When Artem Dalakian took to the stage for the press conference for his WBA flyweight title defence against David Jimenez, he made sure he went to sit in the seat normally reserved for the challenger. It wasn’t a case of being the away fighter, or having a challenger’s mentality. He did not want to sit in front of a picture of a Russian.
The Ukrainian makes the sixth defence of his world title on the undercard of Artur Beterbiev’s world light-heavyweight title defence against Anthony Yarde. And while Beterbiev may live in Canada these days, Dalakian wants nothing to do with anyone who represents the country that is currently destroying his homeland.
Dalakian has not boxed since 2021, when he stopped Luis Concepcion in Kyiv, a few months before the Russian invasion began.
“I think it is right that Russian boxers should not compete because their country is the aggressor and we shouldn’t see them when they are doing that,” Dalakian said.
“When I signed the contract, I did not know that the main event would be Beterbiev-Yarde, if I had known, maybe I would have chosen another date. They say he is a Canadian now, But I am just concentrating on my fight, although I want Yarde to win.”
Dalakian lives in Kyiv and was excused from a call-up for the military because he has four children. But his wife and children left the country after the invasion began leaving Dalakian, 35, to live and train alone while he hoped to continue his career.
“I never stopped training when the war started. It was a shock and he needed a few weeks to make arrangements but he never stopped training, he just waited for the date of a fight.
“I have four children and it is the law that if you have four children you do not have to join the military. I made my family leave and brought them out of the country and then went back.
“It is terrifying and sad, and we are waiting for Ukraine to win so it can be a prosperous country again.
“I haven’t seen my family for five months, but I speak to them on FaceTime. Hopefully the war will be over by the summer and they can all come home.”
Boxers have played a leading role in garnering worldwide support for Ukrainian resistance with such big names as Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, as well as Oleksandr Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko spreading word of their country’s plight.
“All the sportsmen are supporting Ukraine and fighting for peace,” Dalakian said. “I know Usyk and Lomachenko well because we were on the national team from when I was 18.
“In the future all Ukrainian boxers will be showing how strong our country is.”
Jimenez, from Costa Rica, is unbeaten in 12 fights, having beaten Ricardo Sandoval via a majority decision in Los Angeles last summer. But that short professional career is backed up by a long amateur career including a World Championships bronze medal in 2015.
“I am expecting a successful defense of my title, but I think it will be a good fight for British fans,” Dalakian said. “I have prepared for half a year for this fight.
“I have watched Jimenez’s fights, I respect him as a boxer. But I think I will handle everything.”
This will be the first time Dalakian has defended the title outside Ukraine, having won the vacant belt by beating Brian Viloria in Los Angeles in 2018.
“I don’t care where I box, it’s up to the promoter,” Dalakian said. “I am happy to box anywhere in the world.
“All I have seen is the hotel and the arena but I will have a few days after the fight for sightseeing.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.
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