Daniyar Yeleussinov continues a revered Kazakh boxing tradition
Fresh off his professional debut, welterweight prospect Daniyar Yeleussinov will make his return to the ring, on Wednesday night, in London, England, where, under his U.K.-based promoter Matchroom Boxing, the Olympic gold medalist is sure to fight often in the coming years. Yeleussinov isn’t a household name yet in boxing but its English translation, based on the root word “eleusin,” meaning, significant, important, considerable or great, may clue you into the 27-year-old’s potential. That said, back in his native Kazakhstan, he’s already a hero.
“Our people in Kazakhstan, they respect Olympic champions,” Yeleussinov told UCNLive.com, over the phone, from England. “Everyone knows it’s a dream and it was my dream to become an Olympic gold medalist. Every sportsman and every boxer dreams about that because this is the high level and this is the top of your career. That’s why they respect Olympians. Maybe it’s different in other countries but, in our country, they love them. They are like heroes. It’s tradition.”
Yeleussinov, who is from the town of Berezino, was featured on a Kazakh postage stamp as a tribute to his gold medal bid in the 2018 Rio Games. The achievement marked the fourth Olympiad in a row in which Kazakhstan won gold at welterweight (141-152 pounds), and the class has been aptly nicknamed “Kazakh-weight” back home. Recently unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin has made Kazakhstan a well-known commodity, within the professional ranks of the sport, but the country’s amateur system has been thriving as well in the background and Yeleussinov is a fine product of that.
“The Kazakhstan school of boxing is big and well-known. It’s now a tradition to get a medal in the Olympic Games,” Yeleussinov explained. “There will be a lot of Olympic gold medalists in the future because the system is built right and the situation has motivated all these fighters and boxers. This nation loves boxing. It’s a tradition for us. In the future there will be a lot of good fighters who turn pro from Kazakhstan because the Federation hasn’t stopped and will always work. They will try to do something better. They change things; they try to keep the fighters always in shape and in a tournament. There’s a lot of major events of competition in Kazakhstan. Sometimes in one year, there’s 10 competitions and I’m not even talking about the World Championships or the Asian Games. In regions, every city and area, every month, there is some competition. That’s why the Kazakhstan fighters are, I wouldn’t say more talented maybe, but they are ready for all these fights – Olympic Games, World Championships – They’re ready for the fight. They’re active.”
While they’ll always be associated, comparisons of Yeleussinov to Golovkin would be lazy, in all honesty. Their styles are completely different and Daniyar will be navigating his pro career as a full-fledged welterweight, as opposed to middleweight. Yeleussinov will also be fighting in a time when boxing prospects are being pushed much more quickly than when Golovkin turned pro back in 2006, and certainly the landscape of the sport has been healthier in the internet era. Of course Golovkin definitely opened the door, or rather showed how big one can get in the United States, being a fighter from the Eastern Bloc, which was unheard of until the “GGG” phenomena. Whether Yeleussinov can be this commercial success like Golovkin remains to be seen but the expectations should be tempered, even if Daniyar is a splitting image of perhaps the most popular athlete on the planet, Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Yes, often,” Daniyar said in English, in response to being told he’s a Ronaldo look-a-like. It was the only moment Yeleussinov didn’t speak Kazakh on the phone, as his manager Ziya Aliyev also served as his translator for the interview. Yeleussinov is the first official fighter under Aliyev’s Boxing Stars Management Group (renowned Merengue singer Elvis Crespo is a partner with Aliyev) and, as Daniyar put it, they played a vital role in getting Yeleussinov signed to one of the biggest boxing promoters.
“First of all, Boxing Stars Management made that deal happen,” Yeleussinov said about his signing with Matchroom Boxing. “They brought the deal to me. When they brought the deal, I knew about (Group Managing Director) Eddie (Hearn) before too. I knew Matchroom Boxing was one of the biggest, well-known promoters in the world because of I know what they did with (IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony) Joshua and other fighters.”
