Isaac Chilemba and Vasily Lepikhin are squaring off on March 14th on the Sergey Kovalev vs. Jean Pascal undercard in Montreal, Canada, televised on HBO Boxing. Take a look at what each man has to say on the fight here.
[On his shorter training camp] First of all, I thank God for this opportunity. I am fighting on HBO and it is a dream come true. When I am back home, I always keep in shape so training in the United States is just a tune up for me before the fight. I am really looking forward to next week.
[On his game plan for Lepikhin] I am always ready for anything. We prepare for anything that might possibly happen in the ring. Lepikhin is a good fighter. He has good movement. He has a good jab. That is what training is there for. I don’t see anything to cause a problem in the fight. We will deal with what he brings us.
[On whether the close decisions he lost in the past have added pressure] I have learned from my close decisions in the past. My goal is not to give any opponent a chance that it could be close call again. I want to win every round from beginning to end. I don’t want to give any second thought as to whether or not I win the fight.
[What was his favorite win?] I value all my fights. Every win means a lot to me. They are all equal.
[On his dreams as a child in Malawi] My dream from the beginning has been to be the best in the world and to be best in my division. People talk about Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier; I wanted to be like them. This is my dream coming true. I am getting closer. The closer I get to my dream the more I want to be one of the greatest in the world.
[On his toughest fight so far in his career] [Tony] Bellew was my hardest fight in my career. I defeated myself. I didn’t know who I was, what I was or what I was doing; I continued to fight with myself. I never thought that would happen in my life. It was a big learning point for me. I have to make sure I am mentally in good shape for this fight. I am always make sure I am in good shape physically.
[On fighting in the deeper rounds] My 12 rounds fights have taught me a lot. I don’t know how Lepikhin is prepared and whether he is tough enough to go the distance but I have been there. I always push myself to the max because I just want that win.
[On fighting in the United States and Canada] Here in America is the mecca of boxing. It is every African fighters dream to fight in America and get an American promoter. I am living that dream.
[On who he would like to fight next] My goal is to fight anyone who is on top. I think even the loser of Kovalev-Pascal will still be ranked higher up. I would love to fight the winner or [Adonis] Stevenson because I am ranked #2, even if I have to wait for that opportunity I know I am getting closer to the champ.
[On Chilemba] First of all I am very happy to be fighting on HBO. It is all going to depend on the situation what will happen. I am going to do my work. I am not going to aim for anything. I am trying to win the fight.
[On his mental preparation] Chilemba is a better known fighter than me and this gives me more motivation. I want to show everyone I am a very good fighter and show the fans more good boxing. It is always important for me to look good in any fight and make fans like me. It doesn’t matter who else is there I am motivated for my fight with Chilemba.
[On pressure to secure the knockout] Basically, it really doesn’t matter to me if I am going to knockout my opponent or win by points. Most important to me is to win. I just want to show my boxing skills to the fans.
[On never going past ten rounds in his professional career] I am ready for all 12 rounds of this fight. I have already been 10 rounds and I don’t think two more rounds is much of a difference.
Egis Klimas, Manager of Vasily Lepikhin
[On following in Kovalev’s footsteps] Today every fighter would love to follow Sergey’s Kovalev’s footsteps, but probably nobody could do it. Nobody can follow [Floyd] Mayweather or [Mike] Tyson’s or Roy Jones, Jr.’s careers either. Every fighter is different. Every fighter dreams of fighting for the title and becoming world champion. Vasily is trying and wants to make his mark.
[On Chilemba] Isaac is a good fighter. He has been around for a long time. He has beaten good fighters but we are not worried about the other fighter. We worry about what we are going to do on March 14.
[On Lepikhin’s nickname “The Professor”] When he was fighting in his first professional fight, the promoter said he was very smart in the ring like a professor of boxing and that is where he got his nickname.
[On his struggles in his last fight] Jackson Junior is a good fighter but he wasn’t 100% healthy for that fight. He got very, very sick when he first arrived in Pennsylvania. There was deliberation about whether or not he was going to fight. I wasn’t there because I was with Sergey in Atlantic City [for the Hopkins fight] and his trainer decided he was going to take the fight. It isn’t an excuse. He travelled to the United States earlier for this fight so hopefully he won’t get sick in Canada.
Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events
In this fight we have two light heavyweights here who are in their primes. We know welterweights have ruled boxing for the past ten years or so, but I think their time is coming to an end. I think light heavyweights are the future. This is a great fight with two terrific fighters and nobody can predict the outcome. I am excited to present this fight with my co-promoters from Canada, Interbox.
Congratulations are also owed to [Main Events’ matchmaker] Jolene Mizzone for putting together this amazing card. She has been working very hard with Interbox to put on an amazing show.
[On what is next for the winner] The winner clearly moves up in the rankings. It probably does not get them a title shot because the winner of Kovalev-Pascal is obligated to fight [Nadjib] Mohammedi and there is the WBC mandatory fight with [Adonis] Stevenson also in the mix. The winner, and the loser, will still be in the mix in the division though. First they have to fight each other. We are going to learn more about each of them from this fight. Nobody can predict the winner. Sergey presents great challenges to everyone. Our job is not only to promote Sergey Kovalev but to think about a future. We need to think about potential opponents for him. Both of these young men could end up fighting him in the future. Because both of them are with Main Events it will make this fight difficult for me to watch but great for the fans.
[On the possibility of more collaboration with Interbox] It has been a pleasure working with Interbox and hope to continue the relationship in the future.
[On fighting for the NABF belt even though neither fighter is from North America] Both their promoters are from North America and they both train here.
[On the light heavyweight division now that PBC has signed more fighters in the division] [Lucian] Bute has an obligation to fight Pascal next. I take the long view of things. I have seen people come and go and try to change the boxing industry. Golden Boy [Promotions] was the only up-and-comer to become a player. It is too far away to know what will happen in a year or so. The WBC has ordered [Adonis] Stevenson to fight the winner of Kovalev-Pascal next.
Jean Bedard, President of Interbox
[Statement from Bedard, who was unable to participate in the call] It is very important for us to offer our fans a quality product on March 14th and the addition to the card of a boxer with such enormous potential such as Vasily Lepikhin in a match against a world-rated contender is as exciting as it is strategic. We are also very happy to be able to further build on our relationship with Main Events moving forward past March 14th.is