Friday, July 11, 2008

Vladimir Hrunov Interview

Alexander Povetkin (15-0, 11 KOs) will duel with Taurus Sykes (25-4-1, 7 KOs) on July 19 in the main event of the show, which is promoted conjointly by Vladimir Hrunov and Sauerland Event. Vladimir Hrunov is the Povetkin's manager, and recently he was interviewed by This is how it went...

So, Taurus Sykes is the next opponent for Alexander. But is he just another step on a long way to the heavyweight championship or maybe Sykes fight is self-sufficing?

It’s a preplanned stage of our preparation for future title fights. But we aren’t looking past Taurus Sykes. We can’t do that because we have no options losing this bout. So, all that we are thinking about right now is our next opponent. Moreover, we have chosen sparring partners to prepare precisely for this coming match-up.

Who are these sparring partners?

Three top American heavyweights are already here helping Alexander for his July 19 collision with Sykes. I’m talking about Jameel ‘The Big Time’ McCline (38-9-3, 23 KOs), Larry ‘The Legend’ Donald (42-5-1, 24 KOs) and Kevin ‘The Kingpin’ Johnson (WBA #7, 19-0-1, 6 KOs). Johnson and Donald are approximately of the same physical stature as Sykes. Jameel is slightly bigger than the aforementioned fighters, but his imposing strength and incredible power will be very useful for my student during the camp. McCline plays a role of coach for both Donald and Johnson. His relations with Valery Ivanovich Belov (Povetkin’s head coach) are really fascinating and I’m very satisfied with the fact that he is here and helps Alexander to improve his boxing skills.

A good share of experts don’t consider Taurus Sykes as an elite heavyweight. In fact, many think Friday Ahunanya was a much better fighter than Povetkin’s future foe, in spite of the fact, that Taurus has already defeated ‘The 13th’.

Friday Ahunanya is a world-class pugilist whom I can compare with a bare-teeth cobra. His opponent must mark out the moment when this cobra starts its attack. Sasha is no fakir but he was able to do it during his 2006 clash with Ahunanya and forced the Nigerian to miss a lot and then to pay a considerable price for those mistakes. Alexander made Friday’s punishing left hook look totally ineffective and it was a key factor in the story. Ahunanya has justified his crushing power in the recent outing with Alonzo Butler, but his business with Povetkin was finished after Alex gave him a serious beating.

Which way can Sykes give Povetkin problems?

He is large. He has a potent left hook and he can press the action. That is exactly what we are looking for. I want to make the following clear – this fight is no walk in a park for Team Povetkin. We are preparing for a hard night on July 19. This is boxing. Everything can change in a moment. Alexander must remember that, and be one hundred percent ready for the fight. We don’t want a repeat of Sechew Powell’s sudden fall.

Before Taurus Sykes was formally announced as Alexander Povetkin’s next foe, a few other names had been mentioned among possibilities in the press. Why such sound characters as Duncan Dokiwari (25-3, 22 KOs), Michael Grant (43-3, 33 KOs), Andrzej Golota (41-6-1, 33 KOs) and Riddick Bowe (42-1, 33 KOs) were dismissed from the final roster of opponents?

In fact, even this list of boxers aren’t complete. However, I’ll make some details of our [Team Povetkin] negotiations clear. First of all, we were offered a deal by well-known British promoter Frank Warren. Sydney Olympics super heavyweight gold medalist Audley Harrison (22-3, 17 KOs) was a possibility. This clash is for sure a box-office bonanza for the European heavyweight scene. Imagine two elite heavyweights, two consecutive Olympic champions in the most popular weight class fighting for the continental supremacy. What a great battle that would be! The only ‘but’ preventing this collision from being set is that, Harrison is a southpaw. Our plan for Sasha is to fight an orthodox pugilist in his next outing. If this bout had been staged, it would have been of a title status. I’m sure this fight can be arranged somewhere in the future.

What can you say about Bowe, Grant, Golota and Dokiwari?

I have phoned Michael Grant myself. Michael is a great guy and a man of his word. He was ready to fight as soon as this September, but that date doesn't satisfy Team Povetkin at all. Grant confirmed that he needed a couple of six- or eight-rounders to prepare for Povetkin as he hadn’t been in the ring in official fights for two years. Andrzej Golota was also unavailable for a bunch of reasons. Then there was such a stellar candidate as Riddick Bowe., but he fought only twice during a twelve-year span. I'm sure he wouldn't have been in his best shape to give such a prospect as Povetkin a stern test. Duncan Dokiwari received a lucrative offer for his next bout immediately after his name had been mentioned. And at last it all came to Taurus Sykes. Together with respective Mr. Sauerland, we defined the most suitable opportunity. I do think Sykes is capable of giving Sasha certain problems.

