Vasily Jirov Interview- ďThe Tiger is looking for some new Prey!Ē
29.10.06 - By Izyaslav ďSlavaĒ Koza: Those people who have read my articles from the start, know that my favorite fighter in the world of professional boxing is Vasily Jirov. In fact it was the aftermath of the Jirov Mesi fight that inspired me to start writing articles on the sport, and so in some part if you want to praise or hate me for it, a portion of those strong feelings should be attributed to the Tiger from Kazakhstan.
Article posted on 29.10.2006
More often then not fans ask me why it is that I like Vasily Jirov more so then all the other fighters, which is why I have gotten used to summarizing my response. While there are those who like other boxers, for their style, or their heart, or perhaps what they say at press conferences, I donít think that is wholly the full pie of my reasoning behind my respect for the Tiger.
The answer is, that even though itís clichťd and overused in regards to things I like in say music or literature, the thing is, Vasily is the one guy, the one fighter, among the many I like, who inspires me the most when I watch boxing. This is not only relegated to his character in the ring, but his attitude and behavior outside it. From the way he interacts with his friends and family, to the never say die comeback against Mesi, and that unbelievable ďWe need Toney Jirov 2Ē Stare-down as the bell resonated then faded in the final round of the first bout, he is a true warrior, and someone you just want to succeed, because he deserves it.
What can I say about the Tiger after speaking to him for the first time? Every single impression I had of the man is simply untrue, because his politeness, humbleness, and character really do exceed expectations. Every single thing those who have spoken with him before told me, echoed honest to every response he gave to the interrogation I presented.
Without further ado:
ESB: Hey Vasily, Whatís new? What have you been doing lately?
Vasily Jirov: Hey! Right now I have a new team, and new people that Iím working with. I just parted ways with my former manager Al Haymon. I wonít say much about my new team, cause the contracts arenít signed yet, but I think that, maybe in a couple of days, everything will be ironed out. Iíll still have the same trainer in Thell Torrence.
ESB: Some sites on the net, have said you would fight on the same card as Butterbean but against different opponents. What can you tell us about that?
Vasily Jirov: Itís entirely possible, but not 100% certain, because I am working with new people and discussing all the options. I donít have any concrete info regarding my opponents or anything, but yea that is one possible option right now.
ESB: Vasily, you made many of your fans extremely happy when you said you would go back down to 200 or Cruiser. Which of the elite Cruiserweights would you like to take on?
Vasily Jirov: Whoever is the champ, that is who I want to fight. I want to take away his title and go back to being the man I was. Otherwise, it doesnít matter, whoever will stand in our way, that is who we will take care of.
ESB: One of the better guys, at the weight right now is OíNeil Bell.
Vasily Jirov: I think Bell left Cruiser, and might have even given away his title.
ESB: Oh yeah, he will participate in the Superfighter Tournament. Did you hear about that?
Vasily Jirov: No, who will he fight there?
ESB: Against other guys at heavy, like Byrd, Mccline, and some others. It will be sometime in December. Anyway, many people were of the opinion that Bell lost to a former victim of yours in Dale Brown. Are there any obstacles that are stopping you two from fighting?
Vasily Jirov: Probably not, but a major one is that many fighters donít want to fight me, because they arenít as sure of themselves to some degree.
ESB: Do you want to say anything to him if he reads this interview?
Vasily Jirov: Well, I donít know if he has that belt anymore so I donít have anything to say to him personally, because he doesnít interest me much now. For those that do have the belts though, I will say, ďIím back guys, and I suggest you get real ready. The Tiger has returned to the jungle to find himself some new prey.Ē
ESB: Almost any time you are discussed here, everybody always mentions the training sessions with German Shepherds, letís say for distance. I have always wanted to find out where your famous first trainer Alexander Apachinsky got the dogs for this?
Vasily Jirov: Well, he only had the one German Shepherd, and we basically grew up together. He raised that puppy up from a young age like me. I remember when he was only two months old, our trainer already started training and sicking the dog on us. Then when the dog got older, it was like a combination of both training, as well as a game for him, and he would forget how to differentiate between the two. He did what he could (laughing). Basically I understood him, I knew that he had to live exactly like me.
ESB: What was the dogís name do you remember?
Vasily Jirov: Well so much time has passedÖ.wait a minuteÖ..Jack.
ESB: Did your parents know about these training methods, and if so what was their reaction? In America, I donít think it would be looked upon favorably.
