By Alexey Sukachev
The stagnation of the global economy continues to be felt in all business aspects.
The crisis in Russia is present, but manifests itself in its own—almost invisible—world. Moscow is still Moscow; even in tough times, it remains loud, vibrant and rich.
We talked about this as well as a number of topics with Andrey Ryabinsky, head of Russian promotional giant “World of Boxing.”
In addition to his role as Russia’s leading promoter, Ryabinsky is a well-rounded businessman with his hand in several matters. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of an Investment and Civil Development Group of Companies “MIC” and is also the Vice-President of the Professional Boxing Federation of Russia.
Given his wealth of experience and knowledge, we discussed with the Russian mogul the present-day business conditions in Russia, and the non-stop development of large projects and its management, and how it relates to his daily dealings in the boxing world.
Also of interest is his take on the cruiserweight divisions and unification bouts, as he boasts most of the top fighters in the weight class.
Marco Huck recently said that he would get paid more for any fight in the US than for a rematch with the WBA cruiserweight champion Denis Lebedev (27-2, 20 КОs, TBRB #7), and that “Ryabinsky got poor.” Is there any truth in what Huck is saying?
We offered him USD 500 000 – a price well in line with the market value of such a fight. He made a counteroffer – EU 5 000 000, an inadequate price for such a bout.
Given all my respect that I have for him as a fighter, he is simply not worth this money. Therefore, I refused. It seems he got insulted by such an answer and thus all his nasty accusations, although this is strange for me. We met before and talked in Grozny, in fact noteworthy is that conversation went very well. We smiled, laughed, and left a great impression about each other. Even when people do not agree on a deal, the absolute last resort is to drag the name of your to-be partner through the mud. Especially, when you lack understanding in the matter.
About his poured forth wisdom: it is true that Russia is currently undergoing a crisis. However, look around – look at our office. Is business bad for me? No. Everyone continues working and the company is developing. Of course, it has become harder to work, but nonetheless it is hard to describe me as someone who “got poor.”
There is another sign. World of Boxing is hosting its next show in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, with all your previous events being hosted in Moscow. Is the Kazan initiative an attempt to reduce the costs by transferring the “production” to the regions?
Expenses are not reduced. Main cost item is the purses of the fighters. Rent and decoration of the arena is chump change in comparison to the millions of dollars that we spend on purses. To be honest we long honed the idea of moving to the regions. We organized tournaments in Moscow. Everything turns out excellent here! However, doing shows in other locations is interesting and at the same time an opportunity to attract new audience. We very quickly came to an understanding with the government of the Republic. Currently Tatarstan hosts a great number of sporting events and we are joining this current. This, of course, does not at all mean that we are leaving Moscow. Already in February or March we plan to host a new tournament in the capital of Russia.
Kazan is not the boxing center of Russia. There are places like Grozny, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar, and Chelyabinsk. Why is this show taking place in Kazan? Is it only because of the interest shown by the government of the Republic?
I would not say that. Tatarstan has a very strong and good boxing school. It never hosted significant professional tournaments and that does not at all mean that it is beyond us to change it. Kazan is a large city (number 6 in Russia by the number of citizens). Many fans and followers of boxing reside there. Would you not call it a center?
Previously, you announced that World of Boxing would host 2 to 3 large shows during spring and autumn. Am I correct in understanding that the November 4 tournament in Kazan will be your only show until the end of this year?
This will be the only show this year. Previously, our plan was to have Alexander Povetkin (29-1, 20 КОs, TBRB #1) box Deontay Wilder (34-0, 33 КОs, TBRB #3) in late November/early December. Then at the end of the year, we could have made a great event. However, the negotiations are still ongoing and are not easy. It is clear that we would not be able to come to terms by this date. We have received an approval from the WBC for an interim bout for Sasha, and we will host it in Kazan. Thus, there is no point in hosting a tournament in December. Since it did not work out in December, it will be February.
THE CRUISERWEIGHTS AND ESTABLISHING THE BEST
Your team consists of several top class cruiserweight fighters. Does your goal still consist of getting a world champion title for each of them? Will we witness unification bouts between them after that?
I would not want that at all. World of Boxing’s aim is for Russia to have many world boxing champions. So if we are talking about a unification bout (like Lebedev vs. Glowacki), then on the one hand, I understand that it is something that needs to be done, and on the other hand I no longer have the desire to do it (especially now that Glowacki has beaten Huck). That is because Lebedev is a world champion and if he wins against Glowacki then he will become a two-time world champion.
To be honest, I do not need that. I mean if it works out as I said - great, but I am not going to make it my goal. I need Lebedev to be the world champion, for Drozd to be the world champion. The same goes for Chakhkiev and Kudryashov, so that we have one champion in each sanctioning body. That is my dream. Of course it would be very difficult to implement it, but we are trying.
We are gradually moving towards our goal. Lebedev? WBA world cruiserweight champion. Drozd? WBC world champion. Chakhiev? IBO world champion. Same goes for other weight divisions: we have Troyanovsky (140lb IBO champion) and our other guys. Every second fighter in our stable is a champion.
