By Alexey Sukachev / Photo: Pavel Garasko
Almost immediately after his brilliant win over Daniel Jacobs this past Saturday a newly crowned WBO middleweight champion Dmitry Pirog (17-0, 14 KOs) packed his luggage and flew to Moscow, Russia. Yesterday a specifically designed presser was held at a conference hall of D-Hotel to greet Russia’s only reigning champion and to ask him questions on his present, past and future. Accompanying Pirog were also his Russian promoter Kirill Pchelnikov (Pirog, a manager himself, is co-promoted by Pchelinkov’s PUSHKA Promotions, German Titov Boxing Promotions and Art Pellulo’s Banner Promotions) and his head coach Vyacheslav Nepogodin. Attending the presser were a number of well-known Russian boxing personalities, including Vladimir Hryunov and PBFR’s officials. Here is a full transcript of the presser, which is slightly edited to group resembling questions into the same group.
ABOUT JACOBS FIGHT
Media: Dmitry, what are your impressions after accomplishing a big deal of becoming a new champion of the world?
Pirog: Yeah, thanks for the question. I have already answered it numerous times while speaking to American press but I can surely answer it one more time. I’m glad to. However, I have always felt an intrinsic voice telling me that I’m destined to become a champion. I was prepared for coronation even though it can sound a bit boastful. But that is what it is. My emotions weren’t that sharp.
Nevertheless, I had been preparing for a hard work inside the ropes. I didn’t expect this particular victory to be so easy. I was mentally prepared to go a full distance and I realized deep in myself that it’s 80% that had the fight gone to scorecards I would have been on a wrong side of judges’ decision. Thanks God, I was able to end this bout prematurely. Maybe I was willing it more than him. I’m already 30 years of age and it’s my time to shine. Jacobs is a young fighter; he is just 23, so his time will come a little bit later.
Media: CompuBox stats told us that you were throwing and landing way too little punches in comparison with Jacobs. Was it a fair statistics? Have you felt yourself that you weren’t that active in the ring?
Pirog: I don’t know. I mean, it wasn’t that my punch output was lower. It was a specifically designed plan. I didn’t tend to be overactive or overaggressive in the first half of the fight. I was doing my work. Our plan was too feel my way to the fight, to wait a bit, maybe to let stats down but then to come up stronger down the stretch. After three of four rounds I should have been taking the contest under my control. I had to become more and more aggressive as the bout progressed.
I think that the second round was a turning point. He stopped running and tried to box with me. That was my chance and I fully capitalized on that. Jacobs is more an amateur than a pro boxer at this point (as we had discovered by studying tapes of his previous fights). He likes moving, he can start backpedaling and it’ll be extremely hard to catch him on his way out. He also possesses an annoying, sharp jab which can play tricks with American audience. So, when he engaged into running fully it was hard to get him.
You know what? After the second round I noticed Bernard Hopkins shouting at Jacobs, the man he has found himself. He told him to let his legs go, to get loose. Had he followed master’s advice it would have been very hard to find him in the ring. However, when he stopped moving I knew that it was my chance. I was confident that I would find a room for my best punches and nothing proved me wrong.
Media: There were several moments during the fight when you allowed yourself a little bit of showboating. Why so?
Pirog: It hasn’t been done only to entertain the audience. In fact, it came after a low blow by Jacobs which hadn’t been noticed by referee Robert Byrd, who all in all did a fascinating job of officiating this certain bout. I don’t like to complain to a referee that’s why I chose to speak personally to Jacobs so that he would be ashamed and wouldn’t do anything of this kind later. My English is far from being perfect so I decided to make some telling gestures.
Media: You have been caught by a huge right hand of Jacobs at the very end of round three but to no effect at all. Meanwhile, Jacobs was thought to be a heavier puncher than you before the fight. Is he really that dangerous with his punches or is it just an overestimation?
