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Doghouse Boxing Chats with Former IBF Cruiserweight Champion, Vassily Jirov
(April 14, 2004) 
Vassily Jirov
Vassily Jirov is no stranger to tests of physical and mental fortitude. As a youth in his native Kazakhstan, he was introduced to the sport of boxing when he visited a local gym with a friend. It was there that he met the coach of the Kazakhstan National Boxing Team, with whom Jirov would later become very close, and it was there that he endured some of the most bizarre and trying training techniques ever conceived. These “exercises” included running down a hallway from German Shepard attack dogs, to reach the single door at the end. It was there, also, that he was molded into one of boxing’s greatest warriors, the tough as nails fighter we see today.

As an amateur, Jirov would amass an incredible record of 207 wins against only 10 losses on his way to winning the Olympic Gold Medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, and being awarded with the Val Barker Cup for Outstanding Boxer. While in Atlanta, Jirov decided that he liked the United States well enough to live there, and made his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he remains with his wife and son. After turning professional in January 1997, Jirov would quickly rise to the top, winning the cruiserweight title from “King” Arthur Williams on a six round technical knockout. A champion within two and a half years as a professional, Jirov did not rest on his laurels. He would make six successful defenses of his title, including wins over tough opposition like power puncher Julian Letterlough and tricky Jorge Castro, before engaging in what was widely considered 2003’s Fight of the Year.

Jirov met James Toney on April 26 last year, and together they made for one of the most exciting fights in recent memory. Toney would emerge the winner after scoring a last second knockdown, but Jirov would gain a new level of respect among his peers. He translated that respect into a big opportunity at heavyweight, taking on the undefeated “Baby” Joe Mesi last month. Although Jirov started slow, he came on strong late by knocking Mesi down once in the ninth and twice in the tenth and final round, but came up a point short on the scorecards. Had the fight been scheduled for twelve rounds, or even for an additional five seconds, Jirov almost certainly would have pulled it out. It was not, however, and Mesi took the decision.

Jirov is known as one of boxing’s tough guys, one who always applies heavy pressure and can punch to the body with the best of anyone, breaking down the will and midsection of almost anyone he faces. It cannot be denied now, in light of Jirov’s performances against Toney and Mesi, that he can compete in the heavyweight division. His toughness and determination make it a lock that he will not be an easy mark, no matter who he is in against. Doghouse Boxing caught up with Jirov to find out what has been going on for him, and to get his analysis on the fight with Mesi and other areas of boxing. This is what he had to say:

DB: How are things going?

Great, everything is going well.

DB: Do you feel that you should have been more aggressive earlier in your last fight with Joe Mesi?

I had a plan that I had worked out with my corner, and I followed the plan. I thought I won the fight. I just followed the plan that my corner had for me, and I thought that should have been enough.

DB: Should you have done more bodypunching, which is your trademark, or is that something that you would want to do more of in a rematch with Mesi?

I don’t know, it’s hard to say. I would have to talk to my trainers and decide what to do from there.

DB: What do you think about Mesi’s punching power and his prospects for the future?

I think in heavyweight boxing, he has a very good future ahead of him. He has good punching power, but if you look carefully in our fight, I was making him miss a lot of the punches he was throwing. But I don’t want to say anything bad about him, he is a very good fighter, and I wish him luck in the future.

DB: If you had a choice between rematches with Mesi and Toney, which would you take first and why?

I don’t want to say too much about that. It’s really all up to the fans, if they want to see me fight Toney, then I’ll fight Toney. If they want to see me fight Mesi, then I’ll fight Mesi.

DB: Will you stay at heavyweight, and if you can’t get Mesi or Toney, who would you like to fight next?

Yes, I will be staying at heavyweight, but again, I really can’t say too much about who I will be fighting. The last time I talked to my manager, it looked like I might be fighting again in four to five months.

DB: You have fought at heavyweight a few times, are there any major differences between fighting at heavyweight and fighting at cruiserweight?

Not really, I mean, obviously you are fighting bigger fighters at heavyweight. But some cruiserweights can punch like heavyweights, so there is really not that much difference. You will always fight good fighters in each division.

DB: What is your take on the Klitschko-Sanders fight, who do you think will win and why?

Klitschko and Sanders are both very skilled fighters. It is very tough to say. I guess I would say Vitali Klitschko.

DB: Why do most Eastern European fighters remain in the amateur style of throwing mostly jabs an straight rights, whereas you have been able to break from that mold?

When I was fighting in my home country, I had a lot of fights. My trainer, Alexander Apachinsky, had been around quite a bit and had learned all different styles of fighting. So he taught me how to fight against those styles and use them.

DB: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans in closing?

Yes, keep watching every round of all of my fights, because I appreciate it very much. I always try to be an exciting fighter.

DB: Thanks for your time, Vassily.
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