Ukrainian boxing is coming off what is surely its most successful week yet. It started in Australia on May 12 when Vasiliy Lomachenko knocked out George Kambosos Jr. for the IBF lightweight title. On May 18 in Saudi Arabia, Oleksandr Usyk scored a split decision win against Tyson Fury to become the undisputed heavyweight champion. Hours later in San Diego, Denys Berinchyk beat Emanuel Navarrete via split decision to win the vacant WBO lightweight title. 

On Thursday, the next generation of Ukrainian boxing will be front and center when 2020 Ukrainian Olympian and undefeated heavyweight contender Tsotne Rogava (7-0, 7 KOs) takes on journeyman Terrell Woods. The fight will headline a Toro Promotions event at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, California.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 265-pound Rogava is trained by Hall of Fame coach Joe Goossen, and they both believe Rogava has the ingredients to soon contend for a heavyweight title. 

“It was a special feeling for me to see Usyk, Lomachenko, and Berinchyk win their fights, and my goal is to join my fellow Ukrainians and make my mark in the sport as well,” Rogava told BoxingScene through a translator.

“I'm ready to make a name for myself quickly by taking on the biggest fights possible. I’m ready to show my fighting class to the world against credible contenders.”

Rogava, 31, believes he’ll be ready to challenge for a world title within two years due to his incredible amount of fighting experience. Ragava said he has nearly 300 amateur Muay Thai fights, 30 amateur boxing bouts, and 35 professional kickboxing fights under his belt. 

Rogava is Georgian by ethnicity, and his family moved to Odesa, Ukraine when he was three years old. Rogava moved from Ukraine to Marina Del Ray, California, last year to put his career on the fast track in the United States.

He enjoyed an immediate breakthrough when he stepped foot into Goossen’s Ten Goose Boxing Gym in Van Nuys, California as a sparring partner for Armenian heavyweight contender Gurgen Hovhannisyan. 

Goossen, who’s since nicknamed Rogava “Mr. T,” has been bullish on the boxer as he and protege coach Jonathan Walley have been guiding Rogava along. 

“Mr. T has what it takes to make a world title run by next year, absolutely,” Goossen told BoxingScene. “I’m selective about who trains under my roof and who I take under my guidance. There are only a handful of guys at a time who you think you can take to the top, and Mr. T is one of them. As soon as I saw him spar, I called Toro Promotions and said ‘You need to sign this guy’ and they’ve been doing a great job moving him along.

“Mr. T is a big badass who’s aggressive with combinations. He is quick-handed and relentless with a great body attack. He doesn’t step back. He’s accurate. He has exquisite technique like a middleweight. He has a variety of punches. There is a lot of substance. He’s a mean dude in there, and I like him. He not only spars at a high level, but he does the same – and more – during a fight. He’s the rare guy who does both. That’s a great indicator of what’s to come. The fights are so short right now, and he’s just devastating his opponents. What we anticipated with him has been realized.”

So far, so good for Mr. T, who might as well “pity the fool” who fights him until the opposition gets stiffer. 

Each of his four stateside fights have ended in first-round knockouts, and he’s fought in just nine professional rounds so far. Thursday’s contest is scheduled for eight rounds. 

Rogava, Goossen, and Toro Promotions all want to move at a torrid pace to realize the fighter’s potential. 

Rogava already has fight dates lined up for June 15 at the Emerald Queen Casino in Washington, and September 28 at the Pacific Palms Resort in California. 

“I love the Toro Promotions team,” said Rogava. “I’m grateful and appreciative of everything they’re doing. They’re great people, and I see a bright future for both of us.” 

Rogava is envisioning his breakout performance to be a revengeful one against British contender Frazer Clarke (8-0-1, 6 KOs). Clarke beat Rogava in the Round of 16 in the Olympics and eventually became a bronze medalist. 

“There are a lot of fighters in the heavyweight division right now who have flaws, and those flaws can be capitalized,” said Goosen. “The heavyweight field is shaping up just right for Mr. T.” 

Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer, and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, through email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at], or via