Out of sight, out of mind. In the boxing business, if you aren't on TV, you sort of don't exist. That's why Alisher "Ali" Rahimov is trying to draw as many eyeballs as he can to prove to fight fans that he's a solid player in the lightweight division.
Rahimov, a Uzbekistan-born Russian citizen, sports a 23-0 record (with 12 KOs) and is highly regarded by the WBO, which has him rated at No. 2 at 135. But by and large, he is not a known entity to fight fans.
His co-manager, Vadim Kornilov, expects that to change, by a good degree, Friday night at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, Mo., when Rahimov shows off his technical savvy, hand speed and solid pop against a fighter well-known to the "Friday Night Fights" crowd: Ji-Hoon Kim (23-7, 18 KOs), the somewhat unrefined but always aggressive 25-year-old who has won two straight after losing his previous two.
Rahimov has a solid amateur pedigree, having amassed a 268-18 record and represented Uzbekistan at the 2000 Olympics, but inactivity has bedeviled him as a pro. He has fought five times since 2009; that's fine if you're Floyd Mayweather Jr. and you make nifty bank fighting occasionally. But for the 34-year-old Rahimov -- even if his body doesn't show much wear and tear, and his stamina and skills haven't shown noticeable degradation in the gym -- time is of the essence. A move needs to be made now.
"We're trying to get him busier," Kornilov told me. "Hopefully, after this fight, things will change. We're hoping once he gets on ESPN, things will change."
Lest anyone think that Rahimov is a homebody who is reluctant to leave the familiar comforts of Siberia and wants the action to come to him, Kornilov said the boxer is happy to troop anywhere in the U.S. to find meaningful fights. Rahimov was scheduled to fight South Korea's Kim in January on ESPN, actually, but his mother died and he pulled out of the fight.
"He has no problem with traveling," the manager said of Rahimov, who has fought only twice in North America. "He's happy to be here and wants to show everybody what he can [do]."
So what will he show Friday against Kim, a fighter who turned pro with zero amateur experience?
"I've seen Kim, he's always on shows when Ruslan Provodnikov is fighting," said Kornilov, who also manages Provodnikov. "A lot of people point out his defensive flaws. I think Ali takes advantage of that early. He punches a lot, has heavy hands. I think Kim has flaws we will take advantage of from Round 1."