Soviet Legends: Victor Ageev once slipped the speed of the “Greatest”!
14.07.06 - By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza and Gennadi “Komar” Komarnitzki: -Did you see that? Wow! I can’t believe what this American is doing! He was the guy they robbed in Seoul, remember?
Article posted on 15.07.2006
-Yeah, I know. Everybody knows that!
-Unreal! He’s unbelievable!
The two young boxing fans were watching a live fight feed from the U.S. during the early hours of the morning. The object of their praise was of course one of the virtuoso masters of the ring in recent times- Roy Jones Jr.
Both guys were so captivated by the proceedings on TV, that it seemed as if, they were in a ring all by themselves. In point of fact they were so captivated that they hardly noticed a gray-haired patron sitting at a nearby table watching the same bout. It was obvious that he had also come to watch the fight, but even more evident was the stoic and apparent boredom on his face.
The fight had ended.
-That has never happened in the history of boxing!
-Yeah, I think you might be right.
As the telecast concluded, and the commentator exclaimed the final goodbye, the atmosphere in the sport’s bar quieted down, and the older gentleman quietly decide to get up and leave. Before exiting he passed by the two younger fight fans, and casually threw out, “Ageev was better,” and disappeared through the door.
Who was this “Ageev?” That name did not appear in a single rating’s list, and not one modern boxing magazine had ever mentioned it. Could it be the confused old timer mixed up boxing with soccer?
The answer is a resounding NO!
THE LEGEND OF VICTOR AGEEV
Two weeks after the start of world war 2, in Moscow, a young baby destined to become one of the most talented, extraordinary, and controversial personalities in the history of Soviet boxing entered into existence. Viktor Ageev was born on July 7th 1941. A deserved and honored Soviet master of sports, an honored Soviet trainer who graduated from the Institute of Soviet physical culture as well as the Elite trainer’s school of the Russian Republic of the Soviet Union, Ageev was a two time champion of Europe in 1965 and 1967, and four time champion of the USSR in ’63,’5,’6,’7.
Whatever anyone has ever written about Vladimir Vysotski (think rich man’s Russian version of Bob Dylan) could never really capture the essence of his character. Nobody will ever know about the level of greatness of Soviet Soccer star Eduard Strel’tsov (rumored to be on par with that of Pele). Those are just two names that can be used as a somewhat distant measuring stick to the phenomenon of Ageev. As Viktor Petrovich says himself, “Everything anyone could ever write about me has already been written a hundred times over. What else can anyone say?”
Really what else can be added? A round of boxing lasts three minutes. Even the most experienced fighter goes through no more then 1,000 such rounds. No more then two days total in the squared circle. However, this is where the math begins to deceive the mind and body. Thousands of moments, each of which is different from the next, and can become the deciding one. Whoever can learn to control time in this way can become a demi-god and leave the crowd in total awe until the first and final villainous second. How many fighters fell in defeat trying to defeat time in this way? and, yet Ageev was able to overcome even the deadliest of boxing foes.
A standard rule of boxing is, “tell me who you beat and I will tell you how good you are.” The most accomplished fighter in the history of Soviet boxing was and forever will be Boris Lagutin. For him it was precisely Ageev who presented the most challenges as an opponent. The result of the four meetings? Undecided, even though Lagutin’s two prestigious gold medals were facing just 2 meager European titles.
Even when Lagutin and Ageev were not fighting each other, psychological bouts between the two routinely took place. Andrei Batashev remembers, “The Soviet boxing team was training to compete in the European Championships. At the time everybody was talking about talented Lithuanian Middleweight named Strumkis, who had even managed to beat the great Lagutin. They even had a camera crew come to the training session because of the interest in Strumkis. So they put him in the ring, and against him they put in Ageev. So they start to spar, and while they were feeling each other out, I turned around briefly to look at the other end of the gym where Lagutin was training. Suddenly I hear a thud resembling the fall of something really heavy. Turning around, I see, Strumkis laid out flat on the canvas, and under his helmet, you could see blood spurting out of his nose and ears. Ageev, all the while, was standing in the corner and either trying to fix the laces on his gloves, or wiping some dust off of them. Viktor seemed so focused on this, that it was almost impossible to imagine, what had happened a few seconds earlier in the ring…”
Not once did Victor Ageev ever lose in international competition. Ageev was a true professional in the amateur ring and could break his opponent down psychologically before hand, and then complete the deconstruction in the ring.
Ageev’s first trainer, and the man who gave him a ticket to life, was Vadim Frolovich Kon’kov, or as he was more commonly known “Uncle Volodya.” Vitya wasn’t even all of fourteen years old when they met. It was Kon’kov who taught the kid to fight in the dazzling, never before seen, hands down style that captivated fans of boxing all over the world.
Soon after the young champion of Moscow, and then the Soviet Union, became an inspiration not only for boxing experts, but for all citizens of the former country. An inspiration much like the same actor and musician Vladimir Vysotski, the poet Evgeni Evtushenko (now a professor lecturing in Queens college in NYC), and the Soccer star Eduard Strel’tsov. Some fans even believe the famous composition, “A song about a sentimental boxer,” was written by Vysotski specifically for Ageev. This mutual inspiration bore unimaginable results-in thirty four international fights: not once did Ageev suffer defeat.
Ageev remembers, “It was my first international bout and the London contingent came over. I was tall but the opponent was even taller. I got a little angry over something, swung with my right, and start looking left, right cause he was not there anymore. Then I stumble and trip a bit over him. He is lying there, and I didn’t even understand why he fell.”
