12 Rounds With … Matt Korobov

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Once-beaten Russian contender has been waiting for this moment for as long as he can remember. On Saturday night in the main event of PBC on FOX, Korobov plans to take full advantage of his opportunity vs Jermall Charlo.

If luck is what occurs when preparation meets opportunity, then Matt Korobov couldn’t have asked for a better scenario.

Korobov was scheduled to face Juan DeAngel this Saturday, December 22nd, in a non-televised undercard bout at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. But when Willie Monroe was forced to pull out of the main event due to an adverse finding in his drug test, Korobov got the call to face Jermall Charlo (27-0, 21 KOs) for Charlo’s WBC interim world middleweight title.

The bout headlines a tripleheader on FOX (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). It’s the kind of shot Korobov has been searching for since December 13, 2014. That was the night he fought Andy Lee for the vacant WBO world middleweight title. Big things were expected for the then-undefeated Korobov. A former 2008 Russian Olympian, he entered the Lee bout fresh off a unanimous decision win over future super middleweight champion Jose Uzcategui.

In seconds, everything changed. Korobov led on all three cards when Lee turned things around with a single right hook, scoring a stunning, sixth-round TKO. Nearly four years to the day of that defeat, Korobov (28-1, 14 KOs) has been granted a shot at redemption.

What was your reaction when you first got the call to fight Jermall Charlo?

Mike Barao, my manager, called me and gave me the news. It was such a surprise. I was beside myself. I had strong thoughts entering my mind about how we needed to change tactics and prepare for the fight right away. I called my coaches and started discussing the adjustments we needed to make with the time we had. I was just very happy. I’m glad that I finally get this opportunity that I’ve been waiting for so long.

What do you think of Jermall Charlo as a fighter?

He’s a good fighter. Strong, but he hasn’t been tested yet against the real quality fighters such as me and the other top guys in the division. He’s going to be tested this Saturday.

Due to the switch, he didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for this fight. Is that advantageous to you?

Yes, I see it that way. But I think it’s the same for both of us. We both have short notice to fight each other. I’m kind of looking forward to it because I have a lot of amateur experience fighting guys on short notice. We would have different opponents, as many as five or six different fights in a 10-day period. That was good experience that I can use.

How do you see the fight playing out?

It’s hard to say. I can’t picture it right now. We still have time until the bell rings so right now I’m just focusing on preparation and the things I need to do to be the best that I can be.

This will be your second fight this year. You fought three times in 2016, none in 2017. What happened?

We tried to get fights. We agreed to fight WBO world super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez. Then they decided to go with another opponent. We were supposed to fight David Benavidez on July 28, on the same card as Mikey Garcia vs. Robert Easter Jr. Benavidez had the WBC 168lb. title then. That was when Top Rank Promotions interfered with his contract situation and the fight was cancelled. So, we tried to make fights. Now we have a great opportunity in front of us.

What did you learn from the loss to Andy Lee?

I learned that you have to be really focused during the fight, not to rush to do certain things. I worked on my timing and my defense because that was kind of a lucky punch so I put a lot attention to making sure that doesn’t happen. I am a better fighter now. You’ll see on Saturday how I’ve learned (laughs).

You haven’t fought at 160 since that Lee fight. Are you concerned about making weight?

I feel good, I feel fresh. I don’t have a problem making the weight. My original fight this weekend was at 162lbs, so I only have to cut an extra two pounds which is not much. I’ve been through a lot of camps so I know how to do it the right way without causing any problems to my body.

You’re 35 now. You’ve experienced the ups and downs of the sport. What kind of fighter will Jermall Charlo be facing this Saturday?

He’s going to be facing a hungry fighter that is full of experience, at the same time. He’s going to meet the real Matvey Korobov. The goal is to win the world title at middleweight and to have the opportunity to fight all the best fighters in the division. That is what I what I want. It starts on Saturday night.

For a closer look at Charlo vs Korobov, check out our fight page.

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