Vasily Jirov: HmmmmÖ.my mom didnít know, and itís better that she didnít. I never told her. In America it would probably be considered cruel to both the dog and I, and the authorities would have thrown my trainer in jail (laughing).
Vasily Jirov: It was called survival there, survival and character development. However, many people just didnít understand it. Many of those who saw it, thought it was wrong, but I canít say that cause you can see for yourself, what my trainer did worked. It helped me become who I am.
ESB: To some degree he is one of those cult personalities standing behind famous boxers. Can you tell us about him?
Vasily Jirov: He made many champs out of regular kids from Kazakhstan. I was the first, and after me there were many others. He is a great trainer, and did his job correctly, and helped many simple guys stand on their own two feet, and feel the real strength of their full potential.
He is a very intelligent guy, reads a lot. We call each other once in a while and talk.
ESB: Do you remember how you met?
Vasily Jirov: At the time I had just finished with wrestling, and wasnít doing anything, so one of my friends who was a fighter suggested, ďLetís go to a gym and try to make you a boxer.Ē So I said, ďOk, why not.Ē
So I got there and we met. I was about 11, 12 years old.
ESB: During your fight with Moorer, the commentator said, that when you first got to his gym, he personally got in the ring with you and gave you a black eye.
Vasily Jirov: He gave me a black eye? See, no itís not that he hit me, he just sparred with us sometime. Once in awhile he would put on the gloves and get in the ring with some of us. He wanted to see how much desire the guys coming to the gym had to box, and did they have the mental strength to take his punches. Sometimes he would break people like that and they would leave, but sometimes, those who had more will and desire then a sense of pain, would stay forever.
Itís not that he would beat on you, but he taught you real professional boxing. He would show you the difference between a hoodlum from the street and a real fighter. He would show us why a boxer was better then a street punk, but he did it rarely. Usually we just fought the more experienced guys who were older. Basically that was our schooling but a game as well letís say.
ESB: Do you remember one particular fight where you were losing but his advice helped you win?
Vasily Jirov: That is hard to say, because he taught us to think for ourselves in the ring in any situation. Not the trainer, not the judges, nobody will help you, you are alone, and you should survive yourself, and find a way out. I strongly agree with this line of thinking, because a person should always find the best path to victory by himself.
Of course, as they say, other people have a better perspective, but in a fight, when you are alone and all bloodied up, you have to think for yourself. Yea, they say, perspective is everything, and yea you have to listen to the advice of others, but that final choice has to be made by the person himself.
ESB: I think he came with you when you first moved to America. If he would agree to come and help prepare you for some Mega-Fight, can that help?
Vasily Jirov: Yeah, he helped me get settled here and then went back. Otherwise, he has his own job, his own life there, and I donít want to disturb him. Also, Iím already a different person, and we are constantly changing each year, and growing, and we havenít worked together in a long time, and I have different people around me now. To change back now and do what I did a long time ago, is probably not going to be very beneficial.
I just know myself, and know what I am capable of, and the people I am working with, are helping me realize my potential. So I donít see much sense in it now.
ESB: Do you remember your first amateur fight? Where was it, and against who?
Vasily Jirov: I remember. It was in our gym. Although I mean the first or the first tournament? I won the tournament and everything was ok. It was in Balgash. I had losses, but not many, mainly I would win.
ESB: What was your record?
Vasily Jirov: 217 wins, 10 losses, and about 150 knockouts. The last fight I lost was to Tarver in 1995, and after that I was only winning.
ESB: Vasily, one of the reasons, that you are my favorite fighter, is the gold medal you won in Atlanta, with a damaged hand. How did you damage it?
Vasily Jirov: It happened right after my first round bout. The problem was that when we got there for the Games they gave us, hand-wraps that could basically only wrap around one finger. It was hilarious that at the Olympics, you are basically hitting your opponent with an almost bare fist. I couldnít even hold my hands in the right form, and when I hit him (and I usually hit pretty hard anyway) in the top of the skull I got injured. After that fight I couldnít bend my fist correctly. After that I won based on will, and character. I did a lot of treatments, iced my hand a lot, and that helped with the pain, cause I had the patience to bear it.
ESB: Were you afraid they would remove you from the competition?
