The stage at Wednesday afternoon’s press conference was crowded with talent at the Conga Room in downtown Los Angeles, but quietly off to the side was the only Olympic gold medal winner in the place.
Flazliddin Gaibnazarov was introduced by his manager Egis Klimas on the dais before the final presser kicked off, but even then, the 25 year old from Uzbekistan just smiled and made a fist to the crowd ahead of making his professional debut on this Saturday night’s Top Rank pay-per-view card.
After the press conference, Gaibnazarov took time out to speak with RingTV.com. “Fayzi” is how he introduced himself along with a strong handshake, but with very limited English, the Uzbek had Klimas there to translate for him.
“When I came in the first month was very hard, but now I’m adapting,” said Gaibnazarov about moving to Oxnard, California, where he’s been training at Klimas’ ‘World Boxing Gymnasium’ since the beginning of the year. As for what made it so hard, Fayzi replied, “We have a different mentality and I have a lot of friends in Uzbekistan. After the Olympics in Uzbekistan, I was going everywhere with a lot of friends, meetings. Here, when I came in, it’s absolutely now only me and my trainer. We go to the gym to train, and everyday is the same.”
On the other side of the globe – roughly 7,000 miles away – Gaibnazarov’s wife, his son Abdullox and daughter Xadicha, are dearly missed, but the isolation stateside is needed to prepare and stay focused. “That’s the only reason we stay here,” he said. “I understand completely these are big pluses.”
Last summer, Gaibnazarov had an emotional night in Rio when he won gold at junior welterweight for his country.
“It was a very long journey to come to the Olympics,” he remembered. “I went through all kind of different tournaments, and always was second, second, second. I thought they weren’t going to give in Olympics too because there was already two gold medals for Uzbekistan, and the guy I was fighting from Azerbijan – they didn’t have any gold medals – so in my mentality was, I’m going to be second again, but I was just pushing hard, working hard, and trying hard. As soon as I became the number one, my tears broke up.”
Uzbekistan’s boxing team won the most medals in Rio, but Gaibnazarov was the only one who decided to go pro. “I thought about that since I was a kid,” he said. “My teammates were still young kids, they might want to go for a second Olympics. Maybe somebody is going to be turning pro sooner.”
Top Rank added Gaibnazarov to their stable last March along with fellow 2016 gold medalist Robson Conceicao of Brazil, Irish standout Michael Conlan, Puerto Rican Jeyvier Cintron, and Americans Teofimo Lopez, Antonio Vargas, and silver medalist Shakur Stevenson – who will be making his debut as well this Saturday night on the Top Rank pay-per-view card.
Gaibnazarov will take on Victor Vazquez (7-2, 3 KOs) in a lightweight contest scheduled for eight rounds, and it will be can be watched for free at the toprank.tv website, live from the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California. Not your typical opponent, nor the standard amount of rounds scheduled for a pro debut, but Gaibnazarov is ahead of the curve when compared to others, and when asked why he fights or who got him into it, Fayzi had an answer that revealed it’s been instilled in him all along.
“My father wasn’t a boxer, but in the streets he was fighting a lot, so I think it’s in my blood.”
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