Before Gennady Golovkin was leading the way for Kazakh boxers there was another former amateur standout who turned professional and made his name in the US. That was Vasily Jirov. The "Tiger", or "Balkash Tiger" as those in Kazakhstan referred to him, was one of the stars of the Cruiserweight division in the late 1990's and early 00's. Although never a huge star he certainly left his mark on the sport, and his 2003 fight with James Toney, and to a lesser extent his 2004 fight with Joe Messi, was genuinely incredible.
As fighter Jirov left his mark on both the amateurs and professional scene in a big way, winning Olympic gold and professional titles, but here are 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Vasily Jirov
1-Jirov was one of 6 children in his family, who were raised by their mother. His mother, Nina Grigoryevna Repchenko, has been awarded the Kүmіs alқa, which is literally awarded for mothers who have lots of children. His father left when he was 4, resulting in his mother bringing up all 6 kids by herself.
2-He was inspired to become a boxer by the Rocky movies, and wanted to be like Sylvester Stallone's iconic character.
3-In the Kazakh press Jirov has revealed he won the 1996 Olympic gold medal with a broken right hand. Due to drug testing he did so without any pain killers, and had the hand iced every day. It was at the Oly pics that Jirov won the Val Baker as well as the Gold medal
4-Jirov amateur coach, Alexander Ivanovich Apachinsky, used some unorthodox training methods, such as setting dogs on the fighters to make them run faster. Jirov has stated that he took no offense, though did feel sorry for the dog which was sometimes beaten in the face
5-Although Jirov was first signed to Bob Arum, who promoted much of Jirov's early career, he later had his career guided by the mysterious Al Haymon, and was one of Haymon's first fighters, following a split with manager Ivaylo Gotzev.
6-Although not his best remembered fight in the West Jirov has claimed his win over Alex Gonzalez in 2001 was his most memorable. That was his only fight in Kazakhstan, and the country's leader attended the event.
7-Jirov was pencilled in to compete on a K-1 show in Nagoya in June 2004, though cancelled that when talk began that could end up with another world title fight in boxing. Sadly that talk never actually lead to a world title fight, with his following fight actually being a 9th round TKO loss to Michael Moorer in a bout for a couple of regional Heavyweight titles. That would be the only time Jirov was stopped in his career.
8-Jirov had 2 children with his ex-wife, Jacob born in 2001 and Nicholas born in 2005. Jirov and his wife at the time, then divorced in 2009, but are said to still enjoy a friendship.
9-In 2016 director Kanat Beisekeev did a short biographical film on Jirov, entitled "Balkash Tiger", as part of the "Kazakhstanis in the USA" project. We have included this short documentary below.
10-Jirov converted to Islam in recent years, with news reports stating he did so in 2017
We've all heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and we've decided to put our spin on things with "Six degrees of separation" looking to connect Asian fighters you may never have assumed were connected! Today we connect Kazakhstan's first world champion Vasily Jirov....and Filipino great Manny Pacquiao.
1-As the IBF Cruiserweight champion Vasily Jirov was the first Kazakh to win a world title, but he isn't the only world champion from Kazakhstan, another is Middleweight great Gennady Golovkin.
2-On April 25th 2009 Gennady Golovkin recorded his 16th professional win, stopping Anthony Greenidge in 5 rounds. The main event of that card saw Felix Sturm retain the WBA Middleweight title as he stopped Japanese challenger Koji Sato, who had entered the bout 14-0 (13)
3-Not many Japanese fighters fighters make their debut in the US, though Koji Sato did actually did begin on US soil when he made his debut in 2005, stopping Francisco Valdez in Las Vegas on his debut. Another Japanese fighter who debuted on US soil was Yasutsune Uehara, who debuted in Honolulu in 1972, in fact his first 5 professional bouts were all fought at the Honolulu International Center.
4-In 1980 Yasutsune Uehara claimed the WBA Super Featherweight title for Japan by defeating Samuel Serrano with a 6th round KO win in Detroit. The win was the Ring Magazine Upset of the Year for 1980
5-Another Ring Magazine Upset of the Year saw a then unbeaten Vic Darchinyan being stopped in 5 rounds by a then unknown Nonito Donaire, who put himself on the map with this win, in a big way, and claimed the 2007 Upset of the Year.
6-Nonito's Donaire's win over Darchinyan wasn't just the Upset of the Year, in the eyes of Ring Magazine, but also KO of the year. With that KO Donaire become the second Filipino to win the KO of the Year award, following on from Morris East who win it in 1992 when he stopped Akinobu Hiranaka. The only other Filipino to hold the award is the legendary Manny Pacquiao taking us all the way through to the iconic Pacman.
As an aside Pacquiao has been on both sides of the of KO of the Year. His KO over Ricky Hatton saw Pacquiao win the KO of the Year award, whilst his loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth bout saw him on the receiving end of the KO of the Year.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).