By Alexey Sukachev and Anton Gorunov
2008 was a breakthrough year for K2 East Promotions, one of the biggest and, surprisingly, the youngest boxing groups in Eastern Europe. Ten regular events have been arranged in a number of Ukrainian cities; Yuri Nuzhnenko has elevated his status of WBA interim welterweight titlist by becoming a regular one, while a bunch of highly touted prospects, including Vyacheslav Uzelkov and Sergey Fedchenko, is on a verge of joining him. Not a bad result for a newly created promotional company, which was started in November 2007, from the former National Box Promotions with a solid help and under aegis of Klitschko brothers. Fightnews sat down with K2 East general director Alexander Krasyuk to know more about its recent activities and future plans.
- The last year was seemingly perfect for K2 East. What is in the offing now?
- 2008 was indeed a fruitful year for our team. We have done what we had promised earlier by staging exactly ten world-class competitions both in Kiev (five events) and in other Ukrainian cities. Several venues were white spots on Ukrainian boxing map before; people there were delighted to see the cream of boxing in their hometowns and welcomed our performances cordially. That was incredible. It also has something to do with local boys, who attract a considerable crowd to see them fighting in homeland. For example, when WBC #14 cruiserweight Vitaly Rusal (23-0, 16 KOs) fought in Zaporizhya, the atmosphere there was simply unspeakable. Townsmen knew him and their support motivated Vitaly even more.
We’ve got our first full-fledged champion in Yuri Nuzhnenko (28-0-1, 13 KOs), who became a regular WBA champion dropping his ‘interim’ moniker. K2 East continued to establish a mutual partnership with its companions and delivered a great present for boxing fans by creating a wonderful collaboration with “Inter” TV channel. When Vitaly and Wladimir Klitschko stepped into the ring, the vast majority of Ukrainians tuned up to watch their fights. Competing in K2 undercards, Zaurbek Baysangurov and Alexander Ustinov were affected by the people’s interest as well.
We shall try to develop our promotional group further in 2009 by creating new collaborations, increasing loyalty of our TV partners both on domestic and international level and building up a culture of boxing fans around our brand. We are going to sign several foreign fighters and maybe to establish a solid connection with their homeland’s TV bosses to broadcast their fights and bouts of other K2 East pugilists abroad. Our team hopes to bring in an attention of Russian TV channels and to stage some events with the best Russian boxers taking their part in.
- All ten tournaments the last year were conducted under sponsorship of “Nemiroff” brand and “Inter” TV channel. Will you extend your partnership for this year?
- You know, 2008 was a hard year for world economics due to a global financial meltdown. Ukraine too suffered a huge damage through instability of exchange rates and weak position of national currency. A number of lesser promotional groups were forced to cut down their activities. Unfortunately, we were hit by this flow as well. Thanks God, however, K2 East is strong enough to endure the crisis and to flourish even under obscene circumstances.
“Nemiroff” is our strategic partner. One can’t really find another company that is able to support world professional boxing, not to speak about Ukrainian fight scene, as much as “Nemiroff” does. “Nemiroff” means boxing and vice versa. We are currently discussing our future collaboration. Our respective partners are fully satisfied with the mutual work so everything will be just fine.
K2 East will also continue its work with the best Ukrainian TV channels. We are glad to announce that “Inter” became the lone leader in Ukrainian broadcasting increasing average daily share up to 19%. Our boxing events were a part of that.
- How many tournaments will be staged in 2009? Will K2 East continue its recent trend of interchange between Kiev and regions?
- Ten tournaments are pre-planned and, yes, we are going to continue or expansion into vast Ukrainian regions. Personally, I think Kiev is too spoilt and satiated in terms of world-class boxing and its best representatives. So, there’s no heated interest; it’s a bit automatic here. On the other hand, there are lots of big Ukrainian cities still unaffected by the Sweet Science. Given all that, three tournaments are scheduled for Kiev and seven for outer cities.
- The last year K2 East signed two exceptional talents in Alexander Spirko (2-0, 2 KOs) and Salambek Baysangurov (1-0). What is next for your team?
