Originally Boxing Wise had hoped this would be a
interview with Kostya Tszyu. Boxing Wise was going
to take advantage of his being in the USA to have one
of my favorite fighters interviewed for the the website.
Well things change and Boxing Wise is going to roll
with the punches. Kostya is a man who dedicates his whole
focus to one objective and with the change of opponents and
everything that goes with a change like that he prefered not
to be interviewed at this time. His manager Vlad Warton
however was kind enough to step into the picture and answer
some questions for Boxing Wise's Anthony Arena. So we
at Boxing Wise would like to thank Mr. Warton for taking
the time out of his schedule and the preperation for the
Hurtado fight to answer our questions.
A.A. - Kostya's Camp, yourself included, must be extremely confident in taking a fight with Hurtado without having seen him fight or seen a tape. Vlad Warton - Well, we actually have seen some tapes now. The thing is that it was not my decision. Kostya's the guy that has to get in the ring and box. Johnny Lewis is, of course, the trainer. We arrived here on Monday. Kostya went into his first training session and we heard from a third party, not from America Presents mind you, that Gonzalez was hurt in training. The third party told me the fight was off and Gonzalez was injured. I was in a bit of shock. However, my job as the manager or the promoter is to resolve things, not to put up barriers in front of Kostya. Once I had a possible solution, I notified Johnny Lewis and we both went to Kostya [with a solution]. The easiest thing we could have done is turn around(chuckles) and take the next flight home to Australia. That would have been the easiest way out. But as Kostya said, he wanted to take the fight. When Johnny Lewis asked him why, he said because he was ready and he wanted to fight , whether it be Hurtado or Gonzalez. If you're fighting at that level you have to prepare at times to have anybody at all put before you and be able to perform. A.A. - Is there any strategy planned for Hurtado now? Vlad Warton - Well that is something that Johnny Lewis and Kostya can work out. I don't really get involved in that...my end of it as far as strategy is making sure the fight happens and making sure Kostya is protected in whatever way possible. We don't really discuss the strategy. I guess we'll find that out on the 28th (chuckles). Again, that's something Johnny can work out with Kostya. A.A. - When are you guys gonna go down to Indio? Vlad Warton - We leave here on Tuesday night. We should be there for the press conference which I believe is scheduled for Wednesday. A.A. - Did you have a choice in this venue? I thought it would have been great for the fight to be held in say, Brooklyn/Brighton Beach, New York. Vlad Warton - Not at all. This is the original venue that was gonna be held for the Gonzalez match. So the promoters here, which is America Presents, are the ones who selected this particular venue. To be quite candid with you, the sort of a fight that Gonzalez and Tszyu was going to be deserved a great venue, not just a venue...I'm not suggesting the Indio is not that type of venue; I haven't been there...I'm just talking a venue that might have allowed, say 10,000 people to see the fight, not just 4 or 5,000 people. The other thing is that it's OK for us promoters, managers, and trainers, but for the boxers I believe its quite cold at night this time of the year in Indio. In the desert it gets as cold as 50 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit. So I guess its not the best, ideal venue from that point either. But who am I to criticize? Its something America Presents have organized and I wish them all the best with this promotion. A.A. - Are you freelancing with Promotional Teams now? Vlad Warton - Yes. A.A. - Do you still have a TV contract with Sky and Optis? Vlad Warton - Yes. A.A. - Who has Kostya been sparring with? Vlad Warton - He has had terrific preparation. He's sparred with Ernie Artango, who's the #3 ranked Jr. Middleweight contender[WBC]. He's in line to fight the winner of Fernando Vargas and Campos. He's sparred with another young Australian, Julian Holland, who's a welterweight and a very, very good boxer. He's then sparred with Emanuel Burton, who fought Hurtado and went the distance. He's sparred with Rocky Balboa (I chuckle). He's sparred with Lamar Murphy. We've had up to four guys and so Kostya's had a very strong preparation. A.A. - What's Kostya's weight now? Vlad Warton - Oooo...I don't know to be honest with you. Its probably around 140...I've never seen Kostya not make the weight...Since we've suffered the loss to Phillips we've learned a lot, Kostya in particular. He's engaged the services of Australia's top dietitian. He informs me that he's never made the weight easier than he has in his last 3 or 4 fights. That's a good sign for me. A.A. - What's his walk-around weight when he's not training? Vlad Warton - I don't know, I guess he keeps that pretty much to himself like a normal welterweight I suppose. A.A. - Are there any plans to go up to welterweight in the future? Vlad Warton - The only plans we have at the moment is in the immediate future. To win the interim World WBC title and to hopefully defend it against Gonzalez and to win that as well. We've learned with Phillips not to look too far ahead but to only take one fight at a time. Because as you know, in boxing anything can happen. You're only one punch away from everything, either way. That's not to say that we aren't confident things will work in our favor. We are just modest and we do respect our opponent. A.A. - Yes, you always have to respect them even if they are Rocky Balboa! Vlad Warton - Well, I think Rocky is a pretty decent boxer...It's just that his best days are behind him. I mean he's 36 years old. But for anyone to have 58 knockouts on their record I must say that they have a little bit of a punch. A.A. - Yes, he's a tough guy. He is on just about everyone's ledger, either way. (we both chuckle). Vlad Warton - He almost ended up being an opponent of Kostya's back in 1995 when Kostya defended his title for the first time. He was one of the proposed opponents before Roger Mayweather came out for Kostya. A.A. - I wanted to get back to Kostya's diet. I know that he doesn't make excuses. I've seen him as one of the ultimate types of fighters as far as being a gentleman and showing sportsmanship. This new diet concerns the omittance of Amino acids? (This indirect question on my part refers to the fact that Kostya was taking amino acids prior to the Phillips fight and a year later it was reported in the press that part of the reasoning for the loss to Phillips was that the taking of the supplement hindered Kostya's performance in the later rounds.) Vlad Warton - You know about the amino acids. Well its not an excuse. We never look for excuses. We feel that on the night of the fight...that he didn't fight well. But as a manager and as a team, we got back to Australia and we really had to look for answers and establish what did go wrong. And one of the very first things was to take him to his Physician, Dr. Lewis, who took some blood tests and found that he had anemia. He said he was lucky to get 2 or 3 rounds in. Anemia [was] caused by the reactions of the amino acids. That's not an excuse, but it helped us understand what transpired with the lack of fire and why there was fatigue... A.A. - Does he have a big Korean fan base? (Kostya's Grandfather was a Korean, who immigrated to the former Soviet Union many years ago.) Vlad Warton - Oh Huge. But...I think he has fans everywhere. Whenever we travel people recognize him. Tonight we were walking through the casino, people recognized him. They were from California, I thought they were Aussie( we chuckle) but they weren't. While in Japan he was mobbed by people. And he's very well known in Korea because he fought in the Seoul Olympics in '88...and, of course, having a Korean background, he does have a following there...as he does in Russia...as he does in Australia. I think good boxers have a following everywhere. If its Floyd Mayweather I am sure he's got a following around the world everywhere too; he's a very exciting prospect and a young champion...same as Oscar de la Hoya, same as Roy Jones, same as Prince Naseem, and all the other guys who are exciting boxers. A.A. - Do you folks ever plan to go overseas to Japan or Korea to fight? Vlad Warton - Its not out of the question. We've been to promotions in Japan just to see Mr. Honda's promotions. We actually went there to see Stevie Johnston fight Sakamoto about a year and a half ago...just to support Stevie Johnston because he's a friend of Kostya's and he came to help him a couple of times in Australia to spar in preparation to his bouts. I mean it just depends, we may even come here (Vegas)...as you know the promotions' biggest role is really played by television networks. Its really the television's call 90 percent of the time as to whether the promotion is going to happen. A.A. - I guess the reason why I ask is that Japan pays a lot of money for the lighter weight fighters...I mean Arbachkov was there... Vlad Warton - Oh yeah, Arbachkov, Nazarov as well. They are good friends and former teammates of Kostya's. In fact, Kostya fought Nazarov for the Russian titles in 1989. In fact, Kostya stopped him...in Nazarov's home town to win the title... A.A. - Back in 1995 Kostya was ranked #1 by both the WBC and the IBF. You guys chose to fight Jake Rodriguez instead of Julio Caesar Chavez. Vlad Warton - It wasn't that. I wasn't the promoter for Kostya at the time, I was his manager...his promoter was Mr. Mordey and I think you'll find that he took on that route, perhaps, because he was the easier path for Kostya only having 13 professional fights, but by the same token, I think you'll find that the Rodriguez opportunity came up first before Chavez, and that's why that path was taken. A.A. - I ask because a win over Chavez at that time would have put him way up there... Vlad Warton - Yes...yes, of course, particularly then...as oppose to now. A.A. - Kostya's 29 years of age now, I know he's in his prime. Against Ruelas he looked in the best shape I have ever seen him. How long does he plan to stay