New York, NY / Monaco / Johannesburg (July 1) - Well-travelled former world champion Souleymane M’baye (40-4-1, 22 KOs) has promised Khabib Allakhverdiev (18-0, 8 KOs) the fight of his life when they contest the WBA and IBO light-welterweight title in Monte Carlo on July 13.
The fight is the co-feature on the “Monte Carlo Million Dollar Super Four” final bill, taking place in Monaco and promoted by Golden Gloves.
M’baye says he will draw strength from a 10-week training camp, something seldom afforded him in his 15-year professional career.
The veteran began his preparation in his home town of Levallois-Perret (near Paris, in the Hauts-de-Seine region), with career-long trainer Jose N’Gufulu, who also looked after the late European cruiserweight contender Norbert Ekassi.
The Frenchman is now in Sheffield, England with Dominic Ingle, whom he credits with adding “new ingredients” to the M’baye package lest training becomes “boring”.
M’baye, aged 38, is positive that he has the game plan to knock the unbeaten Russian champion off kilter.
“I love his style, that is exactly what I need to make him face unexpected problems,” said M’baye, who speaks French, Spanish and the Wolof language of Senegal. “I do not want to say more, first out of respect, second because of superstition and third, because a fight is never ‘done’ before it takes place. I made this mistake in the past, I do not want to repeat it.
“Allakhverdiev is not a very well-known champion internationally but his promoter Vlad Hrunov is. Khabib is talented, undefeated and his win against the South African Kaizer Mabuza and Joan Guzman were pretty impressive.”
The challenger credits N’Gufulu with orchestrating his WBA light-welterweight title win against Raul Balbi in 2006, when his friend Amir Khan fought on the undercard.
“Everything is done in cooperation with my head coach who is also here in England with me. It was the same when Buddy McGirt helped for my preparation of the world championship against Antonin Decarie in 2010.
“For me, Dominic and his father Brendan make me also think about two of my idols in Prince Naseem Hamed and Johnny Nelson, in addition to Pernell Whitaker and Roy Jones jnr. With Dominic I immediately got ‘reciprocal chemistry’ from day one.”
M’baye hesitates to name the sparring partners he is using, acknowledging only that they are “talented and motivated”.
“When I regain my world crown, I will be able to thank them individually by mentioning their names. They are top boxers and top guys. It is a real pleasure to be here in Sheffield, the city of world champions.”
M’baye has carefully studied videos of the champion.
“Also, Jose and Dominic have studied Khabib inside out. I have done it on my side too. The more I know about him, the better I will understand the game plans prepared by my coach. I know that one of my weaknesses is that I think too much, but it is also one of one my strengths. I know what I do and why I do it.
“My strengths are my youth (laughs), my motivation, my experience, my style and the abilities and experience of my team.”
He dismisses talk that he is long in the tooth or unmotivated after a 15-year, 45-fight career.
“Yes, I have been pro for a long time after a brief amateur career, but I feel very fresh. I’ve never had an overly tough fight. When I lost against Gavin Rees and Ismael El Massoudi, those weren’t losses per se. It was simply because I made the huge mistake of underestimating them and because a lot of outside issues made these fights ‘complicated’. I do not want to make excuses. That is not my style, but it is true that during these two fights it was not truly me. In those fights I shot myself in the foot.
“Incidentally, at the end of the 11th round against Al Massoudi it was a draw but again this fight took place under such special circumstances that I simply do not want to think any more about it [he twisted his right knee in the 12th round and couldn’t continue]. The past is the past, only the future matters.
“I want to bring the WBA crown to my son ‘Souly Junior’. That is my dream and I think every day about it. I love my fans, who have always been behind me from the beginning of my career, even when I was fighting abroad everywhere in Europe, often as an undercard fighter. My fans brought me good words when I was feeling real bad, I owe them this title. It will be my seventh world title fight and I cannot miss out.
“For them, for my city of Levallois, for my family, for my full team, and for both the Principality of Monaco, which is giving me this unique opportunity, and France, Senegal and for President Mandela of South Africa, who I hope will recover, I have to win and will do so.”