If you are a hardcore fan, Petr Petrov is the sort of fighter you have to get behind. He has taken the hard, grinding road to contender status.
Petrov was born in Russia, a country with an elite amateur program. But he moved to Spain as a teenager and that’s where he turned professional, at age 17. Spain is a boxing backwater, and Petrov toiled there for over a decade.
When he finally got a fight in another country, it was to travel to Argentina in 2011 and face Marcos Maidana. A fighter could hardly ask for a tougher introduction to the international stage. Maidana would go on to become one of the sport’s biggest stars. He is a much bigger man than Maidana, a gun-slinging KO artist. He stopped Petrov in four.
But Petrov persisted and continued with his career. He got a legitimate break in 2014, as a part of Banner Promotion’s Boxcino Tournament, broadcast on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. He scored knockouts in the semi-finals and finals, securing the North American Boxing Association and North American Boxing Organization lightweight belts.
He followed that run with a one-sided unanimous decision over veteran journeyman Gamaliel Diaz and a stoppage of tough fringe contender Marvin Quintero.
In the past two years, Petrov has looked like a long-time veteran finally reaching his fullest potential. He is a graduate of the school of hard knocks, now placing himself in legitimate contender status.
Petrov had the toughest fight of the year over the weekend, facing Michael Perez in California. Perez was a solid contender. He lost to Omar Figueroa in 2012, in a fight he probably wasn’t ready for. Last year he beat former champion Miguel Acosta and knocked out Luis Sanchez. He is trained by Robert Garcia, one of the best in the business.
Petrov jumped all over him last Friday night. He knocked him down in Round 2 and forced him to quit on his stool after Round 6.
The win makes him a mandatory contender for the WBA lightweight belt, which Jorge Linares won last month from Anthony Crolla. Linares is a tough veteran, but very beatable. I would view this as a pick-em fight.
If Petrov can manage to capture the WBA belt, a natural follow-up fight would be with WBC champion Dejan Zlaticanin, who handed Petrov his last loss, back in 2013.