Latvian light heavyweight Ricards Bolotniks says he is ready to take on fast-tracked Russian Imam Khataev in a matchup in which he believes his experience will prevail.

Bolotniks (20-7-1, 8 KOs) will face off against Khataev (6-0, 6 KOs), a bronze medalist at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, on the undercard of the Vasiliy Lomachenko-George Kambosos Jr. main event in Perth, Australia on Sunday (Saturday in the U.S.). Bolotniks enters the matchup as an obvious gatekeeper intended to catapult Khataev into contendership.

“This is my game, not his,” Bolotniks told BoxingScene. “This is professional boxing, it’s very different to amateur boxing. I’ve been watching him in the amateurs and, seriously, I like his boxing. He’s tough, he’s strong, with a big punch. I saw him knock out a few guys in amateur boxing.

“They’ve been trying to get me to fight this guy for a while. They’ve sent me offers to fight him in a lot of places. He’s got a good team, a good coach, big-time managers, all that type of thing. He wakes up and only does training. I wake up, I go to work, then I train, then I come home and sit with my son, then I train again. I have two jobs right now. It is a fight where a big-time professional is going up against a guy who just has the will to win. You want to beat Bolotniks, you better do a good job. It’s never easy to beat me.”

Bolotniks is coming off a routine six-round win over little-known Tomas Bezvoda in his native Riga following a disappointing sixth-round stoppage against Oleksandr Gvozdyk last May.

“After Gvozdyk, something in my head changed,” Bolotniks said. “I gave everything in the Gvozdyk training camp – everything. It was such a strong camp, I felt great going into that fight. But then I got caught. I said before the fight that if I lose and look bad, I’ll stop. But he just caught me. It wasn’t my fault – it was hard to have any power going into the fight because my camp kept getting moved, from 10 weeks to 12 weeks, then 12 to 15 weeks. I trained a bit too hard before the fight, I didn’t have much power left in me for the fight in Mexico, but my fitness was really good because I trained so hard. It was s*** because I started that fight really well, and then I got stopped. 

“I had this fight in Latvia after, which was s***, just to get back from the loss. I didn’t want to box anywhere after that, but then I started to think, ‘I’m in good shape, I still train every day. Why not?’ I’m going to Australia for the first time and I’m getting good money and I’ve got no pressure on me. Nobody is telling me that I have to beat this guy, because he’s good and he’s the Olympian. At the end of the day, this is my job. I just have to go and do my job, get money and bring it to my wife.”

Khataev will take on his toughest task since signing pro terms with Montreal-based Eye of the Tiger Management in 2021. With his 100 percent knockout ratio, against unknown opposition, he has been likened to Artur Beterbiev.

“This is professional boxing,” Bolotniks said. “I think he’s only been four or five rounds so far. Yeah, he’s a good amateur boxer, and if we fought an amateur bout, yeah, he’s good at that. But this is my game – I’ve been boxing a lot at 10 and 12 rounds. I know he doesn’t know how that feels, I know what it feels like after six rounds; he doesn’t know yet. The referee will call round eight, he will think, ‘F***, how have I still got three more rounds left?’ So, for that reason, I want the full 10 rounds. We will see how he feels after six.

“I’m probably going to beat him by points, I have much more experience. I want to box this guy for the whole 10 rounds because I have the experience in those later rounds that he doesn’t. I’m curious to see how he handles it.”

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