Matt Skelton was a huge underdog even before he gave Ruslan Chagaev some extra motivation by snubbing the champion ahead of their WBA heavyweight title bout today.
The British Commonwealth champion didn't show up at Monday's news conference, which left Chagaev fuming as he readies himself for his first defense since taking he title from Russian giant Nikolai Valuev in April.
"My opponent chickened out today -- when he can't come to the official press conference, that's his problem," Chagaev said.
Skelton (21-1, 18 knockouts) arrived in Duesseldorf on Wednesday rated a 6-1 underdog by British bookmakers. He said he had used the extra time to prepare.
"I needed peace during these two days," Skelton said. "I have waited a long time for this chance. I will use this chance to win the title and belt."
The 40-year-old former kickboxing champion has only boxed for five years. By contrast, Chagaev's career includes two amateur world championship titles and a win against Cuban legend Felix Savon.
Chagaev (23-0, 17 knockouts) is 29 -- young for a top heavyweight these days -- and would like to unite the fractured division, but said he won't look past Skelton.
"I am totally focused on this fight," Chagaev said. "I know his strengths and weaknesses. He will feel my good form and my strengths in the ring."
Skelton is often called a brawler, while Chagaev throws nonstop punches with a style that resembles Mike Tyson's, although he doesn't knock anyone out cold with a single barrage like the US fighter did.
Chagaev is considered small for a heavyweight at 1.83m, but won a decision against the tallest and heaviest champion of all time in the 2.13m Valuev.
Skelton's last fight was a decision against Michael Sprott in July, which earned him the title shot.
Chagaev easily stopped Sprott in eight rounds in 2006, which Skelton's manager Frank Warren said has led the Uzbek camp to underestimate their opponent.
"I think Chagaev has made a big mistake because he saw Skelton's fight with Sprott and decided to go for it," Warren told the London Times.
Chagaev's trainer, Michael Timm, said they take Skelton seriously, and brought in big aggressive sparring partners to imitate the Briton's style.
"Matt Skelton is a strong man who has a good punch," Timm said. "He's certainly not coming to Duesseldorf to collect a bouquet of flowers and a paycheck."