Pirog: I’ll start from another statement which I heard many times before a fight. I was often told that Daniel Jacobs is a fast, quick boxer with an enormous hand and foot speeds. It turned out that he wasn’t that horrific in terms of his quickness. It was ordinary. Almost the same is with his punches. Indeed, he is a sharp boxer with considerable power in his right hand. But I cannot say that it was overwhelming. I think his blows were amateurish. He isn’t ready to punch like a pro yet. Frankly speaking, I wasn’t impressed with his power at all and it didn’t exceed my expectations. I met guys who threw much harder blows than Daniel Jacobs.
ABOUT OUTCOME OF THE VICTORY
Media: How has American boxing community reflected on your victory?
Pirog: I cannot assess it. But I have noticed several things. First of all, Jacobs proved to be a classy man. He came to my dressing-room alongside his teammates and congratulated me on “a good job”. That was somewhat surprising for me. He had been a bit cocky before but he showed some class after. Another interesting observation is related to the audience. There were lots of Latino fans, who came to see Marquez vs. Diaz and top undercard match-ups. It was very surprising (in good manner) that a majority of them rooted for me during a fight. However, the best support has been received from Russian fans. There weren’t throngs of them ringside but I felt their cordial support all night long. That was incredible. By the way, even some American fans from Brooklyn praised me after this victory even though they were rooting for their man. I was very pleased to hear their greetings.
Media: Has B-Hop congratulated you on this victory?
Pirog: Eh, actually, no. But always diplomatic Oscar [De La Hoya] came to my dressing room and said a few kind words. Shane Mosley and David Haye were also at hand to praise my effort. I was also impressed that even Michael Buffer, a legend of his own right, said to me “Good job, pal!” in his usual quite manner when I was coming along him after the fight. It was so nice of him.
Media: Were you disappointed with the way HBO broadcasting crew has treated you? They didn’t even bother to arrange a post-fight quicky with the winner, yet they delivered tons of attention to the loser.
Pirog: No-no, I wasn’t disappointed. Actually, it was my fault. Somebody told me to go back to my dressing room, and then I met several more persons and suddenly found myself in a locker. So HBO broadcasting crew isn’t guilty. It was just an occasional flow of events.
Nepogodin: Things are totally different in America. We are feeling no prejudice there. Fans are mostly non-bias and we appreciate this fact.
Pirog: American TV is surely rooting for Americans. That’s obvious. But what is different is the fact that they value a good, thrilling boxing over national and state borders. If you can fight as a real fighter – just look at Manny Pacquiao, Sergio Martinez or, say, Juan Manuel Marquez – they’ll praise you and give you an opportunity to shine.
Media: Has America surprised you with anything in terms of boxing culture, pugilistic background or maybe promotional features?
Pirog: No, I cannot say so. First of all, that wasn’t my first trip to the USA and, what is even more curious, I have already lived at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, so there was nothing new for me there.
I can only admit that atmosphere there was truly remarkable. I have been in different parts of the world: in Germany and in Philippines, and I can tell you that it’s all the same. All these stars – Mosley, De La Hoya, Guerrero, Linares, Marquez, Diaz and others – they are very down-to-Earth and humble. You can speak with all of them as with ordinary people. I felt myself like at home in Vegas.
ABOUT HIS PREPARATION AND HIS BOXING STYLE
Media: Your style of boxing is rather unique. It resembles the Black American School of pugilism with a Philly shell, a bit of peek-a-boo, turtle defense and a special accent on extended upper-body movement. It differs much from your usual European stand-up mode. How have you studied this style?
Pirog: I always felt that I cannot achieve much as an amateur. Not even to achieve much but to please myself. I’m not suited for amateur boxing mentally and physiologically as well. I feel myself much better competing as a pro. I cannot also underestimate how much work has been put in me by my trainers Vyacheslav [Nepogodin] and Victor Petrochenko – both from Samara. They’ve done a tremendous work on me, and my style of boxing is their invention. Luckily, it has been matched well with my intrinsic intentions and reflexes.
