David and Goliath: Kazakh Style

In the first half of the 1990s, there was a curious event in our boxing history. A Kazakh city of Aktau witnessed, how a light heavyweight boxer beat twice a gigantic heavyweight fighter Nikolai Valuev during training sessions. In his 2016 interview, the Russian athlete acknowledged that his nose was broken in Aktau. But, he didn’t name the culprit.

Standing at merely 6′ 0″, Anatoly Kushkov seemed a piece of cake for the Russian Giant, towering at 7′ 0″ and weighing some 40 kilos more than his Kazakh rival. But, a skillful fighter Mr. Kushkov, who was diligently trained by a local coach Aleksandr Drach, once again proved his boxing prowess before the hometown. Looking quite pathetically in comparison with Mr. Valuev, he nonetheless coldbloodedly outclassed the big man from Russia. The Kazakh was more agile. He managed to land more punches. As a result, the Russian lost badly the training fights. His physical superiority proved useless before the artful Kazakh, who passed the tough school of Soviet boxing. But, talking recently with me over phone, Mr. Kushkov praised athletic abilities of Mr. Valuev, saying that the Russian significantly improved his skills after the memorable training sessions in Aktau.

This is just one example of how a relatively obscure Kazakh fighter managed to win a famous opponent. Ruslan Mussinov beat twice the two-times Olympic champion Mario Kindelan in 2002. The Kazakh lost only once to the formidable Cuban. They competed at the 60 kg weight category. Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov knocked down the legendary Manny Pacquiao in 2003! A light heavyweight boxer Daniyar Ustembayev won the formidable puncher Artur Beterbiev in 2008. The Chechen fighter was so upset by his defeat that he didn’t attend the awarding ceremony of an international tournament in Almaty, dedicated to the Hero of the Soviet Union, Army General Sagadat Nurmagambetov.

The sport-loving audience know quite well outstanding Kazakh boxers, who have won Olympic Games and World Championships. However, even relatively unknown Kazakh fighters have shown sometimes wonderful examples of athletic abilities.

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