Interview with Artur Grigorian


30.12.03 – This year Artur Grigorian won’t celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve the same relaxed way he’s used to. It’s because on January 3 “King Artur” will face the young, hungry and highly dangerous Brazilian knockout artist Acelino Freitas for a showdown between two reigning world champions. The fight takes place at the Foxwood Casinos in Mashentucket, Connecticut, and will be televised live on Showtime TV.

Like the 36-year-old Grigorian, 36-0 (22), the 28-year-old Freitas, 34-0 (31), has never experienced the taste of defeat as a professional. The Brazilian is holding the WBA and WBO world titles at super featherweight. The Hamburg based Uzbek is reigning as WBO lightweight world champion since winning the title in April of 1996. He made 17 successful title defenses. It will be Grigorian’s first professional boxing fight in the US. His last visit to the “Promised Land” was back in 1990 where he defeated Shane Mosley in the Goodwill Games in Seattle City. Artur, how is your preparation going for the possibly toughest fight of your career?

Grigorian: I’m in absolute top shape. I began my preparations already in September. I know for quite a long time that I’ll be in action on January 3 and I focused on the fight very early. On April 23 I underwent surgery on my right shoulder and afterwards I had rehabilitation exercises. In July I started serious power lifting every day. In October, November and December I trained twice a day. I feel real good. There were no problems at all, I’ve had great sparring, no injuries at all, not even a cold.

When do you take off to Connecticut?

We take the plane to America on December 27, one week prior to the fight. I’m very excited about going to the US because I haven’t been there for 13 years. Perhaps it will be as cold in Mashentucket as it is in Hamburg. Maybe there will be snow? Arriving one week prior to the fight should be enough to adapt to the time difference.

You stated you want to set a new world record in lightweight history?

Yes, I want to set a new world record. In case I beat Freitas I will be the longest reigning lightweight world champion of all times. The current record is 7 years and 8 months (Benny Leonard: Lightweight World Champion 1917 – 1924). I won my WBO world title in April 1996. When I defeat Freitas I’ll hold the new record of 7 years and 9 months.

How do you rate your opponent Acelino Freitas?

Freitas is a very good and very strong world champion … at super featherweight! I’ve seen many of his fights on video. He is fighting strong and very good. All his punches are hard punches. He tries to throw every punch with maximum power. But he still has the stamina to go 12 rounds.

But I will show all that is still not enough to beat me at lightweight. I’ve done my home work on Freitas. Still I can only assess his strength and ability 100% after the first round. Then I’ll adapt to his style.

Freitas is eight years younger than you. Will youth be a decisive factor?

There is no question that Freitas is a very good and very strong opponent. But in my opinion I fought many strong opponents during my career. Some of them may have been even better than Freitas. It doesn’t matter that I’m 36 years old. For the first time in quite a while I paid full attention to my preparation and I’m completely focused on my upcoming fight. I’ll also use my great experience to my advantage.

I wasn’t satisfied with my own performance in my last two fights. But this doesn’t have anything to do with age. My opponents were awkward and hard to fight. Somehow it was hard for me to adapt to their styles. In addition I was detracted by severe private problems. Several of my friends owe me a lot of money. And over and again I was struck with injuries. But all that is past. My mind is free and I focused on the upcoming fight for many months.

Are you happy that you finally get your big fight in the US?

Of course I’m extremely happy. For a long time I wanted a fight in the US against a strong opponent. It could have happened much earlier, though. But now it will be against Freitas. He’s moving up from super featherweight to challenge for my WBO lightweight belt. Why should I say “no”? I’m not scared from anybody. I don’t care whether my opponent is Freitas or anybody else. If there is somebody who is even stronger than Freitas, that’s fine. Let him come. I’ll fight him!

How long will Artur Grigorian continue his career?

I never think about defeat. But still: In case I lose this fight I have to end my career because I’m 36 years old. But I don’t want to end my career because I feel that I still have enough left to fight two or three years more.

I’ll step on the gas. This fight means all or nothing for my career. We’ve had a great training camp like never before. In the past years I was often injured or detracted by other things. This time it was different.

At my age I have no time to wait for rematches or to fight tune ups. Every fight could be my last one. Every time I have to do the best I can.

What kind of fight can boxing fans expect?

Only God decides who is going to win. But I’ll do everything I can to make it easier for God to make his decision!

In boxing one punch can put an end to everything. In my fight against Freitas I want to be twice as good as I use to be. I want to win this fight badly because I have no second chance. When you face a strong opponent your mind has to be free. I only think about Acelino Freitas all the time and I will defeat him with the right game plan. In my mind the fight won’t go twelve rounds. Either he will be knocked out or me. That’s it.