By Przemek Garczarczyk in Moscow
When you walk just five minutes from the headquarters of boxing promoter Andrey Ryabinsky “MIC” Group of Companies in Moscow, you’ll find a martial arts store with more choices of boxing gloves and boxing equipment than in whole city of Chicago. Ryabinsky is, of course, the man who already spent more than $23 million to make the mega fight between heavyweight giants Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin possible on October 5, right here in Moscow. But for the Russian businessman this heavyweight clash will only be the beginning. Ryabinsky is also confident that not only will Russia become a mecca of world class boxing events, but because of popularity of the sport fighters from this country could dominate world rankings.
According to ever present Google maps, there are six stores in Moscow specializing in boxing equipment. I went to two of them, counting a full range of exactly FIVE different brands of boxing gloves from four different countries – US brands included. Same with boxing equipment, with choices absolutely not available in any American city. If anybody still asks question why American boxing is on life support – no medals for men in the London Olympics – they should start asking why there’s more lacrosse gloves than boxing ones in 99 percent of US stores.
When I stopped counting stores selling boxing equipment in Moscow, I started counting Russian pro fighters in top 10 rankings of major sanctioning bodies. There’s eighteen of them. Not bad considering that the Russian Professional Boxing Federation (where Ryabinsky is a vice-president) is only two decades old. When the Federation had their 20th anniversary gala, the two-time WBA heavyweight champion, Nikolay Valuev, was among the invited guests. He said: “This is more than just an anniversary for me. Professional boxing in Russia, as well as many other institutions, emerged with the collapse of the Soviet Union. But still it was a new sport and probably not everybody realized what it really was. The names of promoters and boxers weren’t known to the general public, but were to those who were into boxing. Now, they are widely known.”
For many American boxing fans, Russian boxing was for the long time associated with Ivan Drago from 1985 “Rocky IV” movie. Drago, with his very impressive, albeit fictional amateur record of 100-1 (100 KOs) was considered a ruthless, no holds barred fighting machine. Today, you don’t have to go to the movies to see the same intensity when Russian fighters are stepping in professional rings. Alexander Povetkin, Ruslan Provodnikov, Khabib Allakhverdiev, Sergey Kovalev¸ Evgeny Gradovich – are just a few of the Russian fighters who have impressed boxing fans across the globe in recent months. They deliver for real.