By Alexey Sukachev
2013 will come down as one of the greatest boxing years in recent memory. Great fights, chilling knockouts, upsets of all sorts and, one top of all that, new stars were born or catapulted to worldwide fame in weight classes from flyweight to heavyweight.
Undeniably, the highest power of all new came from former Soviet republics, as fighters like Ruslan Provodnikov, Evgeuny Gradovich, Sergey Kovalev, Vasyl Lomachenko and others made their quantum leaps into a higher level of the realm.
Highly important, instrumental in bringing new faces into the spotlight of international (and local) boxing community was Egis Klimas. A relatively unknown manager at the start of 2013, he evolved into a bona-fide cardinal of the new generation of boxing stars and champion, quickly becoming arguably the most influential man in Russian boxing and one of the most “wanted” persons across the fistic globe.
His first fighter to rise towards the top of the heap was Evgueny Gradovich. In what was one of the first meaningful upsets of 2013, an obscure Russian featherweight tore through reigning IBF beltholder Billy Dib to acquire a new belt with a split decision. He would later defend it twice – against obligatory challenger Mauricio Javier Munoz and against Dib in a rematch. Both fights took place in Macao, China, as a part of the international HBO broadcasts, the second being a PPV event. In May, Klimas was rated #4 by the Sports.ru amongst Russian most powerful boxing persons.
It got even bigger after that. In late July, Klimas signed a managerial agreement with the brightest star to enter the pro game in years – Vasyl Lomachenko. A two-time Olympic gold medalist debuted high in October, annihilating 25-3 opponent in his first contest, galvanizing the crowd and setting his eye on a record-breaking second fight at a world championship against Orlando Salido. Finally, in August another Russian fighter under Klimas guidance Sergey Kovalev ventured to Wales to completely obliterate local WBO champion Nathan Cleverly in the HBO-televised event. Kovalev continued his reign of horror in light heavyweight division in November, destroying Ismayl Sillakh in two.
Al Haymon is still at the peak of his powers. So are Cameron Dunkin and James Prince. Berndt Boente defended Wladimir Klitschko’s rights and ambitions against Team Povetkin in heated negotiations. It all matters. It was on display in 2013. It wasn’t crucial in making the final decision.
Nobody showed a greater effort during the past 12 months from the managerial point of view than the Lithuania-born newest star. Going 8-0, 6 KOs, with his prime fighters, getting two championship belts and massive accolades from TV bosses for nursing three must-see action fighters, it was an easy choice. Egis Klimas is BoxingScene’s 2013 Manager of the Year.
Klimas was contacted on the eve of the New Year to know his reflections on the past twelve months and his prospects of the future to come.
- 2013 was undeniably your greatest career year. How has it changed you?
- I don’t think I have changed a bit. I don’t know for sure as only people around me can tell that. I came to America with 42 USD in my pocket. I own thousands, maybe even millions of dollars now – yet I don’t feel I have changed over these years. What have changed are my surroundings.
With all that victories of my guys, I’ve got catapulted to the elite. To be on the same board with monsters – in good faith! – like Jim Lampley, or Floyd Mayweather, or Bob Arum, now that was a wonderful experience.
To spend all these years in flights, paying my own money for the guys, investing not only financials but time and health into them, and now to be noticed for that, to be appreciated is very rejuvenating. What is most important is that it’s not my own state of mind, other people see the same and that’s the best mark for my work.
Note: With an overwhelming value 67.2% of votes Egis Klimas is 2013 Manager of the year, according to Allboxing.ru's forum readers (the poll is still going on).
- Have you felt before the start of this year the success, which was coming on? Was it more of a lucky chain of events or only a result of titanic efforts from you?
- Speaking very frankly, I had Sergey Kovalev signed by the Main Events at the beginning of 2012, and I had a very serious feeling that he would become my first world champion. And then it has all changed at the end of January – a late Christmas gift! – when, due to some connections of mine, I was able to get Evgueny (Gradovich) forward towards a world title shot. Seeing his work ethics, I have never doubted he would be a world champion later in his life. I would have never expected him to get his chance so fast. But when opportunity loomed [to fight Billy Dib], we took it, and I knew Zhenia would pull it off.
Yes, I knew one of my guys would be a champion by the end of 2013. That is was Gradovich, who burst first, was a very pleasant surprise. In that sense, yes I was lucky to get through so early in 2013. All in all, my protégés had six fights on HBO in total this year (Kovalev – twice, Gradovich – twice, Russ and Lomachenko), four fights on NBC (Kovalev – 2, Glazkov – 2) and two fights on ESPN. If I’m not mistaking, my guys have also fought on UniMas. Twelve relatively big TV fights – that tells the story. It was a very successful year for me.
- What was 2013 brightest moment for you, Egis?
- There were lots of wonderful moments for me in 2013. But the highest I was, the crown moment for me was Zhenia’s title win – unexpected (for others) but so fulfilling, so natural and deserved. I have never doubted in any of my fighters, I was sure they would win their fights. Even Lamar [Russ] – yes, he lost that one [against Matthew Macklin] but that was my only loss in 2013. Otherwise, I would have been totally undefeated, a Great One (laughs).
Seriously, it was a huge year and I cannot be more satisfied even despite Lamar’s year-ending loss. They are all my fighters, all my pupils, and I certainly cannot choose one – like a true mother, who cannot be asked which son of hers is the most beloved. But once again, Gradovich’s first victory was something special.
Note: Egis Klimas-managed combatants went 20-1-2, with 13 KOs, in 2013, and 5-0, 3 KOs, in championship fights.