This Saturday will be marked as one of the most important dates so far in Russian professional boxing. With two intercontinental titles on the line (Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko will defend his IBF Intercontinental welterweight title, while his compatriot Andrei Kudriavtsev will try to add the same one to his own WBA International belt in lightweight division) Moscow fans of boxing will watch perhaps the most exciting rumble this year in their respectful city. Headlining the show arranged by YUKA Promotions will be Russian top contender Dmitri Kirillov, who will battle Columbian Reynaldo Lopez in IBF super flyweight eliminator. In case of the victory Kirillov will take his spot as the IBF official contender in 115 pounds.
A week prior to upcoming bout Dmitri was finishing his preparation in his native city of Saint-Petersburg. There, in the depth of his training camp, Kirillov was caught by yours truly and was pleased to revive his past and to speak about his future.
LOPEZ’ TAPES ARE YET TO BE WATCHED- How is it going, Dmitri?
- I’m doing pretty well. Everything goes the way, we have planned a bit earlier. For the first three weeks we were in Kronstadt just gaining enough physical conditions for the upcoming bout. However I also started sparring sessions there. Then we have returned to Saint-Petersburg and continued to sparring here. Now my preparation is pretty close to be finished soon. On Wednesday I leave for Moscow and on Saturday everything will be finally done.- Which way are you training right now?
- I’m training to “fix” my speed and endurance, which will be extremely important in eliminator. All training sessions have become much shorter but far more intensive at the same time. Also I used to sparring 6-7 rounds every day.- Who have you been sparring with during your training?
- In Kronstadt there was Kakhramon Arzykulov from Uzbekistan, who is boxing now in 118 pounds. A bit later I started sparring sessions with up and coming Russian prospect Hatyza Sanashokov, who will be fighting on the undercard of mine show. Hatyza is even heavier than Kakhramon is and used to arrange his career in 122 pounds. The way I had trained with them pleased me very much. It was a good school of fighting with the powerful and strong likes and it helped me much.
- There were rumors that newly crowned IBF light middleweight titlist Roman Karmazin would be in your corner during your fight with Lopez. Is that something you can confirm?
- Yeah, it sounds like a done thing today. Roman is spending his time in his home town now. He will be back to Moscow on the 7th of September and if everything goes the way it should go, you’ll see Karmazin in my corner during the fight.- What is the way he can help you?
- The word “help” isn’t proper enough in this situation. I’m looking for the mental “support” and Karmazin is the man who can provide it perfectly. Roman is the great friend of mine and he knows me very well. We both had trained a lot back to back in our life and we both had been trained by the same coach – Igor Mihaylovich Lebedev – who has tragically died this January. Having been on his funeral we had taken an oath to become once champions of the world. Karmazin has recently accomplished old man’s dream. And now it’s my turn to make Lebedev’s wishes come true. By the way the upcoming bout with Lopez isn’t the first one when Roman will take his place in mine corner. He has already been a member of my team in April during fight with Vanene.- Last time I talked to you, you were waiting for the video of Lopez’s best rumbles. Have you seen them already?
- Believe it or not but I have received no tapes at all! So I’ll try him out only during the bout.
- It seems a bit tough not to watch the tapes of your future opponent.
- It’s all about talking in fact. I’m sure that the absence of his tapes isn’t the thing I must worry about. At least I’ll be more cautious and accurate during the fight. Sometimes you can even meet another man inside the ring than on the tape you’ve received. Or his strong abilities can be successfully hidden by the way the film had been made. Had I seen his clips I should have underrated him bitterly. And now I’m ready for any surprises this guy could offer.
- Anyway you have obtained a lot of info about your opponent, haven’t you? What can you say about Lopez?
- Well, at first, his as tall as I am (162 cm, laughs). Thus I must prepare to fight with the short, stocky but extra strong boxer. It’s no surprise though cause you can meet lots of tall fighters here in super flyweight division. And the only way you can handle them is to have enough strength. Lopez used to box in orthodox stance and he is a powerful puncher.- Columbian has 17 of his 24 victories coming by the way of KO. Does it affect your boxing strategy?
- Sure. I’ll try to make him pay me for any mistakes he makes during the fight. I will keep the proper distance, work as counterpuncher and pepper him with the jabs and hooks from far away. But if it’s inside it’s inside and there’s no problem for me. I’m sure I can fight on short distance even better than he can.- All but two of Lopez’s bouts were in his Motherland. Does it mean that you’ll have a great advantage in fighting experience?
