Q&A: Grigory Drozd
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On Saturday, two cruiserweight world title fights take place in Moscow. The World of Boxing-promoted event pits Poland versus Russia in both bouts.
Denis Lededev will look to defend his WBA title against Pawel Kolodziej while Krzysztof Wlodarczyk puts his WBC belt on the line against Grigory Drozd.
Drozd (38-1, 27 knockouts) gets his opportunity after impressively stopping previously unbeaten Mateusz Masternak last October to win the European cruiserweight title.
The Masternak victory was a watershed moment in his 13-year career that has seen him fight outside of his homeland of Russia, in Germany, America, Ukraine and Austria.
“This fight against Mateusz Masternak gave me some kind of second wind and turned my career from upside down,” Drozd told RingTV.com from his training base in Russia. “All the experts were favouring Master, giving me no chance prior to fight.”
Having come this far Drozd, a 35-year-old veteran contender, is in no mood to let the opportunity of becoming a world champion pass him by.
“Clash of the Cruiserweights” is available in North America on Integrated Sports Media Pay-Per-View for live viewing at 12:00 p.m. ET / 9:00 a.m. PT on both cable and satellite PPV via IN Demand, DISH and Vubiquity for a suggested retail price of only $24.95.
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Here’s what Drozd had to say on a variety of subjects including his thoughts on his upcoming title fight, his journey so far and the talent laden cruiserweight division.
Anson Wainwright – What are your thoughts on fighting Wlodarczyk?
Grigory Drozd – Me and my team, all who support me, all have been waiting for such a title shot, and finally Mr. Andrey Ryabinskiy of World of Boxing managed to strike the deal and arrange the fight. I was deliberately aiming at Krzysztof Wlodarczyk for WBC world cruiserweight championship title and now the happy date is coming closer.
AW – When you look at Wlodarczyk what do you see in terms of his strengths and weaknesses?
GD – Weaknesses are not worth mentioning, therefore (I) will point to (his) strengths. It is power, pressure, mental and physical condition and endurance to cover the full fight distance. These are major features, I would say.
AW – Wlodarczyk clearly has a big heart, he got off the canvas and was cut but came back to beat Rakhim Chakhkiev. Did you see that fight? What did you think?
GD – Yes indeed, I watched that fight right from the ringside, simultaneously commenting on it live for Russia 2 TV channel. It was the wrong game plan chosen by Rakhim, in (terms of) proper tactics. Starting in Round 3 it all went in favour of Diablo.
AW – Last October you scored a notable stoppage win over then unbeaten Masternak. Tell us about that fight and how it has helped you career?
GD – I got an invitation from World of Boxing to take part and participate in a huge undercard show headlined by (Wladimir) Klitschko-(Alexander) Povetkin. It was a great honor, especially coming to the ring right before the main event. Almost everyone doubted (me). Only me and my team and Mr. Ryabinskiy believed in (me) winning.
The fight turned out to be not as hard as it showed. I was clearly winning and leading the bout. Masternak didn’t cause me any problems. It was a very bright and important win for me, leading to a world title shot.
Mateusz Masternak is definitely a very good guy and a very good boxer. I am confident he has a perfect boxing future and wish him all the best.
AW – You were born in Prokopyevsk, Russia. Can you tell us about your early years?
GD – I was born in an ordinary miner’s family in Prokopyevsk. It is in the south of Western Siberia, Kuzbass region. My grandmother spent all her life working in the mine as well as my mum – she is still there. We lived in a big house adjacent to the dormitory.
I was engaged in sports by chance. Once an advertisement in our best-known newspaper at that time, ‘Miner’s truth,’ caught my eye, regarding karate group enrolment. I was about 12 years old and made for ‘Mayakovskii’ Palace of Culture without hesitation. By the way, it still exists.
AW – You weren’t a big amateur, you actually came from another contact sport?
GD – I had four amateur boxing fights, winning them all and quickly turning pro. However, the (combat) background I have is owed to my Muay Thai career, where I earned all titles possible: Russian champion, European champion and world champion, all in Muay Thai kickboxing.
AW – Tell us a little more about your Muay Thai career.
GD – It took me about three years and then I turned to another trainer, due to a lack of (success), though I liked karate. My new trainer was Vitaliy Ilyin and he made me world champion later on. We began alternating with karate and kickboxing while participating in different competitions and my performances didn’t keep us waiting. I became youth champion of Russia at the age of 15 (light-contact), then I was third at the Asian Championship. In 1995, we were invited to the CIS Championship and immediately accepted the offer. It was my Muay Thai debut and I won this tournament.
I went to my first world Muay Thai championship at 17 years old (the youngest in Russian team) and reached the semi-final there. I lost on points to a Frenchman. It was very controversial decision; at the least the fight was equal. As a result I was third (the Frenchman lost to a Belarusian in the final) but nevertheless I wasn’t beaten and felt proud of my showing. There were two European championships next in my career (Italy and Cyprus) and both times I returned with gold. Excellent feelings! I was bursting with pride.
Yet there were no feelings after I became “super champion” and could do nothing more. My second trip to Bangkok took place in 2001. It was another world championship and this time everybody reckoned on my victory as well as I did.
AW – It’s been a long road for you to this point, a pro for 13-years, you have just one loss almost eight years ago. Tell us about your journey.
GD – Exactly! Long curved, no-easy road, a lifelong road full of ups and downs. I was ranked high, being in the first spot so many times, a title shot seemed inevitable, thought it never happened… except when I faced Firat Arlsan in an eliminator and lost it.
My destiny led me to give up boxing for more than two years when I retired. But God gave me the chance to have my dream come true and win a world championship title.
My family and close relatives wait for it by soul and heart. I am training hard as never before, using the experience I gained throughout my long career.
AW – The cruiserweight division seems to be stacked with talent at the moment, what are your thoughts on the division?
GD – I do believe there are many strong players in cruiser division, many strong guys. At least several Russians are (ranked) and I agree it is strong. Marco Huck’s power is shining. Krzysztof Wlodarcyzk is considered to be one of the most dangerous and strongest, whom many fear. The rest of the major names are impressive as well, and of course there are many others worth attention. The division might be lacking attention but it is a different story when you look at how strong it is.
AW – While you face Wlodarczyk, Denis Lebedev will look to defend his WBA crown against Pawel Kolodziej in another Russia vs. Poland bout. What are your thoughts on that fight?
GD – I haven’t seen his fights enough to judge. He’s tall, well taught and clever as all Polish boxers. It promises to be a very interesting bout. Pawel is ambitious and eager to grab the title. Denis is high-class champion, coming from big fights and a lot of background experience, although after more than a one and a half year break from boxing. It will be a very entertaining encounter for the crowd. I think Denis has better chances and definitely should win.
AW – Who is your boxing hero and why?
GD – Never had any heroes whom I followed or imitated. However, I liked so many and tried to learn from everyone and take something useful.
AW – What do you enjoy doing away from boxing?
GD – Hunting, billiards, dancing, travel and, of course, the TV commentator role are my hobbies. What is of utmost important is I spend time with my family, my spouse, bringing up my son and daughter. (I have a) 7-year-old Russian hockey star rising (laughs).
AW – In closing do you have a message for Wlodarczyk?
GD – Looking forward our WBC scheduled appointment in the ring on Sept. 27, 2014 in Moscow, Russia.