Ivan the Terrible? Hardly
American and Eastern European relations have been in the news a lot over the last couple weeks and, if the hype is to be believed, boxing has a new “bad hombre” (sorry for the mixing of political metaphors by elected officials for our non-political readers) on its hands in the form of Belarusian knockout artist Ivan Baranchyk, 13-0 (10). The Brooklyn-based boxer headlines Showtime’s always engrossing “ShoBox” event on Friday night (10:05 p.m. ET) and will want to impress a national audience after going the full 10 rounds in his most recent outing, dominating durable Wilberth Lopez. Not that the Lopez fight lacked entertainment value but Baranchyk has always set high expectations for himself, that includes living up to his “The Beast” nickname. That moniker will be tested, given a tough assignment against Abel Ramos, 17-1-2 (12), also a ShoBox veteran of three fights, who has been asked to return because of the hard-nosed manner he displayed in both victory and defeat on the series.
The lively Baranchyk is keen to reestablish his knockout ways, starting his career with 10 stoppages in 11 bouts, and sees Abel Ramos as the kind of willing opponent to bring out the best in him. All of the 24-year-old Russian’s knockouts have come inside three rounds, including six in the first, earning his reputation as a fast starter, who throws big punches from the opening bell. Baranchyk has authentic power in either hand and says he reined in that paralyzing power, over the last couple of outings, to focus more on accuracy and his boxing skills. “I think I’ve proved my durability by going 10 rounds in my last two fights. My team wants me to box more and let the knockouts come, so that is something we work on all the time.’’ However, some argue that the jury is out on that statement and, perhaps, Baranchyk has been exposed as someone who is great in short distances but will be left wanting in the championship rounds of a marathon fight.
Baranchyk’s current skill-set is largely based on an impressive work ethic and need for self-improvement. It was instilled in him early, judging from a story about his beginnings that taught Baranchyk self-reliance over dependence. “The man who ran the gym I went to was supposed to be the trainer but he had a drinking problem. Instead of teaching us the sport of boxing, he just opened the gym door each day and left us without steady guidance.” It shows a focus and dedication that older generations claim are lacking in then a pre-teen Baranchyk, who went on to win the Amateur World Junior Championships in 2009 and bested two-time Olympic Gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez in the process.
The Ramirez victory and other good showings, at prestigious international competitions, caught the eyes of promoters around the world who also focused on Baranchyk’s pro style, often leading with hooks instead of a jab. The pull and promise of America aided Baranchyk’s choice, signing with Fight Promotions Inc., and moving his base to Brooklyn, New York. After a pro debut in his native Belarus, Baranchyk notched nine straight KOs before taking on the biggest challenge of his career. Some thought it was too soon to match Baranchyk against fellow unbeaten young gun Nicholas Givhan in a ShoBox bout, which were quickly alleviated when Baranchyk dominated Givhan in a one-round stoppage. This, in turn, caught the attention of veteran boxing insiders Tony Holden and Lou DiBella, who signed on to give Baranchyk a further career boost with their expertise and experience.
That spectacular ShoBox debut performance, wich Baranchyk started by knocking the more experienced Givhan down only 21 seconds into the fight, was punctuated by a highlight reel left hook KO that ShoBox will undoubtedly use in future broadcasts to raise interest in Baranchyk’s power. It was the type of exhibition that demanded an encore and, three months later, Baranchyk was back on Showtime ,taking the zero from undefeated Mexican foe Eliseo Cruz Sesma in three brutally one-sided rounds, which caused the latter’s corner to throw in the towel. Baranchyk is confident his string of stellar ShoBox appearances will continue, “I am looking forward to continuing my pursuit of a world title. Ramos is a very tough fighter and a ShoBox alum himself, so I will enjoy knocking him out.”
