Klimas provides pipeline from Russia
Manager Egis Klimas will be a busy man on Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada as he has boxers involved in every fight on HBO’s tripleheader. Light heavyweight Vasily Lepikhin takes on Isaac Chilemba; heavyweight Vyachaslav Glazkov faces Steve Cunningham and his best-known client, light heavyweight king Sergey Kovalev goes up against Jean Pascal.
(What is this guy, Czar Haymon?!)
And yes, all three are from Russia, from where Klimas has created a pipeline of talent, which also includes boxers from countries that were part of the former Soviet Union. Other blue-chip fighters under Klimas’ watch are WBO featherweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko (who is Ukrainian) and IBF 126-pound beltholder Evgeny Gradovich.
Yes, there is a bit of a Russian revolution going on in boxing and Klimas is bringing everything but the Smirnoff.
“There is a lot of good talent in those countries and the guys are coming and they are dedicated to what they do. They really concentrate on what they do. I’ll give you an example: I have about seven guys in Oxnard [Calif.] and I really do not really worry about supervision,” said Klimas a couple of weeks back at Lucques restaurant, where a media gathering was held for the undercard participants on this weekend’s card.
“These guys are not coming here to party; they’re not coming here to chase girls – these guys are coming here to box. They want to become somebody.”
Unlike, say, Cuban boxers, who have oftentimes not handled freedom well as they come to the States to box professionally, the Russians are much more disciplined.
“Absolutely right,” agreed Klimas, who gave an example, “I see people at the same gym; a lot of guys train there and as soon as the fights are over, these guys are back home and they come to the gym, 150-pounder comes in 210 pounds to start camp! Are you kidding?!”
In addition to the built-in discipline, boxers from this part of the world are now much more seasoned as amateurs than their American counterparts. The recent Olympic results speak for themselves. They come in better equipped to succeed early on as pros. “I would say so, yes,” Klimas says, “because a lot of amateurs in those countries – let’s call them the former Soviet Union – they are much more disciplined and I don’t know much about the Americans, so I can’t really comment on it but I think Americans…I don’t think parents…they don’t like their children to go to boxing. They want to put them in basketball, baseball, to football, those kind of sports and maybe even tennis. They don’t go into boxing.”
Also in Klimas’ stable are the hard-hitting Egidijus Kavaliauskas, Oleksandr Gvozdyk and two non-Russian boxers, Lamar Russ and Sullivan Barrera. These boxers – like most who participate in this sport – come from hardened backgrounds. There’s a saying that “You don’t choose boxing; boxing chooses you.”
Klimas says, “Their lives in these countries is completely different from this life. Now it’s getting better and better and kids are more spoiled than they used to be but I’ll bring you an example: Kovalev, he said, ‘I open the refrigerator and if I see two eggs and some kind of pasta in it, I’m happy for the whole day.’ I took him one time to the doctor and he said, ‘Egis, my cholesterol is very high,’ and I said, ‘Why do you say that?’ He said, ‘Because all my childhood, all my life, all I was eating was eggs every day. Eggs, eggs, eggs, eggs. That’s all I was giving myself.”
Gennady Golovkin – who is from Kazakhstan – has spearheaded this movement with his fan-friendly style. There was a time when fighters from this region were often seen as stiff, robotic and devoid of personality. Now they seem to be much more “Mexicanized” in their style. It’s an edict Klimas gives to his boxers. He explained, “When I bring a kid, my fighters, I’m talking to them every day. I’m telling them the same thing every day over and over: You cannot be popular if you are not aggressive. I’m not going to go in the ring and fight and to make you happy. The promoters not going to do that; the manager is not going to do that; nobody is going to do it for you.
“Only you who makes this happen. Only you can become more popular.”
And part of Klimas’ job is to explain the realities of the business in this country.
“I talk to my guys every day on the phone. I’m trying to explain it to them and I’m trying to get them to understand this game because a lot of kids coming from there don’t even know. They don’t know how to box, how to react, how to act in the public, how to talk with reporters,” he says.”A lot of people think, ‘Oh, Egis is a manager, he does nothing, just goes and collects the money.’ Nah, nah, absolutely not. It’s a lot of work.”
And yes, there are more fighters coming. This wave isn’t over.
“Just yesterday, I added and I’m already working with Arif Magomedov. He’s a 160-pounder; he’s 13-0, very aggressive, very talented. I just recently added Dmitry Mikhaylenko, ‘The Mechanic.’ I have a lot of people contacting me from Russia,” says Klimas, who adds with a chuckle, “I’m kinda wheat-picking.”
Warriors Boxing (really, Al Haymon) won the purse bid for the bout between James DeGale and Andre Dirrell for the vacant IBF 168-pound title…I read on Fightnews.com that Donovan “Razor” Ruddock is planning a return to the ring? What?!…Darrelle Revis seems to be the only player in the NFL to really game the system…Chip Kelly is the NFL Frank Sinatra: He’s gonna do it his way…Jake Locker, we hardly knew ya…Seahawks got Jimmy Graham?!…Can’t believe the first season of “Empire” on FOX is almost over. Now it’s not going to have the same fate as “Gang Related” right?…Well, at least “Game of Thrones” is right around the corner…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.