By Przemek Garczarczyk
Photo: Zhanna Popova
Light heavyweight Anatolij Dudchenko (19-2, 13 KOs) knows something about defying the odds. In 2008, he lost two consecutive fights and for most boxers who want to accomplish something in their sport, this would be an end to the dream. Not for Dudchenko, who on June 21 (NBCSN Fight Night Series) will fight in an IBF light heavyweight eliminator against Nadjib Mohammedi (34-3, 20 KOs) to fulfill his ultimate fantasy – to challenge legendary Bernard Hopkins for the world title. “The Gladiator” Dudchenko talks to Fightnews.com from his Los Angeles camp giving some thoughts about his past and future and handicapping World Cup teams.
Two defeats, at least statistical defeats, in 2008 – how close were you to just forgetting about boxing?
A thought like that never crossed my mind. For the simple reason, I don’t think I lost them because these guys were better. First one yes, I just got an offer to fight when I was working construction. I said ‘why not? Extra money coming my way’ and lost. Second fight: I want everybody to check this bout on YouTube. I dropped this guy three times. Played with him. But they got me for a supposedly illegal blow, point deduction. But no excuses, I should just knocked him out, be done with him. Lesson learned.
Same frame of mind when you traveled for this last fight against heavy favorite, 12-0 Robert Woge in Germany – I have to knock him out, I’m just an opponent for the homeboy?
I knew that they just invited me there thinking that Woge will have a clear path to another win. But pressure never stops me from being a good fighter. I think that beating him unanimously was more important that just winning by knockout. I dominated Woge, no lucky punches, just hard work. I know what hard work means. My dad was a volleyball player, he’s a volleyball coach and I was considering playing for the Ukraine National Team. I’m a born athlete, so I don’t care about Mohammedi’s experience. I urge everybody to watch the fight, judge me by what I will show in the ring.
The winner of this fight will be a mandatory contender for Bernard Hopkins. Dreams sometimes come true. Is he the best light heavyweight right now?
I think that Sergey Kovalev is the best. Not because he’s my friend, but this is the truth. People don’t understand that Sergey is not just a knockout artist. He knocks people out because he thinks in the ring. Kovalev has all the skills and this is why the knockouts happen. Next will be Adonis Stevenson. Great athlete, with just one hand, but how sensational this left hand is! Hopkins will be number three on my light heavyweight list. Behind these three there are 3-4 even guys – same, comparable skills. I’m among them, for sure. I will prove that very soon.
Ukraine did not make to Brazil – your dream final, favorite teams?
Brazil and Spain. If they could play the final, it will be soccer heaven. Portugal has also a good team, but they are always so unlucky! Russia is not as strong as many would like to believe. Just an OK team but not enough to compete for the Cup. I will be cheering for Spain.