Former light heavyweight and cruiserweight world champion Zsolt Erdei (33-1, 18KO’s) isn’t looking for any easy fights after suffering his first professional defeat in a razor-thin and questionable split decision loss to Denis Grachev in the first leg of the Monte-Carlo Million Dollar Super 4 Tournament.
Erdei is instead offering up his services to super middleweight kingpin and ESPN.com’s pound-for-pound number two-ranked fighter in the world, Andre Ward. Ward, who is coming off a shoulder injury and extensive rehab, hasn’t fought since scoring a 10 th-round TKO over Chad Dawson in September of last year. Erdei says he has no problem in moving down to super middleweight and would jump at the opportunity.
“When I decided to sign with Lou DiBella and fight in America, it was for me to face DBE the best boxers in the world. Ward is considered to be the best boxer in the world above the middleweight division and he is a great champion. I respect his skills very much, but I know that I have what it takes to get the job done and shock the world. A win over Ward makes me a superstar in America and that is my ultimate goal,” said Erdei.
Regarding his defeat to Grachev, which many ringside observers, including the Principality of Monaco, felt was unjust, Erdei takes the split decision loss in stride.
“Everybody knows that I won my last fight and was clearly robbed of the victory. For that reason, I still consider myself an undefeated two-division champion and I still want to fight the best.”
Promoter Lou DiBella echoed similar sentiments. “Many people who saw his fight with Grachev thought that Erdei won. Regardless though, he showed that he is still one of the best 168/175 lb. fighters in the world, having performed at the level that he did after not fighting for nearly two full years.”
When Ward was winning gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics, Erdei, himself a 1996 and 2000 Olympian, was already the WBO light heavyweight champion of the world, having won a dominant 12-round unanimous decision over Jesus Gonzalez in January of that same year.
Over the next five years, Erdei would successfully defend his title 11 times, before moving up in weight and claiming the WBC cruiserweight title with a 12-round decision over Giacobbe Fragomeni. In the bout with Fragomeni, Erdei conceded 17lbs. to the defending champion, but was still able to pull off the terrific feat with a majority decision.
After the victory, Erdei decided to retire from the sport, before reconsidering and coming back with a new goal: to take over America. Erdei signed with promoter Lou DiBella’s DiBella Entertainment and reeled off two straight victories. Erdei was scheduled to face former light heavyweight world champion Tavoris Cloud in December 2011 but was forced to pull out of the bout after suffering an injury during training. Yet another injury in training forced him out of his September 29, 2012, HBO date against Isaac Chilemba. By the time he fought Grachev this past March, he had been out of the ring for nearly two full years. Showing absolutely no ring rust in the bout, Erdei boxed beautifully against Grachev, sweeping the early rounds. As the fight wore on, Erdei got dragged into a bit of a slugfest, ultimately losing the 10-round split decision.
With many of the top super middleweights currently tied up, a bout between Ward and the two-division world champion, two-time Olympian, and only once-beaten European star Erdei seems to make perfect sense. Erdei just hopes he gets the opportunity to show that he is still one of the elite fighters in the world.
“To be the best, you have to beat the best. Beating Ward puts me in that position,” said Erdei.