Roman Karmazin Profile
“I came to the biggest and best promoter in the world because I wanted that world title shot,” Karmazin explains. “At the time I signed with Don King, I was the IBF’s top ranked junior middleweight. I told Mr. King: any time, any place, any champion. Unlike my previous handlers, I felt Don King had to power to prevent boxers from ducking me and last minute cancellations like the De La Hoya fight.”
After years of struggling with foreign management, Karmazin decided to enlist a Russian-speaking attorney from Beverly Hills, Calif., named Steven Bash. With the help of his new counsel, Roman flew to Florida to meet with Don King Productions and begin to pave his road to the championship. He immediately took on the biggest challenge in his career by signing to meet two-time WBC middleweight champion Keith Holmes in an elimination bout to determine the mandatory challenger to the IBF 154-pound throne.
On April 2, 2005, in Worcester, Massachusetts, Karmazin came one step closer to capturing a world title with a defining come-from-behind victory over Holmes. The Holmes fight turned out to be a tactical, close fight but Karmazin began applying pressure in the championship rounds. In the 11th round, Karmazin hurt Holmes with a straight right hand to the head while Holmes was stuck on the ropes. Karmazin then followed up with a flurry of hard punches, most of them landing cleanly.
Holmes made it out of round 11 thanks to the bell, but Karmazin continued to punish him in the final round, landing another straight right that staggered the former world champion again just before the final bell sounded. Karmazin won a majority decision with two judges scoring the bout for him, 115-113 and 116-112, and the final judge scoring the fight a 114-114 draw. Karmazin dealt Holmes his first loss since Holmes lost the WBC middleweight title to Bernard “The Exexcutioner” Hopkins in April 2001.
“Holmes was a very difficult fighter in the ring.” Karmazin recalls. “He fights smart and scared and a smart and scared fighter is always a dangerous fighter. It is a like a good soldier who is alone in a foxhole and afraid for his life. He will quickly peak out to shoot some bullets and then quickly go back into his hole. In the last few rounds of the fight, I realized I just had to go in there and pull that crazy fox out of the hole.”
On July 14, 2005, Karmazin found himself fighting a real soldier in Kassim “The Dream” Ouma in Las Vegas. Ouma, who was kidnapped by the National Resistance Army in Uganda when he was 7 years old and forced to fight in the civil war. He overcame this adversity to become one of boxing’s up-and-coming stars. But that evening it was Karmazin who became the star as he shocked Ouma with a dominating performance to capture the IBF junior middleweight championship by unanimous decision.
Karmazin started quickly against the heralded champion with two rounds of sharp jabs and body punches that would not allow the usually active Ouma to get off. Early in the third round, Karmazin threw Ouma off balance with a sharp right hand to the chin and then followed up quickly with a wicked kidney shot that sent Ouma to the canvas. Seconds later, a series of punches put Ouma near the ropes and Karmazin landed a follow up straight right that sent Ouma crashing down on the ropes for the second knockdown of the round. Visibly in trouble, Ouma went into a shell, enduring a flurry of power punches from Karmazin but suriving the round. Ouma was so dazed after the round that he went into the wrong corner after the bell rang.
Karmazin continued to dominate the fight on his way to a convincing 118-108, 117-109, 116-100 unanimous decision victory and the coveted IBF 154-pound crown.
“I told everyone that I was not going back to Russia without the world championship. Ouma was a very deserving champion. He beat many Top 10 fighters and he has great punching totals and endurance. But I knew he was not as good as me. And I am glad I fought the boxer who was considered by many to be the best junior middleweight in the division and the next great thing.”
For Karmazin, the championship victory over Ouma was twice as sweet as he was able to exact some revenge against an old foe. As Karmazin continued to expose the overmatched champion in the ring, Ouma’s new promoter Oscar De La Hoya sat ringside with a shocked look on his face. Karmazin was able to show De La Hoya and the world what he could have shown years ago if given the chance – that Roman “Made in Hell” Karmazin is the best junior middleweight boxer in the world.
“I respect Oscar De La Hoya greatly as one of the greatest boxers in history,” Karmazin acknowledged. “And all I have ever asked for was the chance to prove myself against the best boxers in the world. I told them (Golden Boy Promotions) that Ouma was very good but not great. Hopefully, this victory will allow me to pursue my dream of fighting some of the superstars like De La Hoya, Winky Wright, Tito Trinidad, and Ricardo Mayorga. Any time, any place, anywhere.”
After his championship victory, Karmazin returned to his home country to an enormous welcome as Russia celebrated its only current world champion and only the fourth World Champion in Russia’s history. Karmazin told his countrymen that he plans to return to the United States to fight the world’s greatest boxers and to become the undisputed junior middleweight champion.
It would be a year between fights before Karmazin took a huge risk by making his first title defense against former undisputed welterweight champion Cory Spinks, who had decided to move up from welterweight to the 154-pound limit. The fight took place at Savvis Center in Spinks hometown of St. Louis, and over 12,000 showed up to cheer on the hometown fighter when they met on July 8, 2006.
The elusive Spinks fought from the opening bell as though he was literally fighting for his life. After trading the first two rounds, Spinks won the next three rounds on all three judges’ scorecards. Spinks did this by displaying excellent boxing skills and bravely throwing combinations led by jabs that were often followed by straight lefts.
While Karmazin stalked Spinks relentlessly for the first half of the fight looking for the opportunity to land telling blows, it became apparent that Spinks was content to try to box his way to a victory.
Sensing Spinks had built a scorecard lead, Karmazin upped the pressure and mounted a second-half rally. He won the seventh round; two of the three scorecards in the eighth; and split the final three rounds. In the end, Spinks created the thinnest of margins to win by majority decision. Two judges scored it 115-113 and the remaining judge saw it at 114-114 draw.
“Spinks was very tricky,” Karmazin said after the fight. “It took me until the seventh round to figure him out, then he ran for the rest of the fight.
“It was hard to win with a referee like the one we had tonight [Mark Nelson]. He didn’t let me work at close range. I asked him to let me fight out of the clinches, but he didn’t let me.”
Karmazin got back on the winning track by defeating James Obede Toney, scoring a fourth round technical knockout when they met at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on Jan. 6, 2007, in Hollywood, Fla.
Never one to back away from a challenge, Karmazin agreed to take on former two-time 154-pound world champion Alejandro “Terra” Garcia in a WBA elimination bout. A tough Mexican who had scored 23 knockouts in his 25 wins, Garcia desperately wanted to defeat Karmazin when they met in pay-per-view-televised match on the Vargas vs. Mayorga card at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles on Nov. 23.
Karmazin proved why he has always been considered one of the best junior middleweights in the world in an absolute destruction of Garcia where the Russian looked fantastic.
Karmazin lived up to his Made in Hell moniker when he dropped Garcia with a devastating body shot in the opening round. The assault continued until Karmazin disposed of the Mexican with a four-punch combination punctuated by a stinging left hook in the third round that earned him a knockout.
“I knew the fight was going to end early after the first round,” Karmazin said. “I’m a boxer, I’m a thinking fighter, and I knew I was faster and punched harder. Honestly, a KO can happen sometimes when you don’t expect it. I was just trying to land a good combination.
“I don’t know where I stand now but I just want to fight and show the fans the great art of boxing.”