Puerto Rican heavyweight Fres Oquendo gets his third bite of the world title cherry this Sunday when the Chicago-based fighter challenges for the vacant WBA championship against ex-belt holder Ruslan Chagaev.
‘The Big O’ has waited over a decade since missing out in previous efforts against Chris Byrd and John Ruiz and now travels to Russia to battle Chagaev as he aims for a career swansong at the age of 41.
“Well, we all know I am the underdog and I’ve always been one,” Oquendo told World Boxing News.
“In my fight with Duncan Dokiwari which was just my eleventh fight and we were both unbeaten I wasn’t the favourite. Also against Clifford Etienne, ‘The Black Rhino’ in 2001 nobody thought I;d win and it goes on and on. I fight in everybody’s backyard and I whoop ’em, but hopefully I’ll get a fair shake this time.”
Oquendo famously went close against the likes of Evander Holyfield and James Toney in the years following his title disappointments and this time around the 6ft 2ins puncher is hoping to catch a break and bring that elusive belt home from Grozny.
It’s been tough for Oquendo to stomach being on the end of tight decision losses such as those against Jean-Marc Mormeck and Oliver McCall in more recent fights, but he has racked up five straight wins lately to position himself on the brink of finally achieving his dream.
“It’s eluded me my whole career. I thought waiting to be crowned champion at the Byrd fight would be the day. It’s been a long ten years. It’s my turn and 3rd times the charm,” said Oquendo, who then moved on to commenting on his opponent.
“I never underestimate any fighter – especially a champion like Chagaev. But we will all know by July 7th won’t we,” he laughed. “Going into this fight I beleive my reach, experience, speed and movement will be the key for me.”
On whether he expected an early finish against the smaller Chagaev, Oquendo added: “Early Chicago time maybe as we are 9 hours behind here.”
If ‘Fast Fres’ can snag that title belt that became vacant once Wladimir Klitschko ended Alexander Povetkin’s regin so emphatically, there will be a target on Oquendo’s back as one of three heavyweight champions.
A unification with Klitschko or even Bermane Stiverne would be possibilities, although Oquendo has no preference and told WBN that he’ll take on all comers in defending the title accordingly.
“I’d say the only way Klitschko would fight me is if I’m a mandatory. That seems to be how it works these days,” he pointed out. “But I’ll be glad to fight him or Wilder or anyone else.
“Everyone who knows me knows I don’t turn people down. I’ve fought the best, I’ve whooped the best and that’ll never change,” he added.
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