Before Gennadiy Golovkin solidified his place in Kazakh boxing history and became a genuine global boxing star there wasn't many Kazakh fighters of any real note at all. The major exception to that was Vassiliy Jirov (38-3-1, 32), who was a former amateur standout, an Olympic gold medal and a man who went on to have significant success in the professional ranks.
The heavy handed "Tiger" from Balqash was one of the very, very few Kazakh fighters to make any mark at all on the professional boxing scene before Golovkin. Not only did he make a mark however, but he went on to become a cult star with a string of great fights, and his 2003 bout with James Toney, along with his 2004 bout with Joe Mesi are among the best bouts of the 2000's. Sadly though those are both bouts that he lost, and in many ways Jirov is better known for his defeats than his wins.
Today we look to shine some light on some of Jirov's wins as we look at the 5 most significant wins for... Vassiliy Jirov.
Rich LaMontagne (May 5th 1998)
After winning an Olympic gold medal in 1996 Jirov began his professional journey in 1997, with a blow out win against Vincent Brown in January. That win began a lengthy run of early wins for Jirov who stopped his first 14 opponents, all within the first 4 rounds. That saw question marks about his stamina among other things. Those questions were partially answered in his May 1998 bout with with the rugged Rich LaMontagne. The bout, for the WBC International Cruiserweight title, saw Jirov going 12 rounds on route to taking his first decision win. This victory is often a forgotten one, but was a genuinely solid win at the time, and one that saw him answer a number of questions that were hanging over his head.
Arthur Williams (June 5th 1999)
After beating LaMontagne in 1998 Jirov was on the verge of a world title bout. Sadly though his follow up bouts were rather meaningless ones, with 4 very low level wins, and then another regional title win. In June 1999 Jirov finally got a shot at a world title, as he clashed with veteran Arthur Williams for the IBF Cruiserweight title. The bout saw the aggressive Jirov break down Williams in the 7th round to take home the IBF title and become the first world champion from Kazakhstan.
This win was huge for his career and certainly put him on the map, taking him from being an aggressive and unbeaten contender to being a world champion. The first world champion from his homeland. It also helped make him a fan favourite on HBO, who televised the fight, and helped to build his profile.
Dale Brown (September 18th 1999)
Around 3 months after winning the IBF title Jirov made his first defense, taking on Canadian fight Dale Brown as part of the under-card for Oscar De La Hoya's bout with Felix "Tito" Trinidad. The then 19-0-1 Brown gave a genuine effort against Jirov, and was even taking the fight to the Kazakh in round 10, before he ate a huge left hand to the body that took the wind out of Brown's sails and sent him down for the 10 count in agony. As his first defense and as a genuine test of Jirov's will to win, this was an often over-looked victory for the Kazakh. It was also one of the best body shot KO's of 1999 and it one worth watching, just for the brilliance of the finish.
Alex Gonzales (February 6th 2001)
In February 2001 Jirov made his third defense, a 95 second blow out victory over Alex Gonzalez, in what was an horrific mismatch. On paper this bout is one that really doesn't stand out on paper, but is a bout that Jirov regards highly himself, and with good reason. This was not just his third defense of the IBF Cruiserweight title but was also only his only professional bout in Kazakhstan. That also meant it was the first world title bout in Kazakhstan. Jirov himself has spoken fondly of the bout and regards it as one of his favourites and who are we to argue with the fighter himself? Sadly he would only defend the title 3 more times after this win, and would never actually fight in Kazakhstan again.
Jorge Castro (February 1st 2002)
Sadly Jirov's reign at the top didn't last as long at the top as many had expected, and of course we've already mentioned his 2003 loss to James Toney, in what was a sensational bout but one that saw Jirov losing the IBF title. In his final defense before facing Toney the Kazakh fighter recorded his 6th defense and over-came Argentinian veteran Jorge Castro. Jirov would take a 12 round decision win over Castro, himself a former world champion Middleweight. Despite being well beynd his best Castro remained a contender over the following few years, battling the likes of Paul Briggs, Sebastiaan Rothmann, and even winning a world title eliminator in 2005. Sadly after this win Jirov went 7-3-1, without scoring a single win of note as his career quickly went down hill.
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