Al Sands has grown pretty accustomed to being the crowd favorite, but the charismatic fighter is about to experience something he hasn't very often in his professional boxing career.
That's being the villain.
"There's something to be said for going somewhere where nobody knows you," Sands said. "You can just be who you want to be, enjoy the experience, and take it all in. I love it."
Sands will be the outsider on Dec. 15 when he fights Yury Kashinsky for the WBO cruiserweight title, a bout that will take place in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
"This is going to be huge," he said. "We've put so much into being ready for these opportunities, and now we've got a chance to show people that we're here, we're for real, and we're ready to make some big moves."
Sands has had a frustrating 2017, a year in which he twice had fights cancelled during training camp due to injury --- one was him, one was his opponent. He fought and won in August, though, so he feels ready for next Friday's fight.
"He's a great boxer, and he has great technique," Sands said. "It's going to be an entertaining fight."
Sands says he's changed his training during this camp, and he's prepared to be more of a technical cruiserweight moving forward. That said, he hasn't completely taken the power out of his arsenal.
"That's my cous de gras," he said, smiling. "I love a good body shot, and we're going to look for areas where we can hurt him in this fight."