“We were very excited that we signed Daniyev because he has huge potential. He will be one the most dangerous welterweights and undisputed champion. Definitely,” Aliyev said with confidence. “We’re planning in maybe about the third year, or second year; he’s gonna grab one of the belts. We believe in him and, for our company, we were very happy that we have our first fighter – Daniyar Yeleussinov – this guy has huge potential to be one of the best in the world. To be a legend maybe. He’s a gem.”
Yeleussinov, 1-0 (1), made his pro debut last April in Brooklyn, New York, and, within three rounds, made it obvious that he’s much further ahead than any other prospect. The southpaw showed a busy jab that touched Noah Kidd’s body as often as his head but, more importantly, it gauged the proper distance for Yeleussinov to start throwing his power shots. Kidd was unbeaten in four fights, and even landed a flush shot in the opening round, but he would soon look amateurish in front of such a technically sound fighter. Yelesussinov’s footwork was just as impressive as his ability to find his proper distance and, in the third round, he timed Kidd’s jab with a left hand to the chin that dropped him hard for a knockdown. Later on in the waning seconds of the third, Yeleussinov would earn his first stoppage by placing a straight left to Kidd’s body, and before his knee even hit the canvas, referee Eddie Claudio rightfully waved it off.
“It was the right place. I was happy debuting in the United States and at the Barclays Center,” Yeleussinov reflected. “The debut was a great day, and it was a great fight.”
Aside from making his U.K. debut on Wednesday night, Yeleussinov will have his new trainer alongside at York Hall. “John David Jackson is one of those experienced trainers, who trained world-class fighters, and he can prepare a fighter for championship fights,” Daniyar said. “Like he did with (WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey) Kovalev and a lot of fighters. Secondly John was a champion of the world in two divisions and was a southpaw like me, so it’s easy to work with him. John doesn’t want to change. He said from day one that he didn’t want to change my style. He just wants to add, make me more relaxed and feel comfortable.”
Yeleussinov has moved to Boca Raton, Florida, in order to train full-time with Jackson but didn’t have much to say about transitioning to American life, with good reason. “I’ve only been here about a month and I’ve been training and preparing for the fight. I haven’t lived here long enough.” His father Marat and brother Dauren are also there with him, making life easier for him, if need be. At the time of the interview, Yeleussinov was set to fight Gabor Gorbics, a Hungarian with a mind for defense and plenty of ring experience. “I think Gabor will try just to survive in the ring. He will be all about defense and sometimes maybe he will try and hit me with offensive moves. I think he will try to survive,” Daniyar said when Gorbics was in his crosshairs. On Monday it was announced that Zoltan Szabo, 23-11 (10), another experienced Hungarian, would take his place, and maybe it will turn out to be a better fight than Daniyar had expected against the innocuous Gorbics.
Starting Wednesday night, U.K. boxing fans will get to know Yeleussinov more, as he maintains an active schedule on Matchroom Boxing undercards over the coming year. With Matchroom’s streaming deal with DAZN in the works over the summer, American fans will also be able to keep an eye on the Kazakh prospect and perhaps have more than one favorite fighter from that country when it’s all said and done.
“Everyone has their own way, and I’ll just start my own,” Yeleussinov said about his expectations on how long it will take him to step up in competition and eventually vie for a world title. “They have strategy but, fight by fight, we will see where I’m at, so I will understand when I’m ready to fight a big fight or some tough opponent. Every fight is tough actually. By the contract, I have seven fights per year. I’m good with that. I’m ready.”
As for what he has in store for Szabo in the ring, Yeleussinov hopes to impress with the skills he nurtured in the amateurs, which, of course, is a newer way of looking at these beasts from Kazkahstan.
“I would like to show them smart boxing. Beautiful boxing. Fast lightning. I’m not coming for the knockout – knockouts always come by themselves – that’s why I want to show them a technically smart and fast boxing. I hope they will like it.”