Vassiliy Jirov Interview: “I would go on the (Ali G) show, if Borat invited me!”

vassily jirov09.07.07 - By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza: On July 14th the “Russian Tiger” returns to the cruiserweight jungle against Kenny Craven in the main event of a card out in North Dakota. Vassiliy has been in the gym ever since learning of the possibility of fighting James Toney this September in Moscow. However, Toney’s problems with accusations regarding steroid abuse have left that opportunity in limbo.

While that may seem terrible, the Jirov team is only thinking positive, and thinking ahead to getting together with Virgil Hill for a championship rumble in the very state Vassiliy fights in roughly 2 weeks from now. Hill a former protégé of Thell Torrence is currently one of the titleholders at cruiser.

Besides the usual questions, however, the most important one I am sure you are asking yourselves is, “Slava what the $#%@ does Boxing have to do with Borat?” all the while staring somewhat confused into your computer screen. The answer is simple and somewhat predictable but nonetheless important:

Borat has absolutely nothing to do with boxing.

Rather the better question is what does boxing have to do with world culture, and the society we live in, of which Borat is a part?

The truth is boxing has always run parallel to world events, societal happenings, and the culture that surrounds us. While we are not facing an event where in Joe Louis fought Max Schmeling with the prestige of American vs Nazi ideals looming in the background, we, as well as the boxers themselves are still faced with being the cultural ambassadors, and spokespeople, for boxing, and for our society, and the people in it.

When Felix Trinidad brought to light the issue of US military exercises in the Puerto Rican territories, which were hurting civilians, boxing fans, and viewers understood and supported the reasons why. When Omar Sheika came into the ring with a “free Palestine” shirt on, I didn’t like it, but I understood that it is a part of the parallel nature of society and politics and the sport of boxing. Just because Joe Louis is not facing an enemy as big and strong, and as straightforward, as the nazis (of which Schmeling was not a part but was manipulated by) does not mean we continue ignoring lesser but none the less important events, issues, and cultural trends. Those who have read my work from the beginning know that, as much as possible, I try to integrate such issues when interviewing the many different fighters from the many different countries around the world that agree to talk with us.

That being said, Borat has become a tremendous phenomenon both in America and around the world. Even Larry Merchant got in on the act during one of his exceptional speeches on a recent card on HBO. However, as funny, and as important a cultural icon as Borat has become, the sad part is there are still many people who do not understand that he is not real and neither is his representation of the nation of Kazakhstan.

Those who do not get it, fail to realize they are the butt of the joke for their ignorance relative to other cultures, but that doesn’t diminish the negative opinion they have of the country of Kazakhstan itself. Rather then laugh at them, or ignore that view, I think it is the job of the educated to make the correct and realistic information known, both for the sake of them and the warm, friendly, lovely, and hospitable people of the nation from which my favorite fighter hails.

Though I have met my share of Kazakh natives and can provide numerous examples of the truth behind Vassiliy’s words, it is more important for those who care, to hear that from the man himself. Since he is the most famous, true to life, real, Kazakh fighter, and celebrity in the world that most of us know, his opinion of his nation is quite valid and important to publicize. Furthermore, on a more ulterior note, having Vassiliy be talked about in the same light as somebody of the celebrity stature of a Borat, helps to draw attention to him, his country, and thereby, of course, the sport of boxing.

ESB: Vassiliy, what can you tell us about your next opponent, who is now scheduled to be Kenny Craven?

Vassiliy Jirov: Never saw this guy once, didn’t watch any tapes on him, so I don’t even know who he is and what he is capable of doing in the ring. I’m getting ready in such a way that it won’t make a difference who the guy is because I will be ready for anything and will try to take whoever it is out.

ESB: The fight will be in the Cruiserweight division?

Vasiliy Jirov: Yup.

ESB: Did you try to get any tapes on him?

Vassiliy Jirov: Yeah, if we have the opportunity, of course, we would get the tapes and watch them but right now we just don’t have any.

ESB: Who are you sparring with in the gym?

Vassiliy Jirov: I’m sparring with Willi Chapman, if you ever heard of him. I don’t remember the names of the other people and I think it would be more convenient to call Thell and find out.

ESB: How many rounds are you sparring in a day?