Nepogodin: One man who has drastically changed our mentality was Victor Petrochenko. He implemented this old-school style which was first invented in black ghettoes of American cities. We are training Dmitry in such way to increase his flexibility and to extend his physical tools so that he can add Black American’s elusiveness and liquid techniques to European discipline and awareness. By the way Slavic fight genetics is very strong. Russian, Polish or Ukrainian people are born for fighting that’s why they are so valuable in America and in Europe. I also think that to fight here in Russia is much more difficult than to compete in United States. You can find a proof by looking at Maxim Vlasov’s fight record: he has only two stoppage victories (out of ten) in his Homeland and he scored seven kayos in eight fights overseas.
Media: You’ve been training with a variety of American, Russian and European boxers. Which style is the most difficult for you to resolve?
Pirog: Frankly speaking, I will say it’s harder to fight with Europeans than with Americans. Or I would say it’s more interesting to fight with them. Americans are too opened and too easy-to-read. They like to risk too much and that is what makes fights with them a little bit easier for me. When you fight Europeans, you fight to be the best. The result is everything. It’s totally different overseas where you fight to deliver a thrilling boxing match, to please fans.
Media: You have been training in Wild Card Gym for a while. What have you learned from that?
Pirog: It’s a bit specific. There are so many people in the gym. I cannot say he [Freddie Roach] gave me much. He was training somebody; we have been training in the ring – almost no interceptions. Actually, that’s the place where you can reach an agreement with other boxers to spar each other for free. That’s really valuable.
But I prefer to keep myself at home. I like training here, in Russia, more than anything. It’s more intellectual I think. That’s why I spent almost all days of preparation in Samara, where training conditions at “Pivzavod” were truly excellent. I had wonderful sparring partners in Maxim Vlasov (super middleweight, 18-0, 9 KOs), Roman Simakov (light heavyweight, 12-1-1, 7 KOs) and Karen Tevosyan (light welterweight, 15-3-3, 9 KOs). Everything was arranged smoothly and I felt myself really wonderful. I want to thank all of them for helping me so much in preparations.
Media: It’s a big problem finding sparring partners here in Russia. How are you resolving this issue?
Pirog: You know, after years of training and after years of fighting I have finally realized that sparring sessions don’t mean as much as people keep thinking. You cannot simulate a certain fighter with a full resemblance. You can find somebody who is more or less alike the given fighter, but this correspondence will never be 100% full. That is what really means. I choose to be involved in less sparring sessions. Three or four times during my usual training cycle are more than enough for me. The rest of the work is just polishing and fine-tuning. You can carry out this part of the camp in Russia just because Russian boxers are more perceptive and they are speaking Russian, which surely is a big advantage as there’s no language barrier. East or West but Home is best.
And one more thing I need to say you about. No way were we looking for a lucky chance overseas. We had been steadily building our plan, we had carried out a massive body of preparations and we were going to Las Vegas with a clear vision of how exactly we would fight Daniel Jacobs. That wasn’t an occasional victory.
Media: Was it hard to acclimatize yourself for Las Vegas, which climate is totally different to that of Samara where you have been preparing for this fight?
Pirog: Thanks for the question. First of all, I started my preparations in Gelendzhik and only then I relocated to Samara. But by the chance it was very hot here in middle Russia, so I was prepared for such climatic issues. The choice of my training base and location in LA has also helped me much. Vyacheslav selected a wonderful resort on the seashore. It wasn’t that hot there and I felt myself very comfortable. We spared more money to travel to the gym but it resulted in me getting into the best shape of my life pretty fast.
Nepogodin: First of all, we decided not to rush and to go to Las Vegas as soon as possible. What for? It was better to stay near the ocean. Secondly, I don’t mean to be rude, but Freddie Roach’s gym is a real slaughterhouse and natural selection. To stay there is to risk your fighter’s health only to get valuable sparring. That doesn’t suit us. So we selected Maxim Vlasov, who offered us a priceless help, to get Dmitry in shape for Jacobs fight and to fine-tune his fighting skills. I want to thank him once again for his fascinating assistance.
