Slavic Boxing Makes Another Bid As World's Best or Among the Best
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Thu, 10 Nov 2022
Artur Beterbiev (L) and Dmitry Bivol (R)
With the emergence of Dmitry Bivol and the continuing dominance of his fellow Russian fighter Artur Beterbiev, among others, Slavic boxing is making another bid to be considered at least as among the best and finest in the world.
Many may not have noticed it but Bivol's almost effortless ring victories over no less than former world number one pound for pound boxer Saul Canelo Alvarez of Mexico and his compatriot Zurdo Ramirez as well as Beterbiev's continuing reign of terror in the same loaded light heavyweight division have projected Slavic, particularly Russian boxing into the fightsport's mainlight once again.
Not since the rampaging of Kostya Tzsyu in the late 80s, the Ukrainian Klitschko brothers Wladimir and Vitali, Gennadiy Golovkin and Sergei Kovalev in the 2000s has this kind of attention is lavished upon so called "Beast from the East".
And it figures to continue in 2023 or beyond with Bivol and Beterbiev projected to clash in a high profile battle of dominance at 175 lbs with the winner staking a deserved claim as the best or among the best fighters in the world with another outstanding Slav, Oleksandr Usyk, the popular Ukrainian who holds most of the world crowns at heavyweight, the greatest prize in all of professional boxing.
Not until someone as special as Andre Ward who ended Kovalev's iron hold, Tyson Fury who finally put an end on the Klitschko's monopoly in the heaviest weight class or Canelo found a way to finally beat Bivol and, Beterbiev, as he did Golovkin.
Fury though has inexplicably shown reluctance in battling Usyk for all the heavyweight marbles, so to speak.
Lest we forget, the cruiserweights only become available for non Slavic world champions only because Usyk rose to the heavyweights with his previous fellow Slavic rivals and victims as Mairis Breidis and Murat Gassiev.
But not only the Slavs are making headway in the highest or higher divisions.
Russian Artem Dalakian has been world champion in the flyweights since many years ago reminiscent of Yuri Arbachakov's preeminence in the 90s and no one seems capable of toppling him. In fact, even the other world titlists in the 112 lbs class seem to steer clear of a confrontation or unification.
Young American prodigy Jessie 'Bam' Rodriguez who recently vacated his WBC regular super flyweight title to move down and campaign for world crowns at flyweight though has expressed his intention and willingness to fight Dalakian and unify all belts against the other titlists, Sunny Edwards of the UK and Julio Cesar Martinez of Mexico.
Let us see.
On the day Bivol whipped Ramirez, another Russian Shavkatdon Rakhimov has ascended to the throne as new IBF world super featherweight champion by stopping UK's erstwhile undefeated Zelfa Barrett. Rakhimov has previously fought and mostly defeated a number of named fighters from America and earned his spurs beating a bevy of veteran Filpino ring campaigners earlier.
Rakhimov figured to be a tough costumer for any of the fighters at 130 save perhaps for Shakur Stevenson who however has moved up to the lightweights.
Of course, the former undisputed lightweight champion and pound for pound king Vasiliy 'The Matrix' Lomachenko is still very much around and a serious threat to new universal titlist Devin Haney and even Stevenson at 135.
Other Slavic fighters to watch for in the near future are heavyweights Filip Hrgovic and Bakhodir Jalalov, super welterweight Israil Madrimov, welterweight Eimantas Stanionis, super lightweights Shakram Giyasov and Shojahon Ergashev who are mostly undefeated and have great amateur backgrounds.
Few may know it for a fact but as early as boxing's beginnings, a number of the great fighters produced by America were ethnically Slavs or of Slavic roots as Barney Ross (Beryl Rossovsky), Tony Zale (Anthony Zalenski) and Stanley Ketchel (Stanislaw Keical).
For a time during the Communist rule, the then Soviet Union and Cuba had rivaled the US and the West particularly in amateur boxing and had even claimed they could compare well or were better in the pros as well if only they could fight professionally.
But it took the fall of the Soviet empire beginning in the 90s for the Slavic fighters to compete and show their worth in the paid ranks which has been a recurring phenomenon since then starting with Tszyu and Arbachakov as well as lightweight Orzubek Nazarov who plied their trade based in Australia and Japan.
Looks like we may have to continue to come to grips with this reality in the times to come.
Editor's Note: Great article from our resident columnist Teddy Reynoso on Slavic boxers. It is just sad to note that the Russians and Ukrainians, who are actually brothers and cousins and who have intertwined families, are now fighting a brutal and senseless war. From our end, we wish for peace for everyone.
The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone 09215309477.
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Teodoro Medina Reynoso.
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