Former WBA Super Lightweight Champion
Olympic Silver Medalist in 2000
Born in Lviv, Ukraine, on Dec. 29, 1977
Height: 5’ 7 ½” – Weight: Super Lightweight (140)
Record: 31-3-1, 13 KOs
Andriy Kotelnik grew up poor in the large city of Lviv, Ukraine. Even though his family did not have great wealth, they instilled in their son a great love of family and community. In their wildest imagination, the family could not have guessed that young Andriy would one day capture the hearts of a million people who make their homes in this working class Ukrainian railway city, let alone the entire nation. But that is exactly what happened after Andriy won a spot to represent Ukraine at the 2000 “millennium” Olympic games held in Sydney, Australia.
He made it all the way to the championship final before losing to Cuban champion Mario Kindelan, but he was still a hero to his countrymen for bringing home a silver medal.
That performance impressed top German promoter Universum and its owner, Peter Kohl, who brought him to Germany to begin his professional career later that year. Kotelnik took off like a rocket, compiling a run of 23 straight victories.
The undefeated Kotelnik fought in a WBA elimination bout on Oct. 21, 2004, against Souleymane M’baye (29-1) in M’baye’s home country of France at the Palais des Sport Marcel Cerdan.
Kotelnik lost a highly controversial split-decision to M’baye in what many viewed as a hometown decision. One judge favored Kotelnik 115-114, the second favored M’baye 115-113, and the third judge gave it to the Frenchman by a preposterous 117-111.
Kotelnik may have faced “home cooking” for the second time on July 9, 2005, in Nottingham, England, when he took on European champion Junior “The Hitter” Witter (31-1-2). Witter hails from Sheffield, so it certainly didn’t hurt him when after 12 rounds the fight went to the scorecards. Two favored the English fighter by the razor-thin margin of 115-114, and the third judge agreed but saw a fight nobody else did with Witter dominating at 117-111.
After the loss to Witter, Kotelnik rebounded by defeating Olympic medalist Muhammad Abdullaev.
Kotelnik tried to settle a previous score with M’baye, who was now the WBA world champion, when he agreed to a rematch on March 10, 2007, in Liverpool, England. No stranger to trying to win on the road, Kotelnik made the most of his first shot at a world title, fighting M’baye to a split draw. One judge saw Kotelnik as the clear winner 117-112, the second observer saw M’baye as the victor 115-113, and the deciding third tally was hopelessly deadlocked at 114-114.
Two fights later on March 22, 2008, in Cardiff, Wales, Kotelnik proved he’d learned from the aforementioned bitter disappointments. After M’baye surrendered the WBA 140-pound crown to England’s then-undefeated Gavin Rees (27-0), Kotelnik agreed to face Rees.
Kotelnik won it the hard way, by boxing rather than punching. His perseverance paid off when his adherence to strategy paid off when he stopped Rees in the 12th round to finally capture his first world title. He also breathed a heavy sigh of relief for not leaving another decision to the judges.
Kotelnik finally ended up on the winning side of a close decision against previously undefeated power-puncher Marcos Maidana (25-0) on Feb. 7, 2009, in Rostock, Germany. It was a close split-decision win for Kotelnik to retain his belt, and it stands as Maidana’s lone career loss.
The Ukrainian’s 18-month reign as champion ended at M.E. N Arena in Manchester, England, on July 18, 2009, when he met English phenom Amir Khan in a battle of former Olympic silver medalists.
From the opening bell, Khan gave one of the best performances of his young career, keeping his distance with excellent footwork and speed. That was the pattern of the fight as the counter-punching Kotelnik was forced to take more of an aggressor’s role against the fleet-footed youngster’s long range sharp-shooting.
There was good two-way action, especially in the early rounds. Kotelnik appeared to have caught Khan with his deceptively quick hands in round three, but the youngster went off and running on his speedy wheels. Khan’s strategy to quickly move in and out paid dividends on the scorecards, all of which favored the Englishman
Sensing a need to change his course, Kotelnik signed with Don King in May after the legendary promoter traveled all the way to Lviv to sign him to a three-year promotional agreement.
Out was former trainer Michael Timm and in came Stacey McKinley, who has worked with or trained Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter, Ricardo “El Matador’ Mayorga, “Iron” Mike Tyson, Zab “Super’ Judah and Ray Mercer among others.
Kotelnik’s first visit to America was in June for a press conference to announce his fight against WBC/IBF 140-pound champion Devon Alexander, which was held in St. Louis at Scottrade Center, home of the Aug. 7 event.
Alexander had this to say: “Kotelnik is a good, solid fighter. But I’m a better fighter. His time has come and gone. He was a champion but he’s not anymore, and he’s certainly not going to be champion after this fight.
Alexander’s trainer Kevin Cunningham spoke highly of Kotelnik in the beginning.
“I think he’s a solid Top 10, 140-pounder,” Cunningham said respectfully of the Ukrainian. “Who could deny that? He is a 2000 Olympic silver medalist. He’s the former WBA champion. He beat Marcos Maidana. He lost his title to Amir Khan, but Khan basically pity-patted and ran all night in his fight. In Amir Khan’s hometown, he won a decision over Kotelnik. It’s not like he beat Kotelnik up or anything. What we plan to do is really make a statement and do some damage.
“Kotelnik is one of the best fighters in the world. That’s why I wanted him for Devon. He beat one of the baddest fighters in the world, Marcos Maidana. This boy Kotelnik is from the Ukraine. That’s a long way to come for an ass whuppin’.
“I never make predictions, and I wasn’t going to tell the public this, but I just told my team last week that Devon’s going to knock out Kotelnik in two rounds.”
Kotelnik responded, “It is great to be in America for the first time. This will be the most difficult and challenging fight of my career against a St. Louis favorite. I want everyone in America to know that I didn’t come here to be an opponent. I came here to become world champion again. I will be in the best condition of my career.
“Alexander and his people are very brave because they are at home. But we’ll see how brave they are after I beat Alexander. I still love America. It’s one of the great countries, but I have a job to do and I will do it. Everybody you know should watch this fight. I am going to show you everything I can do, and you will not be disappointed.
“There will be an ass kicking, but St. Louis will be surprised who will be doing it.”