Will this show be televised?

Of course it will. Our fight card will be shown live on REN-TV channel. The first bout is scheduled on 7 PM LT, while the main event starts at midnight.

Tell us more about the show.

We are expecting a sellout crowd on July 19th. Hot tickets are being sold with sonic speed. And I’m sure all spectators who are going to visit Olympiyskiy Sports Palace in Chekhov, will be fully satisfied with the pre-planned program. As always, we are going to complete several unique enterprises making our event a memorable one. For example, fans are welcome to the birthday party of the EVERLAST ring. It’s a common event for foreign countries, but we shall arrange it in Russia for the first time. The EVERLAST ring is a unique, elite production, not known before in our country. A weigh-in is scheduled to be taken in the open air. I haven’t heard about such practices in Eastern Europe as well.

Tell us about celebrities.

Chekhov will be turned into a roaring boiler by fans' emotions. One of the reasons for that, is a considerable lineup of celebrities. Kostya Tszyu is already in Chekhov, helping Alexander to get into the best shape possible. It was a mass-covered media workout a few days before, but that is not all. On the fight night I expect our living legend to work in the corner of Povetkin as Belov’s assistant. The only problem is that his wife’s birthday coincides with the Sykes bout. We are waiting hopefully for Kostya’s decision now.

Two more honorable champions are scheduled to enter the city of Chekhov pretty soon. Team Sauerland fighters Nikolay Valuev (former WBA heavyweight titlist) and Arthur Abraham (reigning IBF middleweight champion) will provide their teammate with a strong mental support. We hope to listen to the legendary ring announcer Michael Buffer as well. Fans will have a chance to witness the best boxing voice around once again during the main event of the show. We also expect the respective president of the IBF Mrs. Marian Mohammad to visit our fight card on July 19.

Which fighters will fill in the undercard of July 19 fight evening?

At least three world known fighters will be featured in supportive bouts. Former WBO champion Bronco McKart (51-8-1, 31 Kos) will try to spoil Dmitry Pirog’s perfect record (11-0, 10 KOs). Both men can really bang, so I’m looking forward to a thriller. Another Russian prospect, Dzhimi Kapanov (6-0, 4 KOs) is set for the stiffest test in his career, facing former IBF ruler Arthur Williams (44-15-1, 30 KOs). The future is now for Dzhimi but he will need to be at his best to live up to the challenge. Also well-known German fighter Michel Trabant (43-3-1, 19 KOs) will test his skills against hard-as-a-rock Roman Seliverstov (7-7, 1 KO). Finally, spectators will witness two light heavyweight battles. Alexander’s younger brother Vladimir (5-0, 1 KOs) and comebacking Denis Lebedev (13-0, 8 KOs) will be featured in crowd-pleasing war against Georgian national champions.

It seems that Vladimir is not such a successful fighter as his renowned brother, is he?

His potential is really enormous. Unfortunately, he had to miss several years due to some health problems. We are slowly and carefully rebuilding him now. I think he will be capable of fighting for European titles in the future. But he needs to work very hard to achieve higher status.

Denis Lebedev is coming after three and a half years of hiatus. What can fans and experts expect from him?

He is very talented. That is right, he was out for a long period of time. But I saw his eyes. This guy can only be described as a hungry dog. And believe me, this dog makes for more biting than barking. You will see why, for yourself, on July 19. Lebedev is an exceptional master and I hope he will get his title opportunity as soon as next year.

Back to Alexander Povetkin. In May he sparred with such notables as DaVarryl Williamson and Jameel McCline. What can you say about these training sessions?

Their usefulness can hardly be overestimated in my mind. These guys are indeed so experienced that working with them is like fighting a seasoned pro in an official match. Alexander challenged them numerous times in the ring looking for new solutions, testing old and newly found skills, gaining the confidence. I want to say 'thank you' to Williamson and McCline once again. You, guys, were irreplaceable. And I’m twice as pleased with the fact that finally, after years of problems and inconsistencies, such sound names are eager to travel overseas to Russia.

Lots of experts say that conducting training sessions in Russia is not similar to conducting training sessions abroad and, most definitely, in America. They say, in order to feel the real strength of American boxers you need to dig in deep inside local American gyms. Another argument is a foreigner’s motivation. In this connection, wouldn't it be of more use to send Sasha overseas than to invite Americans to Chekhov?

I totally disagree with this point of view. Tell me a reason why I must abandon this beautiful training base near Chekhov in favor of an unknown gym somewhere in Arkansas or, say, Idaho. I don't know such a reason. Conditions here are superb, sparring partners are well-motivated while a transcontinental flight over seas and oceans would have resulted in a two-week period of acclimatization. This is not an option.