active in the game? Vlad Warton - In his own words? For as long as his body tells him too. When his body starts to let him know when he shouldn't be involved that's when he'll consider giving it up. A.A. - Does he have any talents other than boxing? What could he go into? Vlad Warton - I think he is the sort of a guy that could succeed at anything. He could have been anything at all... a doctor, or a politician, or a teacher. Whatever he would have desired to be...like the great sports person who he is. I think he is one of the most focused people, the most disciplined people I have ever come across in any profession. And that makes him a very special sort of commodity. As far as application to work, application towards professionalism...I think he could have become anybody, therefore, I think we'll see the best of Kostya when he does retire one day, when he is able to give young kids back what he's learned over his long amateur and professional career. He may get involved in business too, I don't want to predict. At this stage he is very much still enjoying boxing. He loves it and we aren't looking beyond that at this given juncture. A.A. - What do you think about fighters weighing in at 24 plus hours before a fight? I think Vince Phillips weighed something like 162 the night he fought Kostya...I mean these days...fighters don't weigh what their division is...I believe Oscar de la Hoya weighed something like 164 for his last fight. Vlad Warton - Let me say this to you: I think it can work both ways. It can be a negative and a positive. It's good from one point of view 'cause it gives an athlete an opportunity to replenish his strength and to eat properly before getting into the bout as opposed to being hungry and making the weight 8 hours before the fight. It can also be used the other way where one guy's the bigger out of the two, as the case where Phillips can pick up an extra 20 pounds as opposed to an extra 7 lbs or 5 lbs which is the average weight for a fighter before the fight and after the weigh in. And, of course that can work against a particular fighter. But...I don't think that was the reason (referring to Kostya's loss to Phillips). I honestly believe in ordinary conditions, looking at the Phillips situation, if you wake Kostya up in the middle of the night and tell him there's a ring outside and Phillips is there for a 12 round fight he'll be able to deal with it. If you have anemia, which causes lack of strength and fatigue and you have no energy to protect yourself....I think, ultimately, you'll pay the price. A.A. - I used to be a wrestler and it bothers me (the 24 hour pre-fight weigh-in) because I know 5 pounds can really make a difference as far as the strength of your opponent. That's why I think the Jr. and Super divisions are really fair...it gives the in-between guys a chance to compete. I mean, you have a guy like Oscar de la Hoya, who probably has a lot of doctors, who will give the OK to give an IV to put the fluids back in... Vlad Warton - I know what you mean...I used to do a bit of wrestling and I know what you are referring too. You don't really want to go in there as a middleweight and end up wrestling a heavyweight. (we laugh) It's quite a big difference isn't it? I guess that's something that will improve over time. 24 hours is better than 8 at any junction. A.A. - Are you still managing the Heavyweight, Valouev? (7'2", 316lbs) Vlad Warton - I don't manage him, I am his promoter. I promote him and about 35 other boxers. A.A. - I ask 'cause I have never seen him fight, but I saw a picture of him in the Ring about a year ago and he's pretty big! Vlad Warton - Yeah very big...huge! A.A. - How is he doing? Vlad Warton - His last win was over James Gans in Moscow in 6 rounds... and we are just trying to organize the next bout for him. A.A. - How's Kostya's hand? I know he injured it in the Ruelas' fight. Vlad Warton - Its fine. It was a minor thing. I guess when you hit someone in the head for nine rounds that intensely, you're entitled to a couple of bruises (he chuckles). I think Ruelas' head was hurt more than Kostya's hand. When I talked to him afterwards, I felt a bit sorry for him. I told him I wished the fight had been stopped...I'm not in it for the blood and guts. I enjoy seeing a competitive match and when it becomes one sided and the only high point the guy's got winning is landing a lucky punch... A.A. - Kostya seems to respect his opponents more than American boxers that I've seen. Is that how former Soviet boxers were brought up or is that just personality? Vlad Warton - I think it's subject to personality. I'm sure just being part of sportsmanship installed in you for so many years affects you. In any case, we have people who, outside the ring, make poor examples for other sports people. I think its just subject to the individual. I think its just the up-bringing, the way your parents have brought you up, or the way the surrounding atmosphere has affected your life which can be the determining factor. Kostya is just a gentleman, a great person. He is a great boxer, I consider him to be a great boxer in modern terms. He is a better person, than