Olympic star and first-time pro Daniyar Yeleussinov vows to be champion by next year
NEW YORK — He has an Olympic gold medal, a first-place finish at the World Championships and even his own postage stamp in his native Kazakhstan. Now Daniyar Yeleussinov will be trying to conquer the professional ranks, beginning with his fight this Saturday at Barclays Center.
He’ll skip the four-round stage and debut in a six-rounder against Noah Kidd (3-0-1, 2 knockouts), an unbeaten youngster who isn’t likely to have run into many fighters with Yeleussinov’s pedigree back in Missouri. Yeleussinov may not stick with six-rounders very long, given his audacious plan for his career.
“I don’t want to rush, but at the end of next year I’ll be champion of the world,” said Yeleussinov, a 27-year-old welterweight, at the media workout Wednesday.
If that’s his plan, he’s got a promoter capable of making that happen. Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing said he could hardly believe his luck when Yeleussinov’s manager, Ziya Aliyev, approached him with the possibility of promoting Yeleussinov. Hearn flew out to Kazakhstan to meet the fighter and got a deal locked in, and will unveil his newest prospect to the world on the undercard of this weekend’s Danny Jacobs-Maciej Sulecki fight.
“You don’t understand the talent of this young man,” Hearn said before ramping up his hype of the young fighter and juxtaposing him with Kazakhstan’s most recognizable boxer.
“[He’s] not the next Gennady Golovkin — the next Daniyar Yeleussinov. This guy’s the golden boy of Kazakhstan right now. At this stage with Gennady Golovkin, he’s on a completely different level in terms of popularity. He’s the poster boy in Kazakhstan.”
A mobile southpaw with a snappy right hook and a frustratingly accurate counter left, Yeleussinov won gold at the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games, and at the 2013 World Championships, and finished with a silver at the 2015 World Championships. He made it to the third round of the junior welterweight tournament in the 2012 Olympic Games, then outmaneuvered Uzbekistan’s Shakhram Giyasov in the gold medal match at Rio 2016.
Among those he outpointed in London was Team USA’s Jamel Herring, who thinks Yeleussinov’s success will carry over to the pro game.
“I think he’s a really special talent,” said Herring, a lightweight pro from New York who has followed Yeleussinov’s exploits since the loss. “Overall I think with his experience he shouldn’t have much issues translating to the pros. But only time will tell.”
Yeleussinov is the fourth of the 2016 male gold medalists to turn pro, following Robson Conceicao (6-0, 4 KOs), Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (3-0, 1 KO) and Tony Yoka 4-0 (3 KOs). Two of the three female gold medalists (Nicola Adams and Claressa Shields) have also turned pro.
He will make his training base in Florida, and is currently working with his father, Marat, as head trainer, though a member of his management team says they are exploring options to bring in a new coach for his pro campaign.
Hearn has visions of promoting Yeleussinov in the U.S., the U.K., Monaco and elsewhere as a worldwide attraction, and sees a rapid timetable ahead.
“He has such a great amateur pedigree, you can move him fast. At the same time, there’s a lot of nerves. This is a pro debut; it’s a different sport in professional boxing. He has to adapt to that, build with a new trainer,” said Hearn before adding: “But I believe within 12 months time he’ll be up with all the elite welterweights.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].