Matt Korobov: Late Replacement Gets Title Shot - ExclusiveWritten by Marc Livitz
No fight means no pay.
The hard lessons taught as a professional fighter extend far beyond the ring, the gym and even life at home. In fact, it was at his Florida home where middleweight contender Matt Korobov was when he received a phone call which carried with it a grand opportunity.
This Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a champion set of boxing twins, Jermell and Jermall Charlo are set co-headline a nationally televised, primetime telecast of Premier Boxing Champions on the FOX Network. While Jermell is set to make the fourth defense of his WBC World Super Welterweight title in the co-main event against Tony Harrison, slightly heavier twin brother Jermall was temporarily without an opponent a few days ago.
Originally scheduled to square off against Willie Monroe, Jr. in defense of the interim WBC World Middleweight championship belt as part of the night’s main attraction, matters were briefly brought to a halt when Monroe tested positive by VADA for a banned substance and was subsequently yanked form the card. A short time later was when Korobov (28-1, 14 KO’s) got the call that quickly changed he mood of his day.
“I was supposed to fight on the undercard,” he said during a recent interview by telephone. “I was sleeping after my morning workout and my manager, Mike called me to discuss a chance to fight Jermall Charlo.” He couldn’t believe his luck. “I was wondering if it was real because I was so sleepy,” he added. “I was told that Willie Monroe wasn’t going to be fighting because he failed a VADA test. We then talked to the commissioner and I had my fingers crossed. You always have to do something like this when you have the opportunity.”
Matt turned professional in late 2008 shortly after he represented his native Russia at the Summer Olympics. After doing so, Korobov won twenty four consecutive contests to begin his career, then he was on the receiving end of a well placed, sneaky right hook from “Irish” Andy Lee in late 2014 in Las Vegas. Up on all three scorecards in a contest for the vacant WBO World Middleweight title and having just landed a hard left hook of his own, Korobov couldn’t recover from the hard punch delivered just over a minute into round six. The bout was subsequently stopped.
After the defeat, he took a year off from the ring, during which time he became a first time father. Three victories in as many fights came in 2016, yet the following year turned out to be a blank canvas.
“There wasn’t much happening,” said the native of Russia who now calls Florida home. “I left my promoter (Top Rank), but I did get an offer to fight Gilberto Ramirez. He didn’t want to fight me. That’s in the past now and I stayed in shape the whole time because I was at the gym on most days of the week.”
The phone call came and there was neither hesitation nor confusion. After he arrived in Brooklyn on late Tuesday night, Matt hit the ground running to attend an open workout session as he looked to make sure that the middleweight poundage limit wouldn’t be a problem. “It’s just a few pounds,” he said.
As the hours tick away leading up to the greatest chance he’s had in his professional career, Korobov remains quietly confident. Charlo (27-0, 21 KO’s) is an unbeaten champion from Houston, Texas who never mixes his words. Over the last five years, Jermall has scored knockout wins in fifteen out of seventeen contests, a statistic to which Matt doesn’t wish to contribute.
“I have to box him,” he said. “That’s the only way. He’s definitely strong, hungry and he holds the title. Still, I’ve had to fight many guys on short notice.”
The Premier Boxing Champions telecast on national TV will begin at 8PM EST (5PM PT) on Fox. There will be millions of eyes on the main event. Matt Korobov remains committed to his goal. Although delivering a shock result would undoubtedly surprise the masses, he’s doing is best not to overthink the moment.
“I realize what would happen if I won,” he mentioned in closing. “I try not to think that far ahead but at the same time, I have to beat him. Everything else, we can worry about afterwards. This is what motivates me.”