How did you get stared in boxing & who inspired you?
I started boxing at the age of 11 in Chelyabinsk. A classmate invited me to his gym right behind our school and I loved it, so I joined. I trained under Sergey Novikov. In the beginning I did not even understand what I was doing, but the trainer spotted something in me that the others did not have. He started giving me his personal attention, and that was when I really started liking this sport. Even though I was doing well, the first couple of years I just went into the ring and fought like I was on the streets. A few years later I started to understand what the sport was about and that I needed to get points and use my brain to get better.
I made my amateur debut in 1995. In1997 I went to the Russian Boxing Junior Championships where I won the gold medal in the junior middleweight division. I was just 14 years old so I felt like I was unbeatable, like I became some big star. But during the next region championship few months later, I got beaten badly by some local kid, and I immediately understood that I was no longer a big star. It was humbling.
In 2001, I fought for the first time in the Russian Boxing Senior Championships, but did not have good results. In 2004 I reached the finals and won a silver medal. The next year, 2005, was the best of my amateur career. I won gold medals at the Russian Boxing Senior Championships and the World Military Championship. The politics and competition in amateur boxing in Russia are very tough. In 2008, I decided to leave the Russian national team and turn pro.
I moved to America in 2009 to make it big as a professional fighter. My wife Natalia joined me in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2012. It's hard to be away from our families and friends in Chelyabinsk but we've found a nice group of friends here. We have a dog named “Picasso”. We like to travel and spend time at the beach. We visited Thailand and had a really great time. For this fight I did my conditioning training in Big Bear, California, which was great because we got to travel around California and the Pacific Northwest.
DANIEL GEALE VS. DARREN BARKER, JONATHAN ROMERO VS. KIKO MARTINEZ AND NATHAN CLEVERLY VS. SERGEY KOVALEV is seen SATURDAY, AUG. 17 at 9:45 p.m. (ET/PT) exclusively on HBO.