- I am to say “Yeah, damn right!” but know what? I don’t wanna talk this way. He is the guy I have never seen in fight before. Yeah, of course he’s not so experienced in boxing abroad but he is at least five years me old. He has been fighting as professional since 1993 and he has been gaining experience all this time. I don’t want to underrate him and there’s no way I can do it. So ask me about his strong and weak abilities just after the fight, ok?- No problem. This fight will be an official IBF eliminator in 115 pounds. Do you know anything about IBF representatives coming in Moscow?
- That’s not kinda thing I worry about. I’m thinking only about Lopez and my strategy in the upcoming bout. Though I heard that Montella (Benedetto Montella – vice-chairman of IBF) was going to visit our show.
ABAZI HAVEN’T DEFEATED ME - I HAVE DEFEATED MYSELF
- You have been fighting already for 7 years on the professional ring. Nevertheless you seem to be almost unknown in Europe and quite unknown here in Russia, despite you have fought for the world and European titles. When have you started boxing?
- Actually I tried my skills not only in boxing but also in many other sports. Almost everything was great there but I wasn’t been able to choose the one I want to continue. I visited gym for the first when I was 11 years old. And then I told myself: “Yeah! That’s the Thing for me!”- Have you reached any success in other sports?
- Definitely I have. I had a good future in soccer as long as in track-and-field competitions. Had I chosen soccer instead of boxing, I should have played in “Zenith” startup now along with Alexandre Kerzhakov or Andrei Arshavin (laughs). But who knows though…- What titles have you gained as an amateur?
- Not so much anyway. I had turned professional when I was only 19 years old. For that reason I haven’t fought with the grown-ups. Anyway I had taken several medals on Russian junior amateur championship. Also I was the member of Russian junior boxing team and that’s the result I’m very proud right now.
- What were the reasons for you to turn professional so early?
- The main one was the Style. I have seen lots of professional fights and they all were incredibly interesting. Also I was sure that my own boxing style is much closer to professional one than to amateur. It’s also necessary to point out that Saint-Petersburg was not only the main centre of amateur boxing in our country but was also a starting point for all professional fighters in the midst of 90-th. With the help of Russian top manager Igor Shafer and my coach Igor Lebedev I started my new career extremely well.- You have been WBC Youth title holder for a long time. What was in that belt for you?
- I can’t say that it was extremely valuable for me. But it was a great opportunity to meet representatives of different schools of boxing. That helped me a lot in future. I fought South African boxer (Christophe Denicker) to get the title, then I was twice in battles with the Asian fighters. Also I have defeated former WBO champion (Rafael Torres) that time. It was a Golden Age for me!- But despite of all successes in 115 pounds you’ve decided to move up in weight. What was the reason?
- I was given an opportunity to fight for EBU bantamweight title. There’s no 115 pounds division here in Europe so there were two ways how I could arrange my future career. I decided not to burn out all the muscles in my body to make it in 112 pounds but to move up to 118.- Your opponent that evening – Spend Abazi – is now rated as one of the best contenders in featherweight division. What can you say about him?
- He’s a good fighter but not a star. He is also extremely awkward, so it’s a great disaster to fight him. He throws not so much punches and they aren’t so powerful but at the same time he lands them perfectly on the target. He seems not to be so fast but when you try to catch him he easily goes out fooling you.- Why Abazi was able to defeat you in that rumble?
- You can’t say it that way! It’s more truly to say that I have defeated myself instead of fighting with Abazi. I was to train hard in my camp for a month at least, wasn’t I? But instead of this I did everything not to train and began hard sessions only two weeks before the fight. So my conditions prior to that bout were rather poor. Also it’s necessary to say once again about the tapes. Having looked through the Abazi’s tapes I underrated him bitterly. I felt like he was too awkward and weak. And that was a hard mistake, because that was his original style he had developed throughout all his life.- The scoring was rather close – 117-111, 116-112, 115-114. What can you say about Danish judges?
- Judges are always willing to help their compatriots. But they weren’t guilty in my defeat there. The judgment was perfect, but my own impact was too small. I have defeated myself, not Abazi.
I HADN’T ENOUGH EXPERIENCE TO FINISH TOKUYAMA
- Two years had passed and you had been awarded a title shot against WBC belt holder Masamori Tokuyama. How had it gone?