Vasily Jirov: Of course I was afraid, especially before the final, early in the morning at the weigh-in, because the checkup was very thorough, and the doctor said, ďmake a fist,Ē and I couldnít bend it into a fist all the way, so he said, ďWhatís wrong?Ē and I said, ďAll ok, all ok,Ē and he finally replied, ďgood luck then.Ē Otherwise he could have easily stopped the fight, but instead he gave me a chance and I am very grateful for the fact that I could do what I was able to do.
ESB: Besides Tarver who were some of your harder opponents in the amateurs?
Vasily Jirov: There was one Italian, world champion then, winner of many different tournaments, and conqueror of a lot of good fighters. Then Tarver of course. The Korean I fought in the finals, Lee, won a medal at the 1992 Olympics. The Mexican I beat in the first round wasnít bad (in 2003 that ďMexicanĒ Julio Gonzalez gave the undefeated Polish Tiger Darius Michelzewski his first career loss.-Authorís note). Then there was a Canadian, Ross (Ross played the role of John Henry Louis in the film ďCinderella ManĒ-Authorís note.)
I even met him here after I turned professional. We trained in the same gym, and reminisced about our Olympic bout.
ESB: Anybody relatively famous in the amateurs, though?
Vasily Jirov: famous? Donít quite remember now. I had so many fights, in fact I even held a record for amount of fights in a year. Something like 25. No, just donít remember anyone in particular now.
ESB: Tell us about the sparring sessions with the Klitschko brothers. When and where did it happen?
Vasily Jirov: It was in Germany and we were preparing for some tournaments there, and my trainer wanted me to spar with the Klitschkos because my opponents, while weighing the same, had a height advantage. So he wanted me to train against the taller guys, and thought that would be much more beneficial then sparring with somebody else. Other then that, I mean there is not much to say about sparring.
We tested each otherís reflexes and reaction time, you know who is faster and smarter. See we didnít fight to kill but rather to help. Of course many guys love to spar like that, you know for show, its just when I start to spar its more training and a tactical game instead.
ESB: Yeah, during your fight with Mesi, Klitschkoís trainer Emanuel Steward, even said both brothers praised you as a good boxer. He said Vladimir told him about it, but didnít go into detail. Which other famous guys did you have a chance to spar with? Sergei Lyakhovich maybe?
Vasily Jirov: With Lyakhovich, yea, and with many others, but see, for me sparring is training, and the way in which I sharpen my skill, and go over my fight plan, combinations and so on. There just isnít anything interesting about sparring.
ESB: Well, I only ask cause sometimes I read about sparring sessions with knockdowns, or somebody taking a knee.
Vasily Jirov: No, no, nothing like that, but I will say, we train and prepare very intensely, and we have bouts like that, but I donít like it. I like it when there is this atmosphere of pressure, because that is when your reflexes and brain work the best, and the fastest.
ESB: When and how many times did you spar with Lyakhovich?
Vasily Jirov: With Lyakhovich? It was a long time ago, when he just came here from Belarus, and was one of my sparring partners and helped in training. How many times I donít remember already, how many rounds, and when exactly. I just trained, and didnít pay attention to the other stuff. I did my job, said, ďthanks,Ē and ďgoodbye.Ē
ESB: (laughing) What about Maskaev, did you spar with him? Do you know each other?
Vasily Jirov: Never trained together. Yea we met in New York, at a fight. I think one of mine, and that is where we met.
ESB: Do you still keep in touch with Sergei?
Vasily Jirov: Yeah, yeah, he doesnít live far from here. We talk often enough but meet maybe once in a ďFive-YearĒ (laughing). We justÖwell he has his family, I have mine, kids. We know each other, see each other once in a while, find out howís it going and so on, and go our separate ways. Everybody lives their own life.
ESB: Whatís your prediction for the Briggs fight?
Vasily Jirov: Well Sergei has the brains to win. He prepared for this fight and I think, he has what it takes to win. How, however, that I donít know, because each situation is unusual, and every second is different, and each moment is fateful, and it depends on how a person can react, and the kind of emotional stability he has to deal with these instances.
ESB: At one time your former managers were negotiating a fight with Roy Jones Jrís team. Why didnít the fight get made?
Vasily Jirov: Fear. Roy Jones was afraid of me. I talked to him one on one about it, and I told him straight, ďlets make the fight? And he said, ďYouíre a good fighter and IĎm a good fighter so letís stay away from each other.Ē So all that was left for me to say was ďOk.Ē
ESB: Yeah, I remember they wanted to make the fight in one of the Arabic countries. What about the Tyson fight? Why didnít that one happen? I think that one was talked about too. Did he say anything about it?
