WBO middleweight titlist Dmitry Pirog will return to action on Tuesday, May 1 in Moscow, possibly against mandatory challenger Max Bursak of Ukraine, according to Alexey Sukachev at BoxingScene.com.
Pirog (19-0, 15 KO) has seen his splashy knockout win over favored American prospect Daniel Jacobs in 2010 be reduced to a footnote over the last year and a half, as he's fought just twice since then, both times in Russia against mediocre challengers, and seen his buzz all but killed off. The chance to truly capitalize on that eye-popping performance in Las Vegas against Jacobs has come and gone, but he remains a quality fighter and a titleholder, so if that's enough for him, then good for him, I suppose.
The only thing official is that he'll face a "highly ranked contender in the WBO's top ten." Most of these guys aren't going to happen, but let's run through the list for funsies anyway.
1. Max Bursak (24-0-1, 10 KO)
Bursak, 27, is pretty decent at best, which fits the mold. I don't mean that to be some shocking putdown, he's an OK fighter and there are worse title challengers every other week in boxing. This would seem most likely. It gets a mandatory out of the way again and makes sense.
2. Andy Lee (27-1, 19 KO)
27-year-old Lee is currently trying to land a June date with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, and is unlikely to travel to Russia for a fight with Pirog, and Pirog's team has never mentioned him or anything. There's a really good chance Lee won't fight Chavez (who may instead face Martin Murray) and will instead be waiting around, possibly for a fight against the Martinez vs Macklin winner, as all three fighters are promoted by Lou DiBella.
3. Martin Murray (23-0-1, 10 KO)
Murray, as just mentioned, is potentially in line for a Chavez fight, too. The 29-year-old Englishman is coming off of a debated draw in December with Felix Sturm, which raised his stock ten-fold.
4. Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (26-0, 17 KO)
Whatever -- he's a pretty decent fighter, but getting close to becoming irrelevant. Hasn't fought since last April, when he arguably got a little assistance defeating Giovanni Lorenzo. He's just not doing anything right now.
5. Grzegorz Proksa (26-0, 19 KO)
Pirog vs Proksa would be a really interesting fight, but the 27-year-old European champ has a fight lined up on March 17 against Kerry Hope in the UK on the Brook vs Hatton card.
6. Jermain Taylor (29-4-1, 18 KO)
Following his December return to the ring against undersized club fighter Jessie Nicklow, the WBO thought it was really important to get Taylor in line for a title shot, because that's how it goes. Taylor is semi-important. Jermain isn't looking to fight Pirog, though. He and DiBella seem to be taking it slow and steady with a comeback, as Taylor, 33, is likely to face Joachim Alcine in April.
7. Billi Facundo (24-0, 13 KO)
Facundo, 25, won the vacant WBO Latino belt in his last outing, a win over Luciano Silva, and now has an April 14 date against Carlos Baldomir lined up, because Baldomir is equal opportunity and apparently wants everyone to get their licks in on the greatest fluke champion of the 2000s.
8. Rafael Bejaran (14-1, 6 KO)
Holds the WBO Euro title. Isn't a serious contender.
9. Nobuhiro Ishida (24-7-2, 9 KO)
Well, these rankings were compiled before Ishida lost badly to Paul Williams on February 18, but even still it's funny that the WBO ranked him at middleweight due to one catchweight (158 lbs) win over James Kirkland. He's a junior middleweight. He's always been a junior middleweight.
10. Matthew Macklin (28-3, 19 KO)
Has a few things on his plate right now.