By Alexey Sukachev
Kostya Tszyu, once the undisputed light welterweight champion of the world and 2011 IBHOF entrant, has successfully transformed himself from a boxing superstar to the most renowned (and quite possibly the most prosperous) Russian boxing coach. Right now Tszyu is neatly tied to Vladimir Hryunov and his fighters, working with Alexander Povetkin, Denis Lebedev and some other fighters. Khabib Allakhverdiev, the newly crowned WBA "regular" light welterweight champion, was guided by John David Jackson in his fight with Joan Guzman but he also conducted a major cycle of his preparations under Kostya’s guidance.
On the eve of 2013, Tszyu has been surprisingly found in Kiev, Ukraine, and interviewed by Sergey Datsenko, a reporter for “Sport-Express in Ukraine”. Here are the most interesting excerpts from the interview.
- The style, I have fought, gave me the love of the fans. I have always done my best for my fans, for Team Tszyu. If people pay money, they deserve to see the best of me. That’s why I have always tried to fight for the fans, to give them interesting and thrilling performances. But I tried not to miss my chance as well. Once an opponent opened up – bam! – and he is out.
- Timofey (Tszyu) is 18 right now. Is he an object of interest from Russian or Australian national teams?
- Both Tim and Nikita (the younger of the Kostya’s sons) started as football players but then converted into boxing. Timofey decided to move from football to boxing at the age of 15. But he continues my standards and effectively trying to set the mark even higher than his dad. That’s really a very hard task to accomplish because of the fact he will be obsessively compared to me. But the guy is developing pretty fast; he is surpassing me right now. I’m not training him. I give him some advice but I try not to be involved in the training process. I don’t want him to fight my style. He should find his own.
As for amateur boxing, we aren’t interested in it. Prizefighting is where the game is. If Timofey continues his development with the same zeal, he will have a bright future in boxing. Surely, I’ll help and look after him, working as his manager at the early stage of his career to help him avoid possible problems that fighters of his age usually have.
- You aren’t involved in your sons’ training process but you are involved in the training process of Alexander Povetkin. Why have you decided to start working as a coach?
- I know Sasha from long ago. I have always seen a vast potential in him. So, when a year ago his famed trainer Alexander Zimin got ill, and they asked me to help in his preparations, I’ve gladly decided to help Team Povetkin to get ready for the next fight. I felt I could be seriously useful in refining his tactical and strategy skills. But I have never wished to change his style of fighting and I shall not do this in future. Alexander is the Olympic champion and the reigning heavyweight champion. He achieved these peaks by fighting his own style. There are nuances to be polished off. I assume he has increased his physics by 50% and his tactical skills – by 35-40%.
- Are you a hard man to work with? Are you as tough on your pupils as you are on yourself?
- I am. How in the world can I not be a tough on a fighter?! Tell me – please! We are training together. The only way I can explain my charge that I’m doing a right thing is to do it with him. That’s why I’m trying to be in perfect shape. I need to be in a tip-top shape. But Alexander is not one to be whipped up with a club. After his recent spectacular victory over Hasim Rahman he looks to be a one hundred percent believer in me and my methods. That’s important.
By the way, unlike Alexander, another of my pupils – Denis Lebedev (WBA cruiserweight champion) – he is of the different sort. He can be late to training, he is rather unpunctual. He says he is late because of severe traffic jams but Povetkin is somehow right on time. It looks like he doubts my methods, my approach. He often thinks too much over some of my points, asks me what and why. I feel he is not a hundred percent believer. That’s probably why his progress isn’t so rapid and eye-catching than that of Povetkin.
- Experts say the only meaningful fight in the heavyweight division today is a fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin. Shall we see this fight somewhere in future?
- I don’t know. I’m not a manager. I’m not a promoter. I’m a trainer. My task is to prepare my charge for the upcoming fight – both physically and mentally.
- Do you really believe Alexander has a chance?
- I do! And, by the way, the question is incorrect. Had I not believed in Povetkin, I would have never trained him. Surely, the Klitschko brothers are enormously strong. They are dominators and surely they will be huge favorites against Povetkin as well as against any other heavyweight in the world. But the purpose of my work with Sasha is to end their domination. That’s the goal!
- How do you plan to realize this almost impossible task?
- He needs to work. We need to work. He should be dying in the camp every day, literally every second of the training process. We should sweat our guts out. I want to load Alexander so hard he will literally hate me within his heart. He will be so tuned up, so charged he would cry for a payback, and the only way to get this payback is to defeat Wladimir. And then we need to transform this hatred into a power drive to unleash this fury inside the ring. This is the only possible way.
- There’s a chance the fight would take place at Olimpiyskiy stadium in Kiev.
- Perfect! Such a huge number of roaring fans will give us the extra motivation. But this is the last thing Povetkin should think of.
- You were a prohibitive favorite to win the gold medal at 1992 Summer Olympics. Why did you decide to turn pro instead of traveling to Barcelona?
- Indeed, I had a great chance to take the gold. By when the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, I was forced to sit for a while and to think about my future. Times were harsh then. I decided to relocate me and my family to Australia, which was a problem-free country. Immediately after winning 1991 world amateur championship I’ve received an offer to start my pro career there. If I had turned it down, I would have never had another chance for the future. And agree I did. And I have never complaint about that.
- What was your biggest win in your career?
- The win over Zab Judah on Nov. 3, 2001, in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is the story for the ages when I knocked him out in two. I put myself in good company with only a few others who were able to hold all three major belts at the same time.
But the hardest victory was against Hector Lopez in 1994. It was dark around me when I opened my eyes the next day after the fight. They were literally shut down, and I couldn’t see out of them. Hands were swelled and covered with blood, it was painful even to breathe, and I had nausea for the next two days. That’s when I became a real prizefighter.
- Is it true you fought Ricky Hatton with a fracture?
- I had torn my shoulder ligaments. But I didn’t know about it. I felt pain but it wasn’t too much during the breaks. However, it forced me to avoid punching with my left hand, and that was lethal for me. Plus local referee (Dave Parris) forgot to see all of Ricky’s dirty tricks…
- Why haven’t you asked for a rematch?
- A lack of motivation. I wasn’t interested in money anymore. I achieved what a few can only achieve. And I decided to retire after that. I don’t complain. I like my new life outside the ring. I enjoy it.