They have arrived with a bang. A knock out bang that is resonating through the cruiser weight division so loudly the heavyweights can hear it. They keep coming on a regular basis – Gigory Drozd, Dennis Lebedev, Rakhim Chakhkiev, Dmitry Kudryashov, Murat Gassiev are the first echelon that has deployed at the pro ranks and there are several other names crawling up through the ratings. All except Drozd are the product of the Russian amateur boxing program which continues to produce an industrial number of fighting machines with hardcore skills and solid conditioning. They are very well educated outside the ring as well and some have a college degree completed as they came along in the amateur ranks. Even the less decorated amateurs have fighting experience within the Russian internal tournaments that easily exceeds that of many international standouts form other countries. Russian boxers say it is easier to win the European title than to become a Russian national champion. If you ask Sergey Kovalev, keeping your spot in the national amateur team is harder than making it big in the pro ranks.
Rakhim Chakhkiev (22-1) is an Olympic gold medalist and he was known and feared as a puncher even in the amateur ranks. His professional progress was interrupted by a loss to Wlodarszyk but he has come back with 6 wins after the upset.
Grigory Drozd (39-1) is the WBC cruiser weight champion and he is an interesting exception form the long amateur pedigree line of other Russian prize fighters. He started training karate as a youth, later crossed over to kick boxing and won a title when he was 15 before he switched to Muay Thai. As a Thai-boxer he ranked third in the world at 17 years of age and after that became European champion twice. In 2001 he won the world Muay Thai boxing championship in Bangkok. He claims to have fought and won 4 amateur boxing bouts before switching to professional boxing.
Dennis Lebedev holds the WBA cruiser weight title and he has spent most of his career fighting in Moscow, Russia. He stood out as an amateur winning the Junior European championship at middleweight. He turned pro at 22 and has amassed a record of 27-2. Lebedev defeated aging greats Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney in 2011. The year before he lost a very close fought decision to Marco Huck that many felt he should have won.
Murat Gassiev (21-0) is only 21 years old and has shown a lot of promise with his technical but spectacular style. He was supposed to fight WBC Latino champ Yunier Dorticos (18-0), a Cuban ex-amateur who elicits exclamations like “Ay, Konyo!” from the crowds in his second home Miami but the Cuban withdrew form what would have been too much too early for both.
The hottest prospect appears to be Dmitry Kudryashov (17-0), KO 17, a modest and introvert person with a ruthless and devastating fighting style. The way he disposed of Juan Carlos Gomez and Francisco Palacios must have sent a shock wave all the way up to the heavyweight division. Heavyweights are holding their breath waiting for Klitshcko to hang them up and they do not need another secret weapon rising form the East and exploding in the West.
Lebedev summed it up in an interview saying that Russian boxing school has long traditions and a system that molds strong-willed boxers with impeccable technique, great footwork and stopping power in both hands. Those who have graduated through this system find life at the pro ranks to be quite salubrious.