Vasily Jirov: I donít think they even reached the negotiating stage there, and I never spoke to him personally about it. We talked but long after that. I met him a little while ago. Why he said no I donít know really, and I donít even know all the details, myself, where, and how. All I remember is when I was told that there was a chance of it coming off, I warned my manager that if Tyson starts biting, then Iíll bite off his nose, ear and everything else.
ESB: (laughing) So you met him a little while ago?
Vasily Jirov: Yeah, a friend of mind invited me to a party that he organized, and Tyson was there too. I came up to him, introduced myself, but I donít know if he remembers about our potential match up. To me it seemed like he was on sedatives, or some other kind of drugs to control his emotions. He was very nice and polite to me, at least we had a normal conversation, said our goodbyes, and that is it.
ESB: Now, I want to ask you about Soviet Boxers. Did you know Alexander Miroshnichenko, and can you say something about him?
Vasily Jirov: I knew ďMiron.Ē We were on the same team, but it was so long ago. He was older then me, and I saw him of course, respected him, but never fought him. I weighed much less then he did. We were introduced to each other but that was a long time ago. I knew him, its just you canít say we were friends.
ESB: One of Jones Jrís conquerors in the amateurs was your countryman Igor Ruzhnikov. Do you know him?
Vasily Jirov: Nope. I saw him, heard a lot about him, but we donít know each other.
ESB: What about Andrei Kurnyavka?
Vasily Jirov: Saw him of course. He was also older then me, well you know when I was a junior. Of course he was a good fighter, and what I saw of him I liked, but we werenít close, and we didnít even know each other, so I canít say anything in particular.
ESB: Vasily when you were a kid who were your favorite stars of Soviet boxing and why?
Vasily Jirov: Soviets? Korolev of course. I read a lot about him at that age and he was one of my favorites.
ESB: Would you say he was the greatest? I like to ask all of the ex-Soviet boxers who they thought was the greatest Soviet boxer of all time.
Vasily Jirov: Yea, I would say Korolev. I remember he was supposed to fight Joe Louis in his time. He had a very unique way of fighting. His own style. He would corner his opponent, then open up for a moment, but in a crafty way so as to reel him in, and the opponent wanted to hit him, but Korolev replied by knocking him out. I read about it, the book is at home somewhere, got it from my first trainer. There was also Vysotsky who knocked out Teofilo Stevenson, and he was also very talented.
ESB: Can you tell us about your parents and your childhood. Your dad was Valeri, but what about your mom?
Vasily Jirov: Nina. I donít know my father, cause I have never seen him in my life. I mean I saw him when I was small, but donít remember him at all. He left us when I was two years old. He walked out on his family and left. Although I donít think he had much of a choice, because he had his own issues, but I donít want to talk about it. Whatever happened, happened, and he didnít count as part of my life, and I am happy that I donít know him and that he wasnít around.
ESB: Is he still alive?
Vasily Jirov: Probably. I heard that he was still alive, and has a wife and kids somewhere in Russia now.
ESB: Do you hate him for walking out on your family?
Vasily Jirov: I donít hate him. I donít hate anybody, and I am not upset with anybody. Everything he did, he did, and everybody has their own life, and I canít be angry with him because of it. If he wouldnít have walked out on his family, I donít know who I would become. If I were to choose, then I am happy, because I donít know what would happen to me. Maybe I would listen to him, and become somebody else, but I donít know who that would be. I think everything turned out for the best.
ESB: What did your mom do?
Vasily Jirov: Mom worked at a manufacturing plant, as an operator at the water delivery station. The plant was famous for copper.
ESB: What did you like the most about your momís character?
Vasily Jirov: Mom was very patient. She loved us a lot, and continues to love us, and that was regardless of what happened in our lives. She loved us anyway.
ESB: Do you have brothers, sisters? Where are they now?
Vasily Jirov: I have two older brothers and three younger sisters. One is in Russia now and the rest are in Kazakhstan.
ESB: Donít remember if anybody ever asked but how did you meet your wife?
Vasily Jirov: With the wife? Like this. I came to Phoenix, and was put up in an apartment complex here. One day I was walking outside and saw this girl, looked her in the face, in her eyes, and realized that she will be my wife. A couple of days later, I saw her again, sitting alone in the Jacuzzi, came over and in my broken English explained myself somehow, and we became acquainted, and realized that we were indeed right for each other.
