Dmitry Mikhaylenko: A mechanic who enjoys taking opponents apart
The talent emanating from Eastern European nations is not showing any signs of abating and the newest entry into this constellation of stars may be volume-punching stalker Dmitry “The Mechanic” Mikhaylenko. The Russian welterweight is co-featured on Saturday night’s HBO (9:45 p.m. ET/PT) telecast, the main supporting act of countryman (and IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight titleholder) Sergey Kovalev’s rematch with valiant but ultimately outgunned Jean Pascal. This despite a late shake-up when original opponent Ray Robinson withdrew with an injury following a car accident, affording tough and durable Karim Mayfield an opportunity to discombobulate “The Mechanic” on short notice. Secondarily, this affirms that HBO sees Mikhaylenko as a potential star and they do not want to forgo an opportunity to showcase Mikhaylenko’s rise up the ranks. Now it is up to Mikhaylenko to deliver the same way other Eastern European stars have in the recent past.
Mikhaylenko is from the Black Sea port city of Gelendzhik, known for Cossacks and Crimean war battles but, like his choice of sports, he never sought an easy path. He is used to hard environs outside the ring as well, moving to Siberia and leaving his family for eight years, educating himself at a university, which prepares engineering students for the frozen oil drilling fields of the Russian steppes. At 29, Mikhaylenko is near his physical prime, standing a solid 5-foot-9 with a 69-inch reach, he looks big for his weight, coming down from junior middleweight, where he fought over the last three years. With a solid foundation of nearly 350 amateur bouts (boxing since age 11, he estimates 300 were victories), Mikhaylenko has more than his imposing physical conditioning to fall back upon.
The first 16 fights of Mikhaylenko’s pro path took place in Russia, priming and readying himself away from the bright lights but, other than once-promising Sherzodbek Alimjanov, he did not defeat anyone of note. That changed straightaway when Mikhaylenko made his American debut; he immediately upped the level of competition, dominating former world title challenger Sechew Powell, winning every round and never allowing Powell off the ropes. Importantly, Mikhaylenko did not show signs of regression, despite elevating his level of opposition. In fact, Mikhaylenko looked better and more focused, facing stiffer North American opposition. Mikhaylenko will need that intangible tonight against a strong and awkward opponent renowned for his bullying style.
The way in which Mikhaylenko beat Powell, who was admittedly past his sell-by date, turned heads, pushing the New Yorker backward with combinations that flowed as freely as Niagara Falls. This did not come as a surprise to manager Egis Klimas (who also guides the careers of Sergey Kovalev and Vasyl Lomachenko), who told the press, “Dmitry is an action fighter and very interesting to watch. You never get bored when he is in the ring. He throws a lot of punches and always busy. I can see him becoming a champion at 147 pounds.” A statement to which Mikhaylenko gave more credence in his next outing, stopping Ronald Cruz, whom against similarly valued blue chip prospect and former American Olympian Errol Spence Jr. went the distance.
The Russian says he and other boxers from Eastern Europe are driven by old-fashioned factors that have fallen by the wayside in many other places. The motivation as Mikhaylenko, 20-0 (9), sees them are basic and purposeful. “We come here hungry; we want to fight. It is inside of us. We don’t care about money; we don’t care about who we fight – just give us the fight. We want to show the best.” He stood by those words, accepting a tough new opponent on three weeks’ notice. This mantra has propelled Mikhaylenko into an HBO slot in only his fifth American appearance and a victory tonight may lead to a world title shot within a year.
“Relentless” best describes how Mikhaylenko operates inside the ring, using unconventional but direct angles to confuse or cause hesitancy in foes that his volume then envelops like a wet towel. A style he uses well coming down a weight class, and Mikhaylenko says he feels stronger and more energized at welterweight. However, Mikhaylenko did appear a bit weight-drained at the weigh-in, given the pasty look to his skin and sunken cheeks. He also swings wildly at times, mostly to start fights and set the mood, but settles down and exploits holes and stamina loss of foes. Mikhaylenko stopped his last three opponents and his hand speed may be a bit undervalued, timing his punches well to increase that positive facet. Because Mikhaylenko likes to fight at close distances, it is hard to judge his accuracy but he does not miss much inside, targeting the body with precision.