ABOUT HIS FUTURE PLANS
Media: Have you ever stood in pairs with Matvey Korobov, Roman Karmazin and Gennady Golovkin?
Pirog: Speaking of Karmazin, no, I have never been sparring with him. But I want to thank Roman anyway. Before the fight he was able to address some really warm-hearted and kind words and wishes for me through our common friends. I appreciate that indeed.
I have sparred with Matvey but it was when we were in various weight classes. Usually Korobov competed at a higher weight division than me. We aren’t close friends but we know each other pretty well. I’m high on Matvey, he is very personable and it’s always a pleasure speaking to him. I want to address him my best wishes as well.
As for Golovkin, I have first got acquainted with him during my stay in Germany. I was preparing there for my future fights and I was more than eager to test my skills against him. Unfortunately, Gennady suffered a broken rib during one of exhibitions either against a Frenchman or an Estonian and was forced to withdraw from our sparring session. But we have become friends anyway. I think he is hands down a future champion.
Media: Are you ready to confront both them and the cream of the cream of middleweight division?
Pirog: For sure! I’m ready to meet a fresh blood of our weight class inside the ropes. Middleweights are at breaking point right now. There are a big number of young, talented up-and-comers, and future belongs to them. I’m sure that in coming years young guns from all over the world will prove their mettle and that they will be showcased by cable giants in America and in Europe. A New time is coming so don’t blink!
As for me, I came to this sport to prove myself and to fight the best. You cannot be the best fighting specifically selected bums you are destined to stop. You should fight the best. That’s why I won’t run from any possible fights. Sergio Martinez, Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams – I’m ready to test my skills against each of them. I’m not afraid of challenges. Actually, I love them.
Media: What will you try to do next? Will it be unification or just a title defense?
Pchelinkov: Nothing is set yet but we are thinking of unification. Or, it’s better to say, that we are thinking of big fights. Dmitry is ready for them. But if we are offered enough money for an ordinary title defense, we shall consider such possibility as well.
Media: Kelly Pavlik was mentioned yesterday as your possible opponent. Is there any truth to these words?
Pirog: Yes, I heard about these rumors. As for me, I’m ready to step in against the best of 160lb and Kelly Pavlik is surely no exception. Moreover, when I was steadily raising in ranks the only name I heard about was “Kelly Pavlik”. He became a champion when I first appeared in ratings and he was the champion all way through until his loss to Sergio Martinez this April. So I was concentrating on fighting Kelly Pavlik. It’ll be a pleasure for me to realize that old wish and to prove my mastership against this strong fighter. I’m not sure if he is ready to make a middleweight limit but I’m not against fighting “The Ghost” at catchweight too.
Frankly speaking, I think that he is made for me. He is going right at you and he doesn’t know any back pedal. He is there to crush, kill and destroy and that will allow me to read him and to frustrate even though he can punch really hard. I’m sure I have enough skills to beat him though it will be a very hard battle. Same with both Martinez and Williams but they are southpaws and they can literally spoil a fight the way southpaws are usually doing: constant lateral movement avoiding any heated exchanges and trying more to protect themselves than to deal their shares of punishment to an opponent. Such fights are very difficult too but they aren’t so thrilling to watch than a collision with a big, thudding aggressor.
Media: There are at least two crafty Russian middleweights around – Roman Karmazin (40-3-2, 26 KOs) and Gennady Martirosyan (20-2, 9 KOs). Is there any chance to see Dmitry in the ring with them?
Pchelnikov: Chances for these match-ups really exist. I had a lengthy conversation with Vitaly Supichenko of Jab Promotions regarding a possible all-Russian encounter between Pirog and Martirosyan. But that was before Jacobs fight. I haven’t been in any discussions with him after Dmitry’s breakthrough. However, all possibilities will be carefully weighed-in and considered.
