By Anson Wainwright
A year ago Anatoliy Dudchenko was on the outside of the light heavyweight division looking in. Unable to make his mark on sport, drifting into his mid 30's when his manager Lawrence Rozenburg decided to bring someone aboard with boxing experience in the form of Vince Caruso who had worked with Marco Antonio Barrera in the past.
After an initial stay busy fight, Dudchenko’s (19-2, 13 knockouts) big break came in his most recent bout 8-moths ago when he travelled from his now home in Los Angeles to Oldenburg, Germany where on the undercard of Arthur Abraham-Giovani De Carolis, Dudchenko took on previously unbeaten Robert Woge.
Whilst in Germany Dudchenko says he and his team were mistreated, using that to his advantage to fuel his fire claiming the fringe IBF Inter-Continental 175-pound title with a wide points decision 117-110, 117-111 and 115-112.
The win propelled him into the IBF rankings where this Saturday he'll meet Nadjib Mohammedi in an IBF light heavyweight title eliminator.
A respectful Dudchenko rates his French opponent highly.
“He had no weakness,” Dudchenko told BoxingScene.com “Look at him. He is strong, he has fast hands, he is relentless. This is the toughest opponent for me ever.”
The 35 year old Ukrainian native knows that victory will position him as Bernard Hopkins mandatory challenger, though refuses to be drawn on the subject choosing to focus solely on Mohammedi passing that question on to his team.
“He is beyond a shadow of a doubt the strongest puncher in the light heavyweight division,” said Caruso when asked about Dudchenko. “I believe when we finally do get our shot at the title, people will become instant fans of The Gladiator overnight.”
Dudchenko-Mohammedi will headline Main Events NBC card from Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs, Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Anson Wainwright - On Saturday you'll face Nadjib Mohammedi in an IBF light heavyweight title eliminator. What are your thoughts on the fight?
Anatoliy Dudchenko - This is what I call prelude to my dream of becoming world champion.
BoxingScene.com - When you watch Mohammedi what do you see in terms of strengths and weaknesses?
AD - He had no weakness. Look at him. He is strong, he has fast hands, he is relentless. This is te toughest opponent for me ever.
BoxingScene.com - Though the fight is an IBF title eliminator it has been reported that if Bernard Hopkins were to face Adonis Stevenson later this year in a unification that would take precedence to the mandatory. How do you feel about that?
AD - I only think (about) Naj Mohammedi. You need to speak to my manager Vince for this response.
Vince Caruso - I believe once again this is what is wrong with the sport. Say we win on June 21st. You mean to tell me we have to wait almost an entire year to get a shot at what we earned??? This is why when you fast forward ten years from now, boxing will be so commercialized and fake it'll make WWE look like gospel.
BoxingScene.com - Your last fight you won a decisive twelve round decision over Robert Woge. Tell us about that fight?
AD - This young guy (was) very tough. He hit me harder than anyone. But I wanted to win. I couldn't feel any pain because in my mind I see the belt, the IBF belt, so I became like so motivated. I hurt him very bad.
BoxingScene.com - It took place in Germany, all but one of your fights as a pro have been in America. How was that experience?
AD - The promoter there treated us very badly. They did so much to make the fight not happen. Pay me badly, would not agree to let me wear the gloves I prefer which is Grant. They refused to give me any complimentary ticket for my friends from Ukraine, nothing. My manager fought with them the entire time to get me the fight. Vince told me "Anatoliy, you already are the winner because they are scared". And that made it worse for Woge. I wanted to hurt him for the disrespect they show me and my manager. Now I have Kathy Duva. I will never be disrespected again.
BoxingScene.com - If we go back to your younger days, what was it like for you growing up in Dnipropetrovsk?
AD - Life was good there, this is my home. I love the Ukraine. My mom she is still there. When I go back the citizens treat me like a movie star. Many celebrations, many awards, many newspaper articles. I had good childhood, but my dream was here in America. When I become world champion, I will return for big celebration.
BoxingScene.com - How did you become interested and take up boxing?
AD - I was champion volleyball player first. I start boxing in military service. I won my division. Then I go to amateur boxing and win many titles. But I lost in qualifying for the Ukraine team, so I decided to move to America and turn professional. Roy Jones Jr was my favorite.
BoxingScene.com - For you getting to this stage has taken time, you'll be 36 just over a week after your fight. Tell us about the journey so far?
AD - This is a crazy story. After I have many trainers and crazy manager who did little if nothing, I find my family friend Lawrence. He is like my brother. He knew my fire to become champion. So he start company called RozeBOX Sports and he invested in me and got me on cards in California. Then last year in May he called me from New York and told me he is now bringing on this guy who was very experienced in boxing. Vince. He work with Marco Antonio Barrera the Mexican champion for many years. Vince tell me Anatoliy you will never pay for a fight again. And three months later I have a scheduled fight with Woge. Vince tells me if I win I will fight another day, if I lose I need to get job. I won. Then Vince gets many calls from Don King and other promoters I don't know. But he tell me Kathy Duva is the best for me at my age in career. Then before Christmas I signed with Main Events. Now you see where I am. Yes, 36 years sound old, but I am the Gladiator, I fight until I die. I can not disappoint my wife, my mother, Kathy, Lawrence, Vince or my fans.
BoxingScene.com - Though you're from the Ukraine, you now reside in Los Angeles. How did making that move come about?
AD - On TV in Ukraine we see beautiful Hollywood. I chose this. First I was in New York area, many Ukrainian people there. But is cold, rain and snow. I love the beach and sand. I love Hollywood. This is my home now.
BoxingScene.com - When you look at the light heavyweight division, what do you think of the division as a whole and also the current champions WBC/RING Adonis Stevenson, IBF Bernard Hopkins and WBO Sergei Kovalev?
AD - Adonis Stevenson is a one punch fighter. You see how he is scared of my friend Sergey?? This is a poor excuse. He is not man, he is coward. And Hopkins also. He fight (Karo) Murat. Did you know Murat's trainer didn't even go with him to America for this??....no, he stayed in Germany and worked with Woge to fight me!!! This tells you who is the bigger threat, me. Hopkins then fights Shumenov. This again is a boxing joke. Everyone in Russian boxing community know Shumenov has a lot of family money. He pays for a title and runs his own fights. And look at him. This was not a champion. Just like a fighter in any gym. Sergey is a real champion. I don't wish to fight him because of that, but if it is unification then I will do it. He's very strong....like me.
BoxingScene.com - Tell us about yourself as a person and your hobbies and interests away from boxing?
AD - I love volleyball. My wife, Natalia is my best friend. She make me mentally strong for fight. I love to go to beach and hike. I want to retire at age 40 and become a trainer for celebrities. I know many in Hollywood and they always ask me to train them.
BoxingScene.com - In closing do you have a message for Mohammedi?
AD - I have respect for you Naj before and after fight. You are a hard worker and you have my respect. I know we will have a good battle and be respectful to each other. I wish you luck and look forward to meeting you in person and in the ring. Thank you for facing me.