Though nicknamed “The Mechanic,” there is nothing mechanical about Mikhaylenko as he uses unconventional punching angles and quick bursts to get the job done. Featuring the endurance of a marathon runner, Mikhaylenko reels off punches in bunches from bell to bell, staying in the faces of foes, not allowing them to catch their breath or think fast enough to elude an avalanche of blows. However, against faster or better boxers, Mikhaylenko may open himself up too much and his punches are not overly powerful so are unlikely to deter the elite.
Main Events boss Kathy Duva, who co-promotes Mikhaylenko, says elite foes are looming just around the corner. “Dmitry continues to impress us as he has quietly worked his way through the ranks of the division. He is willing to stand and trade punches with anyone and has proven on numerous occasions that, with his high punch output, he’s ready for anything.” That heavy punch volume is also Mikhaylenko’s best defense, which still bears a question mark, since no one has been able to come at Mikhaylenko in any sustained manner. Whether battle-hardened Mayfield is able to answer some of these open questions about Mikhaylenko remains to be seen.
The secret hope HBO may have is that Karim Mayfield does fight back and asks questions of Mikhaylenko’s defense and chin but without derailing their prospect or turning the fight into an evening of infighting and clinches. The 35-year-old has the right physical and mental make-up to do so. Undefeated in his first eight years, establishing a 17-0-1 record, Mayfield then fell in back-to-back decision losses to fellow prospects Thomas Dulorme and Emmanuel Taylor. Neither was an easy win for the victors and Mayfield says he is well-prepared, given he was in the final stages of training for another fight. “I am happy to be able to have this opportunity. It was short notice but, as a professional, you have to be prepared for these types of opportunities. I am always ready.”
Team Mayfield has dutifully scouted its Russian foe and says it has found the key to victory rather quickly; it is to use Mikhaylenko’s greatest asset against him. “I look forward to capitalizing on (Mikhaylenko’s) punch count. I have a lot of power and speed. I am ready to win this title. After this fight, the winner, which will be me, will have better opportunities available to them after this fight.” This should be the last chance at HBO-level for Mayfield, 19-2-1 (11), who is coming off a year-long layoff as well, if he does not win. So Mayfield needs a quick start as not to lose inspiration or focus in the face of near certain early onslaught by the Russian ramrod.
Early fireworks are what Main Events matchmaker Jolene Mizzone expects. “I give both of these guys a lot of credit. Mikhaylenko was originally supposed to fight a southpaw in Robinson and he accepted a last-minute switch to Mayfield, who many believe is a tougher fight then Robinson. Also, Mayfield accepted this fight on two weeks’ notice instead of taking a scheduled tune-up fight in February. This should be an exciting fight.” Kathy Duva was impressed but not surprised by the way her charge took the news of a change of opponent. “Mikhaylenko has no doubt whatsoever about his abilities inside the ring. He didn’t even blink at the change in opponents. Short notice or not, this is a great fight!”
Kathy Duva and the Main Events team have moved Mikhaylenko very well, following the successful blueprint of Sergey Kovalev, putting him on any card that has the possibility of American TV airtime (such as HBO Latino and NBC Sports Network). It has garnered him Top 15 ratings, which is important, since that is the cut-off for a title shot, in three of the four sanctioning bodies. He should crack the WBC’s rankings next month, since he currently rated No. 16 there. Most importantly, in terms of unbiased evaluations, Mikhaylenko cracked THE RING magazine’s Top 10 last month on the back of his impressive demolition of Johan Perez.
Those high evaluations are down to Mikhaylenko’s uncompromising style and attitude, on which he expanded to respected THE RING writer Anson Wainwright. “At this point of my career, I am not trying to prepare for any particular fighter; I am already fighting the way I fight. I will lead them to fight my fight. I will dictate the fight.” That assertiveness has brought Mikhaylenko a long way in boxing and life, which he acknowledged at the final press conference. “It was just a year ago when I was here in the back row for this press conference. Now I am in the front row. Now my dream has come true and I am fighting on HBO. I am 100% ready and I want to give the best show to our fans.”