Convicted Artist Magazine

Feb 21st
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russian-boxing-championsAs a young American boy, the one thing we were all made to fear was a Russian invasion.  This almost always was associated with a military or political strike, yet even ion the sporting sense, it was feared.  The Olympics came to my hometown, and without the communist countries attending, we cleaned up in boxing gold medals.  The implication was clear, however, that if the Soviets had been involved, it would have been a much different story.  Even one Rocky movie was dedicated to the "Red Threat".  Fast forward to 2013, and a new invasion of the former Soviet-Union is underway, and this time it is a welcome sight.

It has been 23 years since the complete fall of the former USSR, and while many a hiccup has taken place in the young nations' thirst for democracy, the high standards of amateur athletic prowess are still in play.  It has taken the full 23 years, however, for the professional game to follow suit.  Much like a maturing fighter, the nation needed nearly two and a half decades to reach its full potential.  Klitschkos and other former world champions, such as Kostya Tszyu, Roman Karmazin, Nicolai Valuev, and Dmitry Kirilov have enjoyed some success 5-10 years ago, and even some home-field accomplishments, but due to the climate in Russia and the Ukraine, champions have not been able to fully enjoy a modern first-world boxing scene.  

If the Russian fighters had trouble, the Belarussian, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Armenian, and Kazakh fighters have traditionally had to abandon their home countries entirely (save a few 'back-to-roots' fights) to have big pro careers... coming to Germany, Australia, USA, and even Japan: Vassily Jirov, Sergei Lyahovich, Arthur Abraham, Orzubek Nazarov, etc.  Now, with the recent events put on in Moscow for many Denis Lebedev matches: Jones, Jones, and Toney, as well as the recent outbidding of K2 Promotions for the Klitschko-Povetkin fight, signal the emergence of Russia, and the former territories as a major player.

It is no coincidence that Top Rank is attempting the same fast track (only much faster) success with Ukranian two-time gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko as it is with Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, and Zou Shiming (two other two time gold medalists).  Rigo had to be brought along carefully, and made into a universal star, due to his less-than-scintillating style, and lack of a fan base.  Shiming is an attempt at the giant Chinese market, yet his pro skills suggest limited success.  Lomachenko, however, has the best odds of a spectacular pro career than any of them... His power and style can make him an international attraction (something Rigo and Zou cannot boast).  Also, as the championship career of Vyacheslav Senchenko proved, one can draw world title crowds in Ukraine.  Heck, by the time Lomachecnko is attemtping hometown title defenses, a former world boxing champion may even be the president of that country (Vitali Klitschko).

Chris Strait

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