- Unfortunately, Salambek didn’t show his real potential and looked like an average fighter in his pro debut. But, to tell the truth, he is a future star in making and we believe in him. He was European and world champion as a cadet. Moreover, he was voted the best fighter both times. 2009 will be a high year for both him and Alexander Spirko.
We are going to sign more youngsters in Ukraine and around the world. K2 East will bring new faces in Ukraine, which includes foreign fighters as well. We have already been approached by several USA managers and promoters to take care of some renowned American fighters to build up their careers in Europe.
- Zaurbek Baysangurov (19-1, 14 KOs) suffered his bitterest career defeat being stopped by Cornelius Bundrage in December, 2008. What was wrong with him and what is next for him?
- It was indeed a horrible setback for Zaur in probably his biggest fight to date. I guess two reasons really mattered. First of all, it’s as unusual as bad to prepare for a defining bout without a coach. And that was just the case of Zaurbek. For a bunch of reasons he was forced to train himself, relying solely on his not-so-vast experience and fighting spirit. It was wrong. Secondly, he has underestimated his opponent. Bundrage is a world-class fighter, not your usual club punching bag.
Gladly enough, Zaurbek hasn’t suffered a psychological trauma in that fight. We hope it’ll serve him a good warning about possible dangers in the ring, maturing him and giving him enough of experience. Baysangurov was given some really valuable advices on behalf of Vitaly Klitschko and he is now working on his defensive skills under the guidance of Vladimir Zolotarev, famed amateur coach who developed Wladimir Klitschko into an Olympic gold medalist. In February, Zaurbek will fly over to LA, California, and will continue his development in one of local boxing gyms. Zaur’s uncle will also be in our team. K2 East is fully confident in Zaurbek.
- Yuri Nuzhnenko is now a regular WBA champion in one of the boxing’s toughest weight classes. Will you pursuit WBA superchampion “Sugar” Shane Mosley or try to sit behind his back making mandatory and optional defenses?
- K2 East received some interesting offers and we are now considering our future actions. WBA highest rated challenger (#2) Nelson Linares (16-0-1, 9 KOs), the younger brother of Jorge Linares, who is promoted by Don King, is one possibility. Another one is a great All-Ukrainian match-up with WBA #4 Vyacheslav Senchenko (28-0, 20 KOs). This bout is destined to make a huge box-office success here. WBA #15 Motoki Sasaki (31-7-1, 20 KOs) can fill in position of an optional challenger. Speaking about Shane Mosley and other superstars, we hope the respective WBA board of control will somehow enforce its option to bring superchampion and the regular one into the same ring.
- Vyacheslav Uzelkov (20-0, 12 KOs) is a mandatory challenger for WBA light heavyweight champion Hugo Hernan Garay. How negotiations between you and Garays camp are going?
- One slight correction. Slava isn’t a mandatory challenger yet, because his fight versus Alejandro Lacatus wasn’t an eliminator in fact; Spanish-based Romanian wasn’t ranked among top-15 which is a must for such fights to be arranged. I had a conversation with Mr. Gilberto Mendoza-junior and he offered us two possible options. We can take part in an official eliminator with (WBA #6) Universum prospect Aleksy Kuziemski (16-0, 3 KOs) of Poland or wait for a direct shot at Hugo Garay. K2 East is weighing options right now.
- Tell us more about other K2 East brightest prospects – heavyweight Alexander Ustinov (13-0, 11 KOs), Vitaly Rusal, middleweight Maxim Bursak (16-0-1, 6 KOs) and Avtandil Khurtsidze (17-1-2, 11 KOs) and junior welterweight Sergey Fedchenko (22-0, 10 KOs)?
- Ustinov is going to fight as soon as February, 28, in a minor title bout. After a huge win over Jozsef Nagy, Vitaly Rusal is resting and healing his wounds. Last year was good for him and we shall try to use this momentum. Avtandil Khurtsidze is already WBA #9. He is scheduled to defend his WBA I/C title in February or March. Maxim Bursak will vacate his IBF youth title and after a couple of ten-rounders will look for bigger titles down the road. Sergey Fedchenko will also see action pretty soon. We’ve lots of work to do in 2009. Hope we shall not disappoint our followers and fellow spectators.
- Thank you for your time.
- Your pleasure.