Robbie Berridge relaxed about giant challenge
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN PHILADELPHIA
The big challenge in front of New Zealand light-heavyweight boxing star Robbie Berridge was emphasised when he finally came face to face with his Russian opponent Vasily Lepikhim today.
And it wasn't just the physical difference between the two 29-year-olds as they fronted a media conference at Sunday's fight venue, the Sands Casino on the outskirts of Philadelphia.
Lepikhim revealed some startling news about his preparations for a fight where the Kiwi is putting his WBO Oriental and WBC Asian belts on the line.
It's the American debuts for both boxers who are not only eager to impress the crucial audience in the United States but also press their claims for a title fight.
Lepikhim knows all about that.
He has been taken on by a new manager, the respected Eglis Klimas, who just happens to handle the current WBO world champion Sergey Kovalev.
Lepikhim, on his first trip out of Russia where he has fashioned an unbeaten record over 15 professional fights, spent two weeks in camp in Miami with Kovalev.
"I've had a very good camp. I've been sparring with Sergey which has been very helpful," Lepikhim said.
"I'm ready to show people what I can do. I don't know much about Robbie Berridge, I think it's the same for both of us. But I'm feeling very good. This is a big opportunity for me and I've very grateful for the chance."
Berridge had plans of taking on Kovalev and had a foot in the door with American promoters Main Events before Australian Blake Caparello, the only man to beat Berridge, stepped in to get the nod.
Kovalev knocked out Caparello in the second round of their title fight in New Jersey last weekend, emphasising his class at the top of the division. He has just agreed to a unification fight with veteran American Bernard Hopkins who, at 50, holds the IBF and WBA belts.
The Berridge-Lepikhim looms as something of an eliminator for a possible title tilt down the line, throwing huge importance on Sunday's showdown which will be screened live in the United States and New Zealand (noon, NZT).
When the pair lined up for their traditional staredown, the 16cm height difference the Russian enjoys was obvious.
Berridge has brushed that off, saying he has encountered that often in shaping a career that features 20 knockouts in 24 wins and has taken him to No 9 in the WBO rankings and 12 in the WBA.
He's also backing his southpaw stance and awkward style to get him through along with his notorious heavy hands.
Berridge and Lepikhim will battle over 12 rounds as the main undercard to a juicy heavyweight clash between another of Lepikhim's stablemates, rising Ukranian Vyacheslav Glazkov and American Derric Rossy.
That sees New Zealand heavyweight Joseph Parker down the order on the card for his six-rounder against American Keith Thompson.
Parker will enjoy a slight height advantage over Thompson, the Alabama fire fighter and navy serviceman who has promised a tough test for the unbeaten Kiwi.
"I've worked my butt off for this fight. I'm in the best shape I've been in for five years," declared the 33-year-old Thompson who has seven wins and two losses to his name.
His sparring for this bout included working with his long-time friend, unbeaten American star Deontay Wilder, and "a bunch of big, strong guys".
"It's a good opportunity for me to fight a young ranked guy. He (Parker) seems to be a tough guy but I'm here to win," Thompson said.
Parker looked sharp in his training today as he worked the pads with coach Kevin Barry.
Duncan Johnstone travelled to the United States courtesy of Duco Events.
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