Vassiliy Jirov: Right now about 5,6 but as we get closer to the fight we will increase it to 10, or 12 so I am ready to go that distance.

ESB: Recently, it was publicized that James Toney was again accused of taking performance enhancing drugs. What is your reaction to this news?

Vassiliy Jirov: I heard about it, of course, and to me it’s not that surprising. If you look at his previous fights, you can see the unnatural increase in mass. The body gets used to it and it is very difficult to stop. Psychologically, and physically, a person gets used to training with those substances in his system.

I know, cause I read a lot about medicine, and you can see by the way a person behaves, and Toney is always an aggressive person, that it is a sign of similar substances in his organism.

ESB: On the other hand, if he did take something, then relative to other people who have done so, he does not look muscular at all.

Vassiliy Jirov: If you look at him when he first started boxing, it is just impossible that a middleweight can gain so much mass. You have to understand though, I am not judging him, and it’s his life and he has just as much right, as you or I, to do with it what he pleases. If he is using steroids, or other drugs then as they say, “it’s your funeral,” and if he wants to kill himself, then it is none of our business. It does not concern me.

The only thing is if you are fighting against somebody you would like to know that that person is in the same state as relates to those things.

ESB: Would you fight him anyway?

Vassiliy Jirov: Absolutely. Of course I would. The fans like the idea, and if that is the case then please, my job is to obey those wishes.

ESB: You know I read somewhere that he was talking about you and Sergei, and how he made you cry. Something like he left you and your wife in tears. How do you react to those statements?

Vassiliy Jirov: Cry? (laughing) Let him say what he wants. I understand that it’s a mind game and for me it is more a combination of laughter and that kind of tears (laughing).

ESB: (laughing) Yeah, something about how after the first fight you and the wife were very upset, and were lamenting the loss. As soon as I read that, I said to myself, “I have to call Vassiliy and get a response.”

Vassiliy Jirov: (laughing) It’s just a game of sorts. If I would lament every loss then I would leave the sport long ago. I take part in a game, so whatever happens, I will remain the type of person I always was. I don’t need to take these statements as an insult because they are more like jokes and anecdotes. If I ever say stuff like that, generally I make it up so that reporters have something shocking to put in their work. I have fun participating in this game. Boxing as well as life.

ESB: How much do you weigh?

Vassiliy Jirov: Around 200 just like last time. I basically don’t have to drop a lot.

ESB: What about running?

Vassiliy Jirov: From 30 minutes to an hour, because it depends on many factors. I like to run in the mountains, just because it is harder and I like to feel that resistance, rather then run on flat surfaces.

ESB: The consensus champion at your weight right now is Frenchman Jean Marc Mormeck. Do you know anything about him?

Vassiliy Jirov: Yes, he is one of them, there is also the Italian guy, Maccarinelli, and Hill. Hill lost but the belt stayed with him cause Maske wasn’t contending for the title.

I saw Mormeck’s fights, but right now our plans are different, and we are trying to organize a bout with Hill particularly. In fact that is why it’s convenient to fight in North Dakota, the state where he was born, because that can help develop interest in a fight between us in the future if people see me in his neck of the woods.

ESB: Besides training, what else do you do now? In other words, after training every day, what do you do?

Vassiliy Jirov: I just train. I am in Vegas and don’t have time to have other interests. After training, I usually read, more often than not,, about human health, and besides that, I am also learning about this new program called “Photo-Reading.”

Using this system, you can apparently read a whole book in 15-20 minutes and remember everything that you read. It’s based on the idea that the human mind can work in different directions, one of which is, integrating memory with sight.

Usually you would spend 2-3 days with a book while here you can do it in a couple of minutes.

ESB: Hard to believe of course, but I will definitely look into it. You know, even though I asked this last time, whenever people talk about you, and find out you are from Kazakhstan, they also start to ask about your opinions on Borat.

Vassiliy Jirov: Borat as in the guy from the movie? I never saw it but I did hear about it, and all I can say is his critics don’t come to the realization that it’s a game. Those who want to, can, please, get frustrated, or angry, because of whatever he does in the film. For me it’s just a fun part of life.