Baranchyk’s promoter Tony Holden, best known for unearthing and pushing iconic boxing figures Johnny Tapia and Tommy Morrison into the national spotlight, believes his new star has the skill and ring personality to raise him to heights similar to that of his former champions. “He’s truly special to the fans at the Buffalo Run Casino and residents of Miami, to the point where they’ve adopted him as if he were a lifelong local.” The reasons are clear to him and most fans who have witnessed Baranchyk deliver on Showtime. “His style is entertaining and all boxing fans like action fighters. It’s amazing because, when Ivan first fought here in March 2016, he was virtually unknown and now he’s a house fighter.”
The fast rise of Baranchyk has also gained the attention of the IBF ratings panel, who have installed him at No. 7 in their latest rankings at junior welterweight. To get the most of their prized possession, Baranchyk has been moved west, only for his training camps, to prepare in the sweltering and demanding confines of the Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles. There, he has been paired up with trainer Edward Kravtsov and it has been a mutually beneficial arrangement, by all reports. “This was a great camp and Wild Card is an awesome environment. It was something I needed to prepare for a good tough opponent in Abel Ramos. I’m fully prepared to entertain my fans at the Buffalo Run Casino. I trust my team to get me to the next level.”
That team ethos is a large part of Tony Holden’s philosophy, which, at times, is at odds with overall profits at the beginning of a long-term project. Holden told The Grand Lake News that, in combination, with Buffalo Run Casino and Showtime, he has created a one-of-a-kind atmosphere, “One of the major writers in the country has stated that this arena should be labeled the number one boxing venue in the country, just because of the excitement and energy. We are getting a huge reputation.” So much so that Holden reportedly turned down offers from Showtime competitors to feature a couple of his boxers, who seem destined for title shots. That is refreshing to hear. Boxing is starved for venues that hearken back to the excitement created by fans in smaller venues like the Blue Horizon or Olympic Auditorium.
Baranchyk face the sternest test of his career, which is saying a lot, given ShoBox has gained renown for putting young boxers in tough, when he faces off against fellow ShoBox alum Ramos. The Arizona native has probably faced the better overall competition and, in his second-to-last outing, scored a fifth round stoppage of 13-0 Dario Ferman. Facing undefeated foes is not a new experience for Ramos, five in all, who will also sport two-inch height and reach advantages in a match-up, in which minuscule advantages can make a big difference. Ramos has also fought at welterweight before, so his size may enable him to soak up the fast start and punishing blows with which Baranchyk is sure to storm out of the corner. It should be noted that Ramos was stopped in his only loss, in a draining back-and-forth brawl with a Regis Prograis, who is rated at No.6 by THE RING magazine at junior welterweight.
After that damaging loss, Ramos needed to recharge his boxing battery, taking nearly six months off, before returning as a reinvigorated force, registering three consecutive knockouts. CEO of the not exactly inspirationally named “Journeyman Management” Andrew Zak did not hesitate to take the Baranchyk bout when it was offered. “Abel is all you can ask for in a fighter. He trains extremely hard and is willing to fight anybody. Our team is confident,” especially as former champion and expert trainer Buddy McGirt has been brought into the fold for this fight. This was an obvious help to Ramos, “After my first loss, I have regained my focus and started to take my boxing career more serious. I felt that I was lacking motivation and just going through the motions. I feel like a completely different fighter now.”
Ramos claims he is no longer the fighter future foes will have seen on film, reviewing his previous appearances on ShoBox. “I gained a lot of experience from my first loss. I can’t wait to prove to everyone, but most importantly to myself, that I belong in big fights and that I’ve grown as a fighter.” Now completely focused on the task at hand, Ramos hopes to flip the script and usurp the hype and attention from Baranchyk to jump-start his career in the direction of a title fight. “My opponent looks to be strong and comes forward, throwing big hooks. Ivan Baranchyk likes to come forward. I like to come forward. It’s going to be an action-packed fight!” That is what boxing fans have come to expect from ShoBox and, given both of these men’s previous appearances, it should be an entertaining fight for however long it lasts.