There’s something to be said about embracing a me-against-the-world mindset, and now that he has elevated to the level of new IBF junior middleweight titleholder, Bakhram Murtazaliev is here to tell it.

How he had to endure four years as a No. 1 contender without receiving a title shot.

How, as a Muslim, he was denied the respect of honoring the principles of Ramadan while preparing for his long-awaited title bout.

How he was sequestered in a second-rate lodge for two weeks in Germany and was made to feel an unwanted guest as the days neared to his title fight against Germany’s own Jack Culcay on Saturday.

In the end, the wait and the patience were worth it.

Russia’s Oxnard, California-trained Murtazaliev (22-0, 16 KOs) hammered Culcay with a punishing 11th-round barrage, forcing a TKO stoppage that made him a world titleholder in a suddenly vibrant 154-pound division that not only counts Sebastian Fundora and Ismail Madrimov as fellow belt holders, but includes a compelling herd of contenders such as Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr., Danny Garcia and Tim Tszyu.

Within minutes of Murtazaliev sealing his victory, his promoter Kathy Duva had already been contacted by another powerful promoter.

Talk about a switch of fate.

Earlier Saturday, Murtazaliev was fighting in such irrelevance that his world title fight was effectively impossible to view in the U.S., with only highlights streaming in on social media.

Now, Murtazaliev is poised to take his pick of the contender litter.

“An absolutely amazing fight,” Duva told Boxing Scene minutes after Murtazaliev’s uplifting win. “I’ve been doing this for 45 years and I’ve never cried in a fight. This is the first time. I was literally emotionally soaked when it happened.”


“Bakhram has waited so long, worked so hard and he’s such a nice guy,” said Duva, the Hall of Fame promoter who has handled Evander Holyfield, Arturo Gatti, Pernell Whitaker and Sergey Kovalev.

In Germany, Murtazaliev, 31, was given second billing to Culcay (33-5, 14 KOs) on the fight poster and was left to weigh in first and walk into the ring first – indignities considering that he was the top-ranked contender for a belt vacated by former undisputed 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo, who avoided fighting his IBF mandatory in favor of taking on foes with greater name recognition, including Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

Murtazaliev’s title shot came via a purse bid won by German-based AGON Sports, which opted to ignore the Muslim fighter’s observation of Ramadan and schedule the fight during the period.

“Every way you could think to disrespect someone, they did,” Duva said. “And he didn’t flinch.

“He’s a devout Muslim and has trained through Ramadan by flipping his days and nights, from California to Europe. Slept all day. Got up, ate his breakfast, went to train at 10 or 11 at night, had his dinner before sunrise and went back to sleep.

“What discipline to be able to do that while preparing for a championship fight,” Duva said. “He came here, never complained. He’s not a prima donna.”

Upon arrival in Germany, Murtazaliev was pointed to “some crappy little hotel in the middle of nowhere,” Duva said. “It was the best thing they could’ve ever done. He just put his head down and kept working.

“And when the fight ended, he bowed in that Muslim prayer pose and he stayed there forever. We were all so overcome. It was hard not to be filled with emotion, because he was so filled with emotion himself.”

Within a month, Madrimov has defended his WBA belt in Saudi Arabia, Fundora has upset Tszyu in one of the bloodiest main events ever seen, and the likes of Crawford, Spence and Garcia have thrown their hats in the ring at 154 pounds.

“Absolutely, it’s a shame people in the U.S. didn’t get to see it,” Duva said of Murtazaliev’s win. “The last three rounds were breathtaking. I was getting [Arturo] Gatti-[Micky] Ward vibes. … Culcay is a tough guy. Bakhram hurt him and kept hitting him until he pounded him into submission. It was one of the more brutal KOs I’ve seen.”

For Murtazaliev to arise from his devout pose as a titleholder in a newly vibrant division stirred both Duva and the fighter’s manager, Egis Klimas.

“That’s a big part of the reason for the emotion. … He waited such a long time. Charlo didn’t want to fight him … ,” Duva said. “It was OK that it took longer. He just waited it out and waited it out, and now he’s really benefited from it, because every opponent he can possibly face is a big-money fight. That’s just wonderful. We’ll get to work on it Monday, but whatever’s going to happen will be really cool.”

Duva embraced Murtazaliev in the ring and told him, “You’re a beast,” and the fighter blushed.

“To do this during Ramadan,” Duva said, “the level of his sacrifices are amazing.”