshine and lifestyle. With each fight their fan base increases. Theirs is an unusual combine: two Moslem fighters with a Jewish manager and a flamboyant trainer who is ostracized in much of the boxing community and is not permitted in the ring with his fighters. Panama Lewis is a “tough guy” trainer who turns out tough fighters. It’s slightly more than two months ago that Lewis collapsed after Sultan’s knockout of Lance Whitaker at the same Seminole Hard Rock. He had suffered a heart attack and was rushed into surgery where a stent was required and implanted in his artery. The following week he was back at work.

How does he feel physically?

“I’m a cat. I’ve got nine lives. Eight more to go.”

As for his fighters, Panama bellows, “Beware of the Russians, beware of the Russians! They are the real thing!”

They have to be the real thing because they are the other Russians. They do not create the mob hysteria of a Dmitriy Salita, whose appeal as an observant orthodox Chabad follower has made him a near-cult hero in New York. Following closely behind him are Israeli transplants Yuri Foreman and Roman Greenberg. When you speak Russian heavyweights, just as “2” follows “1”, the Kltschko brothers—Vitale and Vladimir—almost automatically come to mind.

It is time, Timor believes, for the beginning of their ascension to the top. He says it with a smile. Sultan says it with a grimace. As close as they are, there are glaring differences. The best way to describe them is to imagine yourself in an overcrowded parking lot in a mall where you have been looking for a space for more time than your patience can indulge when, suddenly, you see the parking lights of a car prepared to leave. You get to that space at exactly the same time as another car. It is driven by Timor. You look at the driver and decide, “Well, let’s give it a try” and head for the space looking to beat out Timor’s car.

Same situation. Only this car is driven by Sultan. You take one look at the driver…and pull away. This is a guy you do not mess with. Don’t believe it? Just check it out with a guy called “Goofy” Whitaker.

*****

The Friday night card at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood, FL, besides Timor Ibragimov in a scheduled 12-rounder for the Fecarbox heavyweight title, has Glen Johnson vs Richard Hall for the vacant IBA Light Heavyweight Title and two lightweight 10-rounders pitting Joel Casamayor against Antonio Ramirez and Ricky Quiles vs Jeremy Yelton.

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