The Boxing World Better Take Nikita Ababiy Seriously
Perceptions can play funny games with reality. Take for example Nikita Ababiy.
The promising 21-year-old middleweight may come off like a “partier,” after he got lost for a week after fighting on the KSI-Logan Paul undercard at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, back in November.
KSI (Olajide William Olatunji) and Paul are “YouTube influencer.” They have millions of followers and companies pay them to endorse their brands.
The boxing world is just beginning to take notice of Ababiy, whose mother is Ukrainian and his father is Russian.
A friend of Paul’s, Ababiy (8-0, 6 knockouts) was introduced to the Los Angeles nightlife. We’re talking super models hanging from the ceiling and a bunch of young studs with excess money to throw around. He was entrenched with social media influencers Tayler Holder, Jayden Hossler and Bryce Hall, who have a combined 12.5 million followers on Twitter and Instagram.
They’re big with the TikTok app crowd, which is a destination for short-form mobile videos (they’re basically famous for being famous).
The guys would party into the wee hours of the morning, get a few hours of sleep and then wake up, record content for their massive audiences, eat breakfast and work out.
Throughout his time in LA, Ababiy was about the only one in the crowd who stayed sober. He’s never done drugs. He’s never drank a drop of alcohol. And from the inside looking out, he’s shown to be far more disciplined than some may think.
It leads to why Ababiy has a very bright future ahead of him.
“The LA trip taught me how to stay disciplined, and how to stay focused, and Tayler, Jayden and Bryce are really smart guys who know they have to be disciplined to be successful,” said Ababiy, who’s fluent in Russian and English. “They invited me into their world and they like to have a good time. They took me in and treated me as an equal. They treated me like family; they are like family.
“They actually taught me to stay on the right track and stay focused. Being that close to them showed me how to be successful, and they showed me that I could do it. They go hard and they go all of the way. I did have a smile on my face the whole time. I felt great.”
Maybe it was the palm trees that energized Ababiy.
The social media influencers invited Ababiy to stay out in LA with them. But “White Chocolate” notes that he did come back home.
It may have taken a week—but he did return to Brighton Beach, New York, and returned to training.
Ababiy is looking to fight again in July or August and two more times before the end of the year.
He turned pro at 19, in 2018.
He’s managed by Keith Connolly, the 2019 BWAA Manager of the Year, and promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing.
“Nikita is a real guy, meaning he’s a legitimate prospect with over 100 amateur fights who fought very good guys in the amateurs,” said Eric Bottjer, Matchroom Boxing’s matchmaker and well-respected, objective boxing analyst. “He definitely has the talent. He can definitely punch and he throws a variety of punches. He has talent. He has good hand speed, but we don’t know how good he can be because he hasn’t been in a real fight yet.
“He has been hit, but he has not gotten hurt in a fight. It’s not his offense, it’s his defense. He’s a tremendous body puncher, which you don’t see a lot of young kids doing. He has natural talent. He’s been in real fights in the amateurs and he didn’t shrink.
“He likes to fight. The one thing I’ll give all of our younger kids is they like to fight. They enjoy what they do. Nikita has real potential because of his talent.”
Ababiy’s paternal grandparents fought the Nazis during World War II. Growing up, he lived in a cramped one-bedroom apartment in Brighton Beach.
He slept on a bunkbed in the living room for his first 20 years, “but we never wanted for anything and we were always happy,” Ababiy said. “We weren’t rich, and I didn’t have what other kids my age had, but we were always happy.
“Growing up in that background made me really hungry. I didn’t have my own bedroom until I was 21. I want everything to pay off. I want to make things right for my family.
“You’re a born fighter. There are things you remember as a kid that makes you hungry. Some people may see me outside of the ring as this ‘pretty boy,’ but once I get in the ring, there is a whole different side.
“I haven’t made it yet. When I do, then I’ll have a drink.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.