Tommy Barber – London
Suggestions that Indonesian featherweight supremo Chris John, who defends his WBA world title against Stanyslav Merdov on November 30, could miss out on viewers because the match-up is slated around the same time David Beckham‘s LA Galaxy line up against an Indonesian Premier League selection, have been played down by John’s management; Raja Sapta Oktohari, of Mahkota Promotions: “It won’t pose problems,” Oktohari said of the scheduling.
An undefeated campaigner at 126lbs, John is yet to receive global acclaim because he has predominantly fought on Indonesian canvas. In order to enhance his profile, John – who has championed the WBA featherweight world championship for an astonishing seven years – will box more regularly on alien terrain.
On November 30 he journeys to Australia to take on Merdov at the Challenge Stadium in Mt Claremont, Western Australia, providing the chief support to a fight card headlined by Danny Green’s attempt to bounceback from relinquishing his IBO belt to Antonio Tarver, by challenging Krzysztof Wlodarczyk for the Pole’s WBC cruiserweight crown.
According to the Jakarta Globe, Oktohari said: “We’ve got the green light from the WBA to stage the bout there. Chris has been training [in Perth] since mid-August and he’s ready to defend his title.”
Despite his unbeaten status, his 47 professional fight experience and the length of his reign at the summit of the WBA ranks, John (45-0-2, 22ko) remains an enigmatic figure in the consensus polls charting the top ten 126lb operators. On The Beak rank John second to Cuban sensation Yuriorkis Gamboa and, following John’s convincing points triumph over Daud Yordan earlier in the year, it was a super fight that John’s camp attempted to book but the main scuppering point was the Gamboa camp’s insistence that the bout be staged in the US.
“We’ve been in talks with boxers from Japan and Australia, but this is the one that came through. We want Chris to go global, so we decided against staging his bouts only in Indonesia. There are lots of Indonesians in Australia, so Chris won’t lack support there.” Breaking the fight down, Oktohari said: “[Merdov] is taller and has a longer reach than Chris, so we’ll see Chris fight in a different style. It will be a good bout.”
The fight will be broadcast live on RCTI, however, because of the timezone similarities between Western Australia and Indonesia, there is a potential scheduling conflict between John’s dust-up and the visit of the Galaxy, a popular MLS-based soccer outfit who brag one of the most recognisable names in world football on their squad list – Beckham; a former Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan winger-come-midfielder who has won a plethora of club honours, captained his national team – England – and is a huge star not just in his homeland, but in Asia, also.
“I don’t think that will be a problem. Chris’ fights have always attracted huge TV audiences.”
Should John successfully navigate his way past Merdov, then it has been suggested he will take on one of the other three world champions at featherweight: Johnny Gonzalez (WBC); Billy Dib (IBF) and Orlando Salido (WBO): “We’ve been thinking about a unification fight. We want Chris to be the real featherweight champion of the world,” Oktohari concluded.