What a long, strange trip it’s been for Turkish super middleweight prospect Cem “Champ” Kilic, part of a growing 3 Point Management (3 PM) stable, resettling in California from Germany despite the pandemic, to headline this Thursday night’s “Hollywood Fight Nights, presented by 360 Promotions, at Quiet Cannon Country Club in Montebello, California.
The 27-year-old Kilic faces Andrew “Hurricane” Hernandez (21-8-2, 9 KOs) in the 8-round main event, which will be streamed live and exclusively on UFC FIGHT PASS.
A member of the Turkish National Boxing Team, Kilic moved eight years ago from Germany to Sherman Oaks, California, where he still resides. A native of Germany whose family comes from Turkey, Kilic showed tremendous courage simply by relocating halfway around the world with a mere $200 in his pockets, as well as the inability to speak English other than a few words.
“I still spend a lot of time at home,” Kilic remarked. “During the pandemic, I lived with my family in Germany, and I have a lot of family in Turkey. It was very rough growing up. I had always dreamed of living in the United States from watching movies. I wanted to do something different. I’m a big fan of Hollywood movies. Muhammad Ali is my idol and that’s another reason I wanted to come here to box.
“I didn’t speak English when I first came to America, only basics, and nobody I met here spoke German or Turkish. but I learned English watching old movies and using Google translator. I learned quicky, though, and was comfortable speaking English in six months. And now I live only 10 minutes from Hollywood.”
Kilic hit rock bottom after suffering his first loss January 11, 2020, to 15-0 Steve Nelson in Atlantic City, in which his corner threw in the towel midway through the eighth round due to several facial cuts. The fight was for the vacant North American Boxing Organization (NABO) title. Cem took time off in the U.S. during the pandemic.
“Everything was closed,” he explained. “I put on weight and become even more depressed. I let myself go after my first loss. My wife said I needed to get back in shape, so I watched a training video on YouTube and, at first, I couldn’t get through the warmup. But I slowly got in shape and that fueled my interest again in boxing. I didn’t have a promoter and I separated from my manager and trainer. I was trained by a friend and went up to Abel Sanchez’ place in Big Bear and got some good work. I sparred a lot of champions: Jermell Charlo, (Gilberto) ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez ,Callum Smith, and David Benavidez.”
A self-described aggressive fighter with a warrior mentality, Kilic says the late Arturo Gatti was one of his favorite fighters, who he emulates in terms of style. Cem has watched the Gatti-(Micky) Ward trilogy about 20 times, which led him into boxing as a career.
“I knew about Gatti, but I really got into boxing after watching his fights with Micky Ward,” Kilic fondly remembered. “They were so tough, and I love the way they fought. They were throwback fighters to the ’40 and ‘50s.”
The current Team Kilic was formed after his only loss. He is trained by 4-time, 2-division World champion Brian Viloria, in addition to being managed (3PM), which also manages 43-0 “Zurdo” Ramirez, the former world super middleweight champion, presently the top-ranked world light heavyweight contender.
“I knew Brian and met him at Brickhouse,” Kilic explained. “One day I told my strength-and-conditioning coach I needed a new coach and asked him to talk to Brian about me. I liked Brian and knew he was a world champion with a lot of knowledge. We’ve only worked together for one fight, but I’ve improved in a lot of ways.
“I was waiting for an opportunity to sign with a manager and did with 3PM. The guys are great and I’m much more motivated than before. It’s been amazing.”
Kilic is prepared to display his development under Viloria and 3PM this Thursday night against Hernandez. “I can’t wait,” Kilic concluded. “He has fought some good names (Caleb Plant, Jesse Hart, Ali Akhmedov, Ahmed Elbiali, Patrick Teixeira, and Arif Magomedov). I always prepare to go the full distance. I never go into a fight looking for a knockout, but I look for openings."