'Time will show everything': Denis Lebedev interview
Ahead of his next fight on 24 November, Denis Lebedev speaks to James Lupton about beating Roy Jones, his desire to fight Oleksandr Usyk and much more...
By his own admission, Denis Lebedev was forced into boxing and for years didn't believe he would make it in the sport.
Now, the 39-year-old former unified cruiserweight title holder finds himself on the cusp of a world title shot once more as he prepares to face 19-0 American Mike Wilson in Monte Carlo on 24 November.
“In first grade, my father took my hand and brought me to the boxing gym," Lebedev told Boxing Monthly. "He didn’t ask me if I wanted to go or not. He just told me that I would become a world champion one day, that was said in the very beginning. I doubted it for a long time but closer to 20 years old I started believing in it.”
Lebedev is one of the main attractions in the annual Matchroom visit to the south of France and is looking forward to locking horns with Wilson.
“We offered the fight to different opponents, many of them said no," the Russian explained. "The fact that Wilson took the fight tells us that he has a character and he wants to fight. That’s all I need to think about now. I will be prepared 100 per cent for him.
“Mike is a good level fighter. In my weight division, one punch can end everything. I can’t underestimate my opponent. I’m sure he will do his best to win my belt. And this fight will show me if I’m ready to fight Oleksandr Usyk.”
With an amateur career to be proud of Lebedev then recalled several of these memories with great fondness.
“I didn’t have the lows in my amateur career. Yes, I lost some fights but overall I was always moving forward to my goal.
“First, I won my hometown competition, then I’ve become a region champion than I won the championship of Russia and joined our junior national team. After that, I won the European boxing junior championship in 1997. Later, following advice of my trainer, I turned professional.”
As a pro, the Russian has tallied up an impressive 31 wins from 33 fights, with his sole reverses both coming via split decision (he was stopped against Guillermo Jones, a bout that subsequently was ruled a no contest after the Panamanian failed a drugs test). He has fought many of the best of what the cruiserweight division has had to offer over the last decade, including the likes of Marco Huck, Enzo Maccarinelli and Murat Gassiev.
Lebedev gave his take on arguably the two most defining fights of his career thus far.
“I think one of the most memorable moments in my professional career was the win over Roy Jones [by tenth-round KO in 2011]. He is the legend. I understand that Roy was not already in his best shape. However, this win was an important step for me towards the next big fights.
“I'm sure you remember my fight with Guillermo Jones. I think this was the most difficult and unpleasant moment in my career. In the first round, I got cut, in the second round I’ve got the second one, and in later rounds two more.
"Total had four cuts that fight. It was difficult I was tired but I had to keep fighting. Later round I couldn’t continue because I couldn’t see my opponent. So we stopped the fight. I remember this moment like it was yesterday.”
With his forties fast approaching, just how much longer can Lebedev continue?
“Right now I feel like a very mature and strong boxer. I can’t tell how long more I’ll be in the ring and what will be achieved.”
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