Ray Austin waiting for that one shot

By Ramon Rodriguez


Ray Austin waiting for that one shot

B-talk sits down with heavyweight contender

You have to feel for Ray Austin. Having fought on non-televised events for the greater part of his eight-year career, “The Rainman” still doesn’t get the credit he deserves even after facing Sultan Ibragimov, Owen Beck, Lance Whitaker and Larry Donald without a loss (he was 1-0-3 against the foursome). But you’ll never hear Austin speaking ill of anyone despite all the bad breaks he’s gotten. You won’t see Austin slacking off in the gym, giving in to the frustrations that the boxing industry is notoriously known for.

No, Ray Austin (26-3-4, 16 KOs) isn’t like that. He just keeps doing what he loves most--boxing--patiently waiting for fans and experts to give him the proper respect. And that means even if he delivers a stellar performance against yet another noteworthy challenger, one whom many thought would easily defeat him, he still may not be acknowledged as a serious heavyweight contender.

On July 28th, Austin battled Ibragimov, a 2000 Olympic silver medalist, to a draw at the Seminole Hard Rock Arena in Hollywood, Florida for the IBF #1 position in what turned out to be quite an entertaining scrap. The bout saw both fighters trading bombs back and forth and hitting the deck in different rounds. Though the fight was officially ruled a draw, some people believed Ibragimov should have gotten the nod, despite the fact that Austin outlanded Ibragimov according to ESPN’s punch tracking.

After the fight, the highly touted Ibragimov was given a freebie for his average performance that night against Austin. To some members of the press, Ibragimov may have just had a bad night that day. But not to worry—Ibragimov would be back on the title hunt in no time. But Austin, ah, so what if he looked sharp? The critics think he’s still  just a fringe contender. He’s too inconsistent to be taken for real. So what if he had one solid performance against Ibragimov?

But the truth is Austin has been putting forth quite an effort in all of his bouts for some time now. In his mind, he hasn’t received his just due because the boxing world hasn’t caught onto him quite yet. “I’ve had even better performances, it’s just I’m under the radar. People just don’t pay attention to me. When I was up and coming, I beat all the up and coming guys people thought would do well, like Cisse Salif. When I fought Salif, he was 9-0 with 9 knockouts, but I knocked him out. When Ron Guerrero was up and coming, I knocked him out, too. I stopped Jo-el Scott on ESPN when he was undefeated [Editor’s Note: Scott actually had one loss at the time]. I’ve always fought tough guys like that, it’s just I’ve never gotten the notoriety,” says Austin calmly. “Now after this Ibragimov fight, everybody’s raising their eyebrows.”

Austin struggled in the early rounds against Ibragimov, having been knocked down in the fourth round. However, as the fight developed, Austin used his height effectively against the smaller Ibragimov, who got hit with several crushing blows as he tried to work his way inside. In the seventh, Ibragimov fell to the canvas, but his fall was ruled a slip by referee Tommy Kimmons. In the tenth, Austin floored Ibragimov again, and this time, the fall was ruled a knockdown, which was the first in Ibragimov’s career.

When the judges gave the stalemate verdict, Austin was understandably upset. To him, if the knockdown in the seventh round had not been ruled a slip, he would have been declared the winner.  “I felt I should’ve definitely gotten the win. A draw is just crazy. I was cheated tremendously. I knocked him down in the seventh round and they ruled it a slip. Every ref I’ve talked to said they would’ve ruled it a knockdown. That stuff won’t happen on neutral grounds,” says Austin. “I want a rematch.  I’ll definitely get the win next time around because I know his weaknesses. I think I took a lot out of him.”

A few days after the fight, Ibragimov’s manager, Boris Grinberg, complained that Austin was lucky to have received a draw due to his affiliation with Don King, his promoter, something Austin sees as utterly ridiculous.

“Don King had nothing to do with this. Don wasn’t even there that night—he was in the hospital. I was fighting in Ibragimov’s backyard at the place his promoter owns with their referee. What else did he want? The odds were just stacked against me when I came in. I deserved the win,” says Austin. “Everyone saw what I did to Ibragimov—I exposed him. I’ve hurt his marketability. He was supposed to be all this and that. I wasn’t supposed to get out of the second round, but he was the one that struggled the most. He’s never fought a fighter of my caliber. Ibragimov has beaten a lot of heavyweights that were on their way down or were just old. So you have to question if those guys were in shape and if they were really coming to fight or just to receive a payday. I’m a dangerous fighter to be reckoned with.”

But at age thirty-five, many wonder if Austin still has was it takes to be heavyweight champion. After all, in a few months Austin will most likely take care of business against Ibragimov, while Wladimir Klitschko, the IBF titlist whom Austin and Ibragimov fought for the right to challenge, will probably face Shannon Briggs or Hasim Rahman next. That would mean Austin would have to wait at least until mid-2007 for a title shot, something that is not yet assured. His response?

“I just need that one opportunity. It’s the other guys who just don’t want to fight me. I’ll fight whoever, whenever, wherever. I don’t care who they are or what medal they won—they can’t bring none of that inside the ring,” says a wistful Austin. “If I can’t fight Ibragimov, I want Wladimir Klitschko. If he fights Briggs, I want the winner of that fight. I’m coming for the knockout. Who will fight Ray Austin?”