Starting in 1960 and before each fight that year, even against the strongest opponents, Ageev believed in unconditional victory. Without emotion or hesitation he would tell Vadim Frolovich, “ ‘Dya’d’a (uncle) Volodya, I’ll win anyway.” During his second winning stint as European Champion in Rome, Ageev was given an audience with the Pope and received his blessing.
However, outside the ring Ageev had different opponents, and unlike Tyson, even though he never swung first, sometimes fighting was an absolute necessity. The Khrushchev administration began a vicious campaign against, “Star Fever,” and made a “bright” initial example of Eduard Strel’tsov. Really it was a campaign against individuality, originality, and independence. Victor Ageev became the second imploding victim of that campaign. His first punishment was a fight in the restaurant “Metropol,” where he had forgotten his cigarettes and tried going back to fetch them. The doorman allowed him to return, while another man, in civilian clothing tried to stop him by grabbing his shoulders. The “civilian,” who was really a Police captain, suffered a broken nose, and a concussion while accomplishing his real objective by helping Ageev get thrown in jail.
The second time Ageev wound up in jail was also because of a fight and again in a restaurant. When it was discovered that he was a repeat offender, the final result was inescapable: Court, prison, and finally the dreaded prison camp.
The stint at the camp in Komi, Siberia, could have ended up very tragic as Ageev had to fight for an altogether different kind of survival then the one he was used to in the ring. One time he was almost beaten to death with crowbars. Another time he was almost crushed to death in a crowded police van. Once he froze almost to the point of dying in the cold Siberian climate.
After getting out Victor Petrovich decided to change his life and become a trainer. He didn’t even get the mandatory prisoner’s tattoo as all the other inmates. “I thought, how could I train kids with a tattoo,” he explained later.
Ageev the trainer was no less effective then Ageev the boxer. His list of successes in the corner was no less impressive then his fighting record: Rybakov, Limasov, Solomin, Galkin, the conqueror of the famous Cuban Angel Herrera Anatoly Petrov, and the first professional Russian champ Victor Egorov. Furthermore, Nikolai Tokarev, Sergei Kobzev, and Victor Karpuhin. Of course, Ageev didn’t just train anybody and wanted to only take on fighters with certain criteria. It seemed like he placed more focus on a boxer’s spirit rather then their athletic ability.
His training methods were often quite original. When his fighters would ask to relax a bit during training he would agree and even pour the champagne himself. When they would take a sip he would start smacking them uncontrollably. They should have said “No!”
Victor Rybakov remembers, “When I would finish a round and go to my corner, he would slowly pick up the stool, and slowly start climbing the steps to the ring. Then the bell would sound signaling the start of the next round. He would innocently raise his arms and shout, “Sorry I couldn’t make it.” Then one time instead of giving me advice he decided to tell me a joke.”
Even though Ageev had left boxing the sport could not leave him. In 1979 the “Greatest” Mohammed Ali came to Moscow. At the “Sheremetevo” Airport, the legendary boxer was met by journalists, government officials, and one single boxer named Victor Ageev. Entering the hall, Ali looked around, and upon seeing Ageev, started walking towards him. Upon reaching him, Ali smiled, and as a form of greeting tried to connect with a lightning combination, barely attempting to graze the temples and chin of Ageev. However, cracking an even wilder smile, Ageev slipped to the side avoiding the punch, and the “Greatest” to his greatest surprise found that Ageev’s fist was frozen a single centimeter from his jaw.
The extreme changes that hit the country in the 1980’s forced Ageev to make new decisions in regards to his future. No longer wishing to live in the impoverished conditions that engulfed his fellow trainers, he dedicated himself to the development of professional boxing. He was elected president of the federation of professional boxing in Russia, and the WBA made him a member of its organization.
His success as a mentor did not end when he stopped being a full-fledged trainer. Early this year we conducted an interview (http://www.eastsideboxing.com/news.php?p=5834&more=1) with Alexander Povetkin, arguably the current single best prospect in the heavyweight division. To the question of who were some of his favorite national fighters, Alexander gave the following response:
“To answer both of these I will say, in boxing you always have to be creative and think up something new. Unpredictability, if it is organized and uniform in a sense, becomes even more important as time passes. This is why I really enjoy watching the great Viktor Ageev’s old fights, as well as asking him for advice. He is like a father figure to any person who has anything to do with boxing in our country.”
In his time Victor Ageev, slipped the punches of Mohammed Ali, and tried on boxing gloves in the company of Sugar Ray Robinson. In a time when Soviet boxers lived in a world different from the one of the more famous and popular professional legends, Ageev met two of the greatest pound for pound fighters in the history of the sport, even though sadly it was not in the ring. These men greeted him with the same winning title, that he shared with his ironic name:“Victor.”
For those who didn’t have a chance to witness Ageev’s mastery in the ring here is a somewhat brief description: imagine a thundering mixture of Roy Jones, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and possibly Gennadi Golovkin from Kazakhstan and you can get some cloudy understanding of the kind of talent Victor Ageev possessed. Whatever did, and whatever will happen in the future, at this moment in time there has never been another fighter of the same caliber born on Russian soil.
On July 7th of last week, Victor Petrovich Ageev turned 65. The Russian and English languages are built in such a way that the first letter in both alphabets is A. It would be nice if any person, wishing to learn the history of the “sweet science,” would start from that letter and hit Ageev, Victor’s name. That in itself will be enough to gain an understanding and love for the fairest and manliest of sports.
ESB wishes Victor Ageev many more years of happiness and the sort of successes he had already tasted many times before in his life.
Also special Thanks to Anton the “Prophet” Gorjunov from www.Fightnews.ru, as well as the Ukrainian version of the “RING” magazine.
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