- That’s the key point in my career, the biggest and the brightest remembrance for right now. Tokuyama is a tall, thin and rather awkward boxer. He’s much taller than I am and he used to do it on the distance. He’s trying to catch you with the range attacks but Korean can’t show his best while fighting close to opponent. I have even more to say – he isn’t so capable in short-range boxing at all. Unfortunately I wasn’t prepared enough for that fight. I was too cautious, too slow and too faded to cook him the way I wanted. I lost almost all rounds in the first part of that bout. So when I had thrusted up close to the end of the match it was too late. But I felt later I had been extremely close to knock hum out in the last round of encounter.- Tokuyama has only 8 KO’s in 35 matches so far. Is he as light-handed as it seems or not?
- Well, that’s arbitrary. I can’t call him a terrific puncher but all his jabs, hooks and so on are very annoying. And he also can catch you suddenly by range attack while you are less prepared for it. - Have you boxed your usual style?
- No, not at all. I had to go close and to use short-range attacks and that’s not my usual style. - Why have you lost that fight?
- I’m sure now I hadn’t enough experience to win it. Had I trained more, had I had better sparring opposition, medical assistance and proper conditions to tune myself up I should have finished Korean fighter till the end of the fight. - America is the country all welter-, middle- and heavyweight roads are headed for. And what can you say about Japan?
- The same thing but for bantams and flyweights. Every fighter dreams about living and boxing there. Fighting is the religion in Japan. Everything there is prepared for boxers to show their best and for fans to watch the best. And Japanese fans are also very special. They are so silent sometimes that I think I’m fighting at the graveyard (laughs). But they are also extremely polite and that was a good surprise for me.- What can you say about the judgment there?
- That’s a problem perhaps but I felt nothing wrong during my only encounter in Japan. I think Jose Navarro can view it the other way and he has a right to. But as I’ve already said all that things – fans, judges, bad gyms and so on – are all excuses. And I don’t like excuses at all. I was simply worse than Tokuyama that day.I’M NOT SCARED OF KING- All your thoughts are about upcoming rumble with Lopez. But you have already thought about reigning IBF champ Luis Alberto Perez, haven’t you?
- A bit. I have a qualified spy there (smiles). Roman is under Don King promotion right now and he’s training the same gym Perez is training. They are stablemates and Karmazin has already told me lots of helpful facts about Nicaraguan and his boxing style. Luis is an enforcer. He has a dynamite in both of his hands and plus his chin is almost breakless. He’s taller than I am and it’ll not be a piece of cake to let him down. But I’m ready to accomplish this hard task.- Will you fight any tune-ups after the Lopez fight or you’ll try to take Perez as soon as you’ll be able?
- First of all, the only thing I’m thinking about right now is Reynaldo Lopez. If the fight ends the way we are all praying for, I prefer not to fight any tune-ups anymore. I’m ready to take a shot on title!
- As you’ve already said Perez is under DKP right now. Are you scared of being banged by King in case of winning the probable fight with Perez?
- It’s not a problem I worry about. My dream is to be once champion of the world. I’ll put all I have to make my dreams come true. If it’s with King, it’ll be with him and no matter what they’re all talking about him. He’s a dangerous man but everything has its own cost. I’m not afraid of him.
- I hope I’ll be able to become the first Russian champion to win the belt in Motherhood. But if there’s any chance I can get on PPV I don’t wanna miss it.- All your career was here in Russia under Russian promotion
. Have you received any suggestions to arrange your career abroad?
- There were some talks several years ago. Spanish managers have even sent me full contract but it wasn’t good enough to be signed. Financial side wasn’t the one I could miss and their conditions were too bad for me.- What’s about Japanese promoters?
- I’m still wondering there were no suggestions from Japan. I thought I had made enough while fighting with Tokuyama. Perhaps not enough.
- There were some rumors about King and DKP
- That’s it. I was close enough to sign the contract with them. Thanks to Roman who had helped me a lot. King once said he could make me champion of the world. But when it came to assignment all talks and future conditions had mystically dispelled.
- Whom do you want to fight the most inside the ring?
- Rafael Marquez is a hell of a fighter! But first of all I want to pay the debts to Tokuyama. We have an unfinished business with that guy.- What are your predictions on the fight with Lopez?
- I’m sure I’ll outbox him easily. I’ll try to score a KO on Saturday but I’m also ready to go all the distance.
- Your farewell words for your fans.
- Thanks to all of you for a great support throughout my career. It has helped me so much that I can’t even explain it with the words! Be welcome to visit my next bout and I’m sure you’ll get tons of pleasure and fun. I’ll try not to disappoint you!
- Good Luck!
Author thanks YUKA Promotions and especially Sergey Turunov for the help in arranging this interview
Alexey Sukachev – Boxing.ru, Fightnews.ru, “Soviet Sport” and “The Ring” (Ukrainian) observer