There is conflicting information regarding Denis Lebedev’s record. There was a major announcement—not from you but a third party—that Denis’ defeat against Guillermo Jones in May of 2013 is annulled, and that he now has only one loss vs. Marco Huck. However BoxRec and FightFax list both defeats…
One person, not directly tied to us, held some negotiations, unsanctioned by us, with some other people. With that, I did not receive any official document to that effect. This is all at the level of gossip. On the other hand, there are facts in order to revise this defeat. However, World of Boxing will not make any official statements for these official papers to appear.
The mandatory contender for the WBA world title is Beibut Shumenov. As far as I know his family is not experiencing any financial difficulties and to add to that Al Haymon is behind him. Do you fear that should Denis win against Lateef Kayode he will have to defend his championship title in Chimkent (Shumenov’s hometown)?
Actually, we are not really against going to Chimkent, and this has nothing to do with Beibut’s family. Business side of things is relative, and I would be glad should someone offer a good purse for Denis. The idea of changing the geography of the fights is very interesting for me. This allows us to develop also, develop boxing, becoming more popular in other regions. The only issue is our TV.
Previously your tournaments were aired on “Russia 2”. Did broadcasters pay you money to show your fights?
Yes, we received fees from “Russia 2”, but of course, not very large ones. They did not cover the costs of organizing the tournaments, but what’s more important is that we jointly created a high quality product for domestic and foreign viewers. Ratings were going through the roof. Moreover, with each fight of Sasha Povetkin the ratings are just incredible. It was a good show, in the best practices of show business.
However, in its place we will now see a new sports channel “Match TV”. Did you have the chance to connect with its management?
Yes, I talked to the new management of the network, and with its new head Tina Kandelaki. I was very pleased with a result. She is a very positive, hard-working and result-focused person. Together we have a number of beautiful ideas; I believe we can make the broadcasts much more interesting and better.
Rakhim Chakhkiev (23-1, 18 КО) is the IBO cruiserweight champion. In the cruiserweight division, you have four high level fighters, and five titles, including IBO. Do you intend to take him on a parallel path for a different version, for example, under IBF aegis, where Rakhim is rated number 4, with only one fighter in front of him?
Rakhim has already completed his IBO path (but will continue defending his title), and he is ready to continue developing, colliding with tougher opponents. Rakhim is a true champion. For Ingushetia, Rakhim is the first world champion. For a fighter the tittle of the world champion is something huge. I will continue supporting Rakhim in his aspiration to win more titles, without losing the IBO title. I know that he wants this very much.
Given this, is there any possibility of a fight with another Russian fighter IBF #3 Murat Gassiev (22-0, 16 КОs), who is one position ahead of Rakhim in the ranks?
Yes, it is a possibility. Of course there is a certain political element to it – two fighters from the Caucasus region. But I still believe that such a fight is real. On November 4, Rakhim will fight another dangerous opponent – IBF #7 Ola Afolabi (21-4-4, 10 КОs). And if he wins we will take a closer look at Gassiev, who is also a very cool fighter.
Are you not concerned that he also represents Russia?
Of course I am. This is a fighter from Russia. It is very important that Russia has the maximum number of titles – this is a patriotic story, country’s image. It happens so that we are not that good at football, but combat sports are what we do best: boxing, wrestling, judo, and mixed martial arts.
You said that the highest achievement for a fighter is a world championship title. Marco Huck is a world champion, Grigory Drozd is a world champion and Denis Lebedev is a world champion. Would you agree that only one champion should exist in any given weight division?
No. This topic has long been discussed. I believe different titles have a right to exist. The important thing is that world champions in various versions may exist. Should there be an acute need to decide the absolutely best – well that is what unification fights are for …
Which are rarely held…
Really?! Take Sergey Kovalev for example – he is a world champion in various versions, three to be precise.
Still there is Adonis Stevenson, who is claiming his throne as the best. Yet, they are not meeting in the ring.
Well, that is exactly it. Intrigue, the secret of who is the best. People watch each of them much closer, expecting their fights. That is great. Of course they must meet in the ring.
Now about the fighters from other weight categories. Information began circulating that you might abandon your cooperation with Andrey Klimov, Sergey Lipinets and the Smirnov brothers. Is that true?
No, they are all still on contract with us. It’s a different matter that one of the fighters – I will not specify who – breached the contract, thus our address to the court. Fighter and his representative asked for a settlement of this issue in a working fashion, which is what we are doing. It’s just this group of fighters has an issue with discipline. Those who have grasped this concept are already on top or very nearby. But we will definitely fix this situation.
Final question, a personal one if I may. You continue your own training. As far as I know you also box, and you do long-range shooting, how do you find time to develop your business and participate in active sports?
I boxed since I was 12. I get immense pleasure from it. I continue to train actively: I spend about 2 hours in the gym 3-4 times a week. Boxing is my longtime and serious devotion. Three years ago, I had a crush on high precision firing (sniping). This is my relatively new hobby, gives me an array of positive emotions. I shoot at extra-long ranges (sometimes beyond 2 км). I spend quite a lot of time on it. Recently I began enlisting in competitions. So far I enjoy it and I plan to continue. The more a man has to do the more he is able to get done, that is true. I do not waste my time, it is very expensive. I use it to develop myself.
Part two of BoxingScene.com's exclusive interview with Andrey Ryabinsky—which will run on Tuesday, September 1—will discuss in full-depth the current status of top heavyweight Alexander Povetkin and his pursuit of another world championship.