By Robert Coster
Growing up in the remote town of Egrim, Siberia, junior lightweight Evgeny Gradovich (9-0,6 KOs) dreamed of becoming a sports star. His first choice was soccer but he was rejected by the local soccer school. Well, soccer’s loss turned out to be boxing’s gain as the unbeaten 24-year-old is starting to make a name for himself. His last fight was an impressive shutout ten round decision over tough Francisco Reyes (8-1) in Tacoma, Washington last Saturday.
Says manager Egis Klimas, “We would like lots of TV exposure for Evgeny so boxing fans can discover this fine young boxer.” Klimas, a Lithuanian by birth, convinced his good friend, famed trainer Don Turner, to travel to Russia to go talent scouting at the 2009 Russian National Tournament, a hotbed of boxing talent. They returned to the United States with one boxer, Gradovich, who curiously enough had been eliminated from the tournament in his very first bout.
Remembers Turner, who has been associated with 19 world champions, “Never mind his loss. What I saw of Evgeny convinced me that his style was tailor-made for the pros. Plus, talking to him impressed me. He had this great will, this single-minded ambition to succeed.”
So, Evgeny Gradovich packed up his bags, hopped on a plane and moved in with Don Turner in North Carolina. Adapting to living in the United States has not been too difficult for Evgeny. “I’m still learning English,” he says, “but I feel at home here. America is the country that allows you to realize your dreams. My dream is to one day return to Egrim to see my parents and my friends as a world champion.”
As an amateur in Russia, Evgeny had had a solid career, winning 126 out of 150 bouts and making it to Russian national team. But purists Russian judges many times did not value the young Siberian’s body-punching, crowding style which is his trademark.
“I didn’t qualify for the Olympic team but I wasn’t going to change my style to accommodate the judges,” says Gradovich. “In the amateurs, you have to score points from a distance. My style is to really fight.”
Looking at Evgeny’s young pro record, one realizes that Klimas and Turner have not shied away from tough opposition, having him battle and beat the likes of prospects Jesse Carradine 6-0, Cordero Stompkins 5-0, Steve Johnson 5-1.
“I don’t believe in padding records. If you’re good, prove it,” says manager Klimas. “And Evgeny is very good.”