By Przemek Garczarczyk
Photos: Team Sillakh
“Remember when a lot of people were predicting 2012 to be a year of Apocalypse, theend of the world? It did happen for me, but it also helped me to change for the better,” said 28-year old Ismayl Sillakh (21-1, 17 KOs) in a Fightnews.com interview. On November 30 in Quebec City, Sillakh, will challenge the new power in the light heavyweight division, WBO champion Sergey Kovalev (22-0, 20 KO). Sillakh, who was ranked #2 by the WBC in April 2012, had to basically rebuild his career and reputation after losing against Denis Grachev. However, to those who are already dismissing his chances to beat “Krusher” Kovalev, Sillakh has a message: “I know who I am. I know my ability. I’m not angry, I just don’t care about outside opinions. I’m a professional.”
The Kovalev-Sillakh WBO championship bout will be a part of an HBO twinbill that also includes WBC light heavyweight king Adonis Stevenson defending against Tony Bellew.
Before we go into boxing, were you training today or watching Ukraine losing to France and not going to the World Cup in Brazil?
Yes, I was watching. It was tough, very tough. Of course I’m a soccer fan. When you are from Ukraine you have to be one.
Back to boxing – when, we spoke last time during the 2011 WBC convention in Las Vegas, you were top ranked light heavyweight with a bright future; ready to fight Jean Pascal or maybe WBC champion Chad Dawson. Then Denis Gratchev fight happenned.
IS: There were many things going behind the scenes before Gratchev. Too many. Like you said, I was ready to fight Pascal, the fight was cancelled, possible new dates being mentioned, I was not fighting for 6 months, The Grachev fight happened and I was just mad at the whole world. And I thought it will be an easy fight. I beat him up earlier in two rounds during sparring. Then the problems with my sparring partners happened, but in the end it was of course my fault, losing focus and all that. Boxing is tough sport, you have to be ready no matter who you’re fighting.
How did you mentally survive the fall from championship contender to basically falling from the face of earth for boxing fans? From fighting on HBO, Showtime, to starting all over again?
I learned a lot. It was a life lesson. That bad situation after losing to Grachev opened my eyes. Suddenly, immediately, everybody knew that I wasn’t good, a nobody, they knew it would happen, etc.
Now I have to prove to everybody how wrong they were. I’ll tell you something – I started to work out, started training just two weeks after the Grachev fight. Worked harder. I had no post fight depression, nothing like it. I just went back to work. Remember when a lot of people were predicting 2012 to be the year of Apocalypse, the end of the world? It did happen for me, but it also helped me to change for the better.
Recently I was part of media meeting with Sergey Kovalev, the man whose WBO championship belt you want to take on November 30. 90 percent of the questions from my colleagues were about who Sergey will fight NEXT: Stevenson, maybe Hopkins? You were an afterthought, a done deal.
It’s life, again. It’s just like me two years ago, isn’t it? I know who I am. I know my ability. I’m not angry about it, I just don’t care because I’m a professional. But I’m also a performer. I see boxing not just like a fight, I see it like an art, something beautiful. I’m not predictable because of this approach to my sport. I think in the ring, and try to do something different. I can punch, I can defend, I have a good chin and I’m smart between the ropes.
So, on the other side we will see the brute force of Kovalev against Sillakh, the painter of boxing? When I interviewed him, he knew about your technical abilities, he understood that this fight is for real.
Sergey Kovalev is a champion, a good boxer. He’s got skills and experience, but boxing is more than just throwing punches. It’s move, make other guy miss, and hit them back. I’m an all-around boxer. I just need to be me in the ring to beat Sergey.
The final question. How much better you are today than in 2011 when you were ready to challenge for a championship title?
100 percent. Different approach, different mental state, more skills. Not only different, better in the ring but a different man outside it. There will be no excuses after November 30. None.
Sillakh’s manager Kamal Suluki added, “It was a rollercoaster ride with Ismayl. He wasn’t as consistent with the other fights like he should have been, so when the Grachev fight came up, he didn’t take it seriously. It’s behind us now, we learned from it. This fight against Kovalev he’s 100 percent, mentally and physically, prepared for it. The fighter that you and the fans saw in the Despaigne bout will be the same fighter you will see on November 30 in Quebec City.”