By Shaun Murphy – All through my childhood I thought three things would never change: the USA’s President would always be white, the world heavyweight champion would always be African-American, and gay marriage would always be illegal [thank God I’m not a criminal] . However, starting with two-huge Ukrainian Brothers something interesting began to happen in the heavyweights. A wave of Eastern-European fighters invaded boxings glamour division, and established themselves as the successors to the USA’s dominance. During this article, I’m going to explain my theory on why this has happened..
The Russians Want it More
I remember before Timur Ibragimov fought Calvin Brock, he said something that Ill never forget: With Russian fighters we train like were in the Army, no excuses up at 6:00 AM to do your running. Coincidentally, Timur lost the fight. But his comment gave me an insight into the Russians psyche. Although its not always the case for example, both Klitschkos are PHDs and from a higher middle-class family most of the Eastern-Bloc heavyweights come from an impoverished background. This drives the Eastern-European fighters to train harder than their American counterparts, and it shows in the ring.
Also, in the east, sportsmen are extremely respected, and the popularity of Nickolay Valuev, Russian Chagaev and Alexander Povetkin etc., in their home countries, is a huge source-of-strength. Secondly, the poverty caused by Communism means success in the ring could be your only chance of financial security. For example, its documented, Sergei Lyakhovich came to the USA with 100 dollars to his name. People that desperate are very difficult to beat!
The Western Lifestyle
Unfortunately, Civilization doesn’t always create healthy people. The technology, junk food and lack-of-exercise that’s so common in the US, has ruined the potential of many American athletes. In stark contrast, in the former Soviet Countries, exercise and sporting excellence is a serious part of youth culture. Recently, the boxing world was given a spectacle in this lifestyle difference when the USA’s naturally talented Jason Estrada, fought Russia’s Alexander Povetkin.
Alexander came into the ring supremely conditioned; and outboxed, speeded and muscled, the flabby Estrada without mercy. Jason Estrada was a former Olympian, and was a major heavyweight hopeful for his country. Estradas lackadaisical display highlighted the regression of the American big boys, and showed the effects of succumbing to the western lifestyle.
People greatly underestimate the effects of culture on a fighter. The western lifestyle has grown more sedentary, and I believe it’s the biggest reason American heavyweights have regressed. The heavyweight division demands the least discipline, but the cost of neglecting yourself is the highest in boxing. Lack of discipline is something old-school trainers regularly say is absent from today’s youth, and the Russians are simply prepared to train hard and many in the west aren’t! Wladimir Klitschkos this new-breed of big man, despite his flaws, the Ukrainian enters the ring in superb condition every time.
Training to Win
I remember Roman Made in Hell Karmazin being interviewed and he described his outlook on American opponents very honestly, he said: The Americans are softer, prettier looking, and when they fight, it looks good. Yeah, we Russians are a little clumsy, but we have our own value and the important thing is the result and the victory, and the way to reach it, should not matter.
Karmazin went onto explain how hard he trained very hard and modern, combined with his win at all costs mentality. I believe, the Russian light-middleweight, had divulged the secret to Eastern-European boxing success. Winning at all costs and work ethic! Similarly, like Roman Karmazin, Nickolay Valuev used the latest training methods, and worked-and-worked until he won the title [the giant used a tennis-ball as a speedball etc.] This way of training and thinking, has roots in the institutionalized sporting nature of Russian society itself.
During Communism, like in China today, the Eastern-European people were greatly encouraged to excel in sports for the good of the nation. During this time: exercises like kettle bells, plyometrics, and a plethora of other wonders of sports science were developed in secret and used against their enemies. Today, the attitude of training in a scientific manner and competing fiercely is a remnant of those times. Combined with an amateur program that is regarded as the best in the world, and a significant portion of the Russian population that is willing to enter the professional ranks. This Eastern-Bloc invasion will continue to perpetuate itself. So, it’s true. The Russians aren’t as pretty as the past greats, but I personally think the Klitschkos, Alexander Povetkin etc are as good. So don’t be fooled, as Calvin Brock said before fighting Wladimir: The former Soviets can fight”