he is a boxer, so I think he is a very lucky individual. A.A. - I think he has the best balance I have ever seen in a fighter. He reminds me of the way a wrestler moves in, the way his hips move in with his punches, keeping his center of balance... Vlad Warton - Yes, he did do a bit of wrestling too... A.A. - I suppose that helps him then...like it did with Roger Mayweather... a lot of guys want to just hold him... Vlad Warton - Yes...that is true. A.A. - Tell me about Johnny Lewis...He doesn't get excited, he doesn't yell, he doesn't show much emotions, how does he motivate his fighters? Vlad Warton - He has got his own way...he's a terrific guy, a great guy in Australian terms. He's had success with guys like Jeff Harding, Jeff Fenech, and now Kostya Tszyu. He's worked with the genuine word Champions from Australia, even Jimmy Caruthers, though that was way before my time. He's very highly considered and held in high astute, just a terrific guy! I think he motivates Kostya because he has a lot of experience and Kostya is receptive and a gentleman. They just blend in so well together. A.A. - What role does Kostya's dad, Boris, play in Kostya's camp? Vlad Warton - He plays the role of an assistant trainer. At first, he was Kostya's friend, but now he's there for Kostya for whatever he needs. He is like a brother, a slightly older version of a brother. A.A. - I now know that you guys have the contract with Sky Channel and Optis. How long does that last and what is for the future concerning that? Vlad Warton - We still have a contract on-going and we'll see what happens. We've been very loyal to Sky Channel and we have been with them for a number of years now. A.A. - Does it run out soon? Vlad Warton - I think its up for renewal in the near future sometime. To be honest with you, it's not a bit on my mind right now...because Kostya is the #1 boxer in Australia right now today. He is very much a sought after commodity. I am sure Sky Channel or Optis or whomever else would be very much interested in securing his services. Kostya enjoys the status of a sports hero there and enjoys the status of being an Australian boxer as opposed to being a Russian boxer. A.A. - How about Bill Mordey? Is the lawsuit still happening? Vlad Warton - Yeah that's still going on... A.A. - Did that slow down Kostya's career a bit? Vlad Warton - Well I don't know...that may have had a little bit of an effect on the Phillips fight...Its something I try and take care of for Kostya so he's not unfocused in any shape or form. That will take some time to resolve. We do believe the judge found it terribly wrong in the first place. It's like having a contract with a Russian firm for 3 years, doing what your intended to do, then leaving that firm and finding out you have an option for 2 years, in English, that you've know nothing about...I think you would find it pretty appalling. But yet you had to stay with that Russian firm for two years...but really, we left Mordey for a number of reasons...with Mordey it was pretty much his way or the highway and at the end it was the highway...no hard feelings, Mordey is Mordey; he is trying to pursue his cause of action and we are trying to pursue ours. I do think at the end of the day we'll prevail and Kostya will prevail because there were too many inconsistencies, but that is up to the courts and I'd like to not comment too much further. A.A. - I thought in the Ruelas' fight that Kostya's jab looked much better...he in the past has used it more as a range finder or as defensive tool.. Vlad Warton - Yes, he almost came into being a slightly different boxer since his professional days, where he just bored through everybody who came before him. But now he's showed the great skill he learned when he was an amateur in his last fight, you know, his quintessential skills as far as being an all-around boxer as opposed to being a one-dimensional fighter. A.A. - What does this fight mean to you and Kostya on HBO After Dark? Vlad Warton - Well it means everything. It is most important...for not just Kostya to perform but to perform exceptionally...just like he did with Ruelas. He showed a very smart fight with Ruelas. He didn't show that he could be one-dimensional but that he can box, move, punch, jab, counter punch, and do all those thing which boxing fans look to make the sport exciting, skills that keeps 'em coming back to watch more matches. Closing thoughts Vlad Warton then B.S'd with me for another 10 minutes about trying to find the time to watch recorded tapes of TV fight cards. He mentioned how Hurtado fits better with Kostya's style then say, a Gonzalez or a Chavez because he's a mover and likes to stick and jab. I was really impressed with his candid personality and honesty. Just a great guy to interview. I could tell he would be a fun guy to watch the fights with on the TV--enjoy a good steak from the BBQ and drinking a cold brew with. I found that Mr. Warton was hyper-intelligent. He was the epitimy of politeness, and he even thank me for "the honor" of interview him. I was thoroughly impressed. To read more of Anthony Areana's work please visit The Judges section.