Media: Once again your fight, as any other fight of the Russian pugilist, was completely ignored by Russian top TV channels. What do you think about it? How one should act in order to break down this shameful politics of ignorance and arrogance from TV bosses?
Pirog: I can only partly answer this question. My personal opinion is that, being an optimist, time will come when Russia’s best boxers will be televised. However, at present time our television (and especially sportive channels) isn’t fully developed and it can’t spare any significant money to support native fighters. So, Russian pugilists are unable to earn real money while fighting on Russian TV. That’s why they are trying their skills abroad. I hope that a variety of talented Russian (and post-Soviet) fighters will help us change the state of the game in our favor in the nearest future.
Boxers from the former USSR are recognized and praised in foreign countries but for me it’ll be a bigger pleasure if they are recognized here, in our Motherland. I hope that we shall see more of Russian boxing on TV in the closest several years.
Pchelnikov: Well, Russian boxing and Russian boxers have never been televised. So that’s not the news for me.
Pirog: If there’s a choice to fight either on American TV or here, in Russia, every sensible person will select USA for his future boxing career. But as for me, I would rather choose to fight on top Russian TV for a mediocre amount of money than to fight for a colossal sum overseas. I want to deliver myself to Russian fans, to support Russian boxing. And there’s a good chance that we shall clinch a deal with one of leading Russian broadcasting companies to stage my initial title defense on the native soil. As a champion, I now have some more powerful tools to convince local TV chiefs.
Media: One traditional question. Whom are you favoring: Mayweather or Pacquiao?
Pirog: First of all, I don’t believe this fight can be made. In my opinion, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao is almost impossible. But if this fight happens indeed, I think that Floyd Mayweather will come out as a winner. He is a better technician; he is a bit bigger than Pavquiao, so I lean towards him. I feel if there’s no lucky punch Floyd will take this one. I’m looking forward to see this fight even though I strongly doubt in its possibility.
Media: What can you say about American standards of drug control and test system?
Pirog: I was surprised how much attention is paid to this question (theoretically) in America. As of me I passed two urine tests and I’m ready to pass whatever tests they will offer me. I don’t think that any Russian boxer uses PEDs. But reading American boxing forums and portals, listening to American TV personalities I feel that this is really a problem for them. Maybe, just maybe somebody uses this kind of staff. I don’t think that is fair so I fully support an idea of toughening test for illegal substances. But I also think that deep in himself a man should be excited to prove himself better than his foes without using any PEDs.
Media: What is next for German Titov’s and Kirill Pchelnikov’s promotional companies?
Pirog: Before giving this microphone to Kirill I want to say a few words about those people who helped me much on my way up. German Titov did a tremendous work of bringing me to America. That kind of activity can hardly be overestimated. He continues his stay in U.S. and he is working hard to bring me and my teammates more dates on TV. Victor Petrochenko was an invaluable addition to my team, his advices were really helpful. I want also to thank Artie Pellulo for assisting my Russian partners so much in bringing me into the spotlight. Thanks, folks.
Pchelnikov: As for Titov, he is working right now on several other fighters from our unified team. Later this month Olympic champion Felix Diaz (6-0, 4 KOs) and undefeated WBC #12 and WBO #13 contender Alisher Rakhimov (20-0, 11 KOs) will see action on televised cards. Ruslan Provodnikov (16-0, 11 KOs) and Maxim Vlasov have already showcased their skills to American audience. We are planning it really big. This fall’s fight program will satisfy fans’ wildest dreams I hope.
Dmitry Pirog was awarded with a specific painting in Slavic traditions by the vice-president Alexander Petrov.
Pirog: I’m really impressed with this gift. I want to thank Russian national federation for its constant support throughout my boxing career. I’m Russian deep in my soul. I don’t like competing and living on foreign soil. Not because I’m a patriot but I’m just feeling myself a bit uncomfortable while being outside of Russia.