Team Povetkin is also often criticized for the tempo it moves Alexander through the ranks of various sanctioning bodies towards a championship collision. Skeptics say, Povetkin is too immature and inexperienced to fight for the title at the moment.

Incorrect statement. They can tell you whatever they want but facts prove the doubters wrong. I remember skeptics had been saying the same about Val Barker’s Cup owner Vassily Jirov day after day after day. He had only 20 pro bouts going into the (Arthur) Williams fight. His opposition was soft and unspectacular. And guess what? It didn’t matter at all. He was a heavy favorite prior to that match-up, thanks to his unique amateur experience. He was not only an Olympic champion, but also had more than 330 amateur fights to his ledger. Povetkin’s case is the same. Sasha is the only Russian to capture a gold medal in the most prestigious amateur weight class. He is an amateur world champion and his experience in the unpaid ranks is overwhelming. It is like you have fought 35 times, not 15 as a pro.

This unique experience did little to help Povetkin in the Chambers fight. Alexander was too amateurish and unspectacular and didn’t live up to expectations. Why so?

We worked for TV. That fight was very important for Alexander’s career and it was one we would never cancel. Had we withdrawn from that bout, Povetkin would have been thrown out of the IBF rankings so we decided to risk our record, our status and our top position in order to fight Eddy Chambers in an official IBF eliminator. The problem is in fact, a continuation of Sasha’s fascinating amateur background. By fighting two decades in the unpaid ranks, he was totally adapted to the amateur schedule and training regimen. January is his tough point when his physical shape is the worst throughout a year. Combining it with the severe chill you will see that Sasha was fully unprepared for the fight. It was an examination of his character and by outpointing and out toughing an unbeaten and so confident young boxer in Chambers, he passed this exam with an excellent mark. This battle is of much more use to Povetkin than several tune-ups against limited opposition.

While still an amateur, Povetkin was known well for his crushing punches. At least, he has broken several jaws and compiled a list of frightening stoppages. But at pro ranks one can hardly see anything close to that. What is the reason?

Fans think the strength of the punch tells the whole story. But it doesn't. What is really important is the tempo you use to throw single punches and various combinations. Alexander possesses a unique ability not only to throw several punches in one combo with an incredible speed but to score with it. Ok, lots of them are going be blocked by gloves but the rest will take a toll on the opponent's face. British legend Joe Calzaghe is doing the same thing. And Alexander is the only fighter to apply this energy-supping, but extremely efficient tactics in the heavyweight division.

So, intensity is the key…

For sure. After the eighth round of the fight Sasha finally got into his own and started throwing three-punch combinations with a subsequent move down. And this combination has provided us with the victory. The Saint Russian Trinity has helped us again!

Povetkin’s offensive arsenal was impressive. The same couldn’t be said about his defense.

The problem does exist. Valery Ivanovich (Belov) and our other cornermen are working hard to improve Alexander's defense for future fights. Speaking about the Chambers bout, there was a weak point in our defense system Buddy McGirt had found prior to the clash. Remember that flowery left hook of Chambers? That was his homework and he completed it perfectly. And still it wasn’t enough to beat Sasha. We fought the cream of American boxing and somehow found a way to defeat, or should I say 'eat up' that cream.

I'm sure you are not looking past Sykes, but anyway, Klitschko is one topic I can't avoid in our talk. Will Team Povetkin representatives be at Wladimir’s next fight against Tony Thompson?

Though we have full information about Klitschko's training process for the Thompson fight, our men will indeed be inside the arena to witness Wladimir’s defense themselves. We shall obtain the most detailed info possible about either Klitschko or Thompson.

Wladimir is often considered to be the strongest existing heavyweight in the world. He annihilated the best of American prizefighting, from Chris Byrd to Calvin Brock to Ray Austin to Lamon Brewster, one by one. Has Tony ‘The Tiger’ Thompson any chance to stop his iron reign?

His chances are more than considerable. His combination of height, a southpaw stance and boxing skills will put Wladimir in danger. I know Dan Goossen, Thompson’s promoter. He confirmed that Thompson seriously reckoned on the win. Don’t get me wrong. Klitschko is a real champion whom we respect much, but no way he is an undefeatable monster that no one can ever beat. In fact he was terribly beaten three times during his career.

Despite all that, Ukrainian unified (IBF/WBO/IBO) champion is a favorite of the upcoming bout. Assuming his possible victory and Alexander’s probable triumph, what will Povetkin bring against Klitschko in their dream fight?

(Smiles) That is a secret. You will see everything with your own eyes.

Any finishing thoughts?

I want to thank each of our fans for the continuous support. I also invite everybody to visit Chekhov's Olympiyskiy Sports Palace on July 19. Satisfaction is guaranteed.

Thank You and Good Luck!

My pleasure!


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