Ramil Gadzhiev, out of the deeply troubled port city of Odessa, Ukraine, is just seventeen years old but his amateur pedigree is astounding: he was bestowed with gold medals at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, the 2013 World Junior Championships and the 2012 European Junior Championships. He reportedly engaged in more than two-hundred and sixty amateur contests, posting only four losses.
This weekend, he turned professional in his home country against the unheralded Pavel Sharun.
Sharun, naturally enough, is a professional loser, but he was also, at twenty-nine years old, a fully developed man whereas Gadzhiev still assumes the slim-line proportions of youth. Apparently also assuming the weightclass of super-middleweight one imagines he will mature into 175lbs for his prime, whether that be the dazzling period in fistic history imagined by president of Fight Promotions Inc., Max Alperovich, who described him as “better than Vasyl Lomachenko” or something more modest.
The first portent wasn’t particularly good as his first action in the professional ring was to elbow a ring card girl in the breast before hastily apologising. The left-handed attack he launched at bell was a more favourable harbinger and this is a punch I suspect fight-fans won’t get tired of seeing. It’s smooth, elegant and already timed beautifully with his occasionally equally poised footwork. In the first minute he found room for most forms of left-lead, supporting this conflagration with secondary fires which sprung up in the wake of a right-handed straight or uppercut.
Sharun was brave and was allowed to suffer a total of six knockdowns before the referee pulled him, although I thought at least two of these were just a case of an overwhelmed opponent being bulled to the ground by sleek rushes rather than punch-specific counts, but I was interested to see Gadzhiev repeatedly drop his man with body-shots. It’s far too early to say what kind of power he is going to bring to the upper reaches of the professional ranks, but body-punches that demand a knee are inarguable clues to some hitting ability. Not quite a comet streaking across the sky, this is nevertheless a glimmering sapphire.
What can be said with certainty is that he was over-eager in his desire to get Sharun out of there and that this made him vulnerable and a little sloppy at points. This is forgivable for a seventeen year old on debut, but he will need settling and he will need to uncover a punching identity. As Joe Calzaghe (and others before him) has shown, mixing in softer, cuffing punches with harder shots is a very reasonable approach to offence but is Gadzhiev doing this by design or by default? Like any other prospect he needs the right team around him to get things done, to stiffen the loose style that worked so well for him in the amateurs.
While comparisons to Lomachenko are well and good – they are both from Ukraine after all, more than enough for a western promoter to hop on – I hope these matters are noted by Fight Promotions. Gadzhiev is not yet a man and moving him on at the rate Lomachenko chose for himself is obviously impossible. His progress will map the route, but it’s not unreasonable to expect Gadzhiev to spend three years building before he goes anywhere near a strap, more Usyk than Lomachenko.
The talent pouring out of the suffering Ukraine continues to impress however – watch this space, get ready to be excited, don’t blink and other clichés. This kid might prove to be the latest in a rapidly forming line of Ukrainian real deals.