ESB: At first, he was not recognized as a serious figure, but for instance when Nazarbaev (Nursultan Nazarbaev is the president of Kazakhstan. Author’s note) was in England, one of the first things asked of him was his opinion on Borat, who of course is a British national. Nazarbaev pointed out that, regardless, of the fact that he is not from Kazakhstan, which everybody knows, and that all his jokes are made up, that even so there is some benefit from this advertisement, because people start to become interested in your country.

Vassiliy Jirov: You see, if even Nazarbaev thinks so, then of course. I mean it develops tourism, and helps the country reach a level of international attention, the benefit of which is clearly seen. Otherwise if people get a kick from this type of humor, which as I understand isn’t very flattering to our state, then it’s still great. People just play a role in their life.

ESB: He just says things that are so extreme and unrealistic, that any educated person would understand he is just fooling around. On the other hand, un-educated people, and I have run into some quite often, take what he says as fact. That Kazakhstan is somehow very racist, and anti-semitic, and sexist and all the other things he makes up. Ironically, he is a very educated person, finished one of England’s more prestigious universities, either Oxford, or Cambridge, and just made up this role for himself.

Vassiliy Jirov: Yeah, whatever people may say of him, get upset, see it as some great insult, he brings fame to our country. We are all different people, put together differently, and whoever gets upset let them get upset, and those who are happy, and get satisfaction, then all the better. If he brought a smile to peoples’ faces then he deserves praise because we need to smile more anyway. The more we do it the better our lives become.

ESB: What if you could get in contact with him and he invited you on his show, because besides the movie he also has his own show. Would you go on there?

Vassiliy Jirov: Why not? I might have some fun with him in turn. It’s all just a game and you need to have fun with these things more often.

If I would be invited on his show then, please, I would go on and engage him. Although I have to point out that I can ruin the atmosphere because viewers would see a real person from Kazakhstan. If I would talk about Kazakhstan and myself, there would be those who might start to look at the country differently.

ESB: You know a lot of what Borat says about Kazakhstan is not true. Tell us about how you see your country?

Vassiliy Jirov: Kazakhstan is a country with a capital C, with a lot of resources, and also Olympic champions (laughing). Those resources aren’t just natural, but precisely human and individual, cultural and social. Our people make our country, and as with any country it has to depend on the nation, and if the nation is good and kind, then that will make the country such.

The most important thing is to have a good leader. A person who can understand all this, and can feel what is needed to develop the nation as well as the country correctly. If he looks at life positively then he will move the country in the right direction.

Based on what I see, it is happening. People are living well, economy is growing, and I think those signs are telling because president Nazarbaev understands and does his job well.

I had the opportunity to speak with him after my fight at home, and I saw just how experienced, intelligent, and capable this person is for his position as president.

ESB: As I mentioned, a lot of what Borat says about Kazakhstan is untrue. Can you share an interesting fact with us about your homeland that many in the west don’t know?

Vassiliy Jirov: Well I can say it like this: I like it that in Kazakhstan, people are very warm and kind. Whoever you are: an American, a Frenchman, a Swede, if you come to Kazakhstan you will be greeted as one of our own. You will be treated with respect, and that is the most important thing I love about Kazakhstan.

ESB: One of his key phrases is the greeting, “Yakshimesh,” which is probably polish, but which many people think is a Kazakh term. In your language how would you say, “hello,” or, “how are ya?”

Vassiliy Jirov: “K-A-L K-A-L-A-I.” I remember Kazakh, and when you come over to somebody’s house you usually say, “Kal Kalai,” and they answer, “Z-H-A-K-S-Y,” which means, “good” or “ok.”

ESB: Any words to say to those who will read the interview?

Vassiliy Jirov: I want people to be kinder to each other. Treat each other with more respect and love, and that there be fewer arguments and fights amongst them. Just so that our Mother Earth can prosper from it.

ESB: Vassiliy, as always, great talking to you. Thanks and good luck come the 14th, we will be cheering for you.

Borat if you are out there, and reading this, please show support for your countryman any which way you can!

Also check out Vassiliy’s personal site

On the horizon: An article that explains why Wladimir Klitschko is this generations Muhammed Ali. Written especially for those who think I hate Klitschko.

Article posted on 10.07.2007

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