ESB: You know itís interesting. I wanted to ask what your kidsí names are, but I already know one is Nicholas cause you scalded him so many times so far while we were talking.
Vasily Jirov: Yea Nicholas, Nikolai. I am not scalding him, just that the wife and I are in a hair salon now, because we went to get their hair cuts. So he is running around everywhere, while they are cutting Jacobís hair.
First one is Yakov, in Russian, and Jacob in English. He is getting his haircut, and Nikolai is running around and grabbing everything he can get his hands on, nail polish, shampoo. He likes it, cause he is a very curious child, and wants to look at everything, and I have to look after him so that he doesnít wreck something. He is very curious, and itís very interesting for him, and he wants to know how and what everything is made out of.
ESB: How old are they?
Vasily Jirov: Nikolai is 2, and Jacob is 5.
ESB: Why did you name them that?
Vasily Jirov: We were just looking for names that we can pronounce correctly in Russian and in English. Strong names, that the wife and I could pronounce correctly, and ones that hinted at strength and history. Yakov and Nikolai are good Russian names, and Jacob and Nicholas are good English names. Strong ones.
ESB: Even though they are Americans now, do you want them to remember the Russo-Kazakh roots of their father?
Vasily Jirov: Of course, and that is why I only speak Russian with them. When they are older, I want to take them home and show them all their relatives, and friends, so that they know their blood and where their father came from.
ESB: Is your mom still there? Will Nikolai and Yakov see their grandma?
Vasily Jirov: Yeah, she is alive and well.
ESB: I also wanted to ask this: Do you think of yourself as Kazakh, or Russian, or what?
Vasily Jirov: You know I never get that question. I mean, I get it, but I canít ever give an answer people want. I consider myself an earthling, and however people like to think of me let them do that. I think about it like this, I was born to this earth and I donít divide people into nationalities, and for me there is only one country and we are all citizens of it. As far as where we are from, that is Mother Earth, and that is our homeland. Everything else is made up by people, who want to divide us into regions, and principalities, and in that way create a ton of problems for everybody.
That is why I donít want this to divide people in the slightest, and I want them to live in peace with each other. Whenever people live together in peace that is always good. Whenever people ask where I am from, I answer the same way, ďfrom Mother Earth,Ē and some are happy with that and say, ďGood, we are glad that you look at people that way.Ē Some get upset and I tell them, ďI donít separate people into groups, because every single person matters.Ē
However, if they ask where I was born, then I start to explain that, ďI was born in the Soviet Union, in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is a big country, between Russia and China, and it has oil, gold, copper and so on.Ē Many people know Kazakhstan and know there is a lot of land, and the land is good (laughing).
ESB: Do you remember how you met Yuri?
Vasily Jirov: Yuri Foreman? Yea we met in Big Bear, when his trainer Tommy Brooks took him there, and trained us together before my fight with Toney. However, the when, where, and at what time, that is unimportant. The important thing is that people find each other and find a common understanding and that is all we should remember and understand.
ESB: He was telling me once about how you were running in the woods in Big Bear and saw a wolf that almost decided to go after you.
Vasily Jirov: Donít remember that, but there are animals like that there. I was running there in the winter, and saw bear tracks once, very fresh at that, and got a little scared, but continued doing what I was doing. Extreme situations like that train the spirit.
Otherwise, a lot of instances like this happened, especially with the dog (laughing) so maybe, cause I donít remember everything. Still I treat everything like that as a life lesson, and another step towards knowing yourself and the world. All animals: Wolves, Dogs, and Bears are Godís creations and I love and respect them all.
ESB: What do you think of Yuri as a person?
Vasily Jirov: He is a very good human being. He is a person with a big heart, and the correct mindset, and I respect him for it, and not only as a boxer, but precisely as a person. See, I like his attitude, but why I like certain people that is hard to say. Why do I love my wife, for instance, right? Itís like I see myself in her.
ESB: Meaning your reflection?
Vasily Jirov: Yeah, a reflection, like the vibrating radiance of your loved one.
I believe that we knew each other in the past, at another time and in another place. I know that I was here on earth before. I go to certain countries and walk around there and feel as if I am at home. I get the feeling that I was there before. We return to earth again, and meet our friends again and expand our life experience.
ESB: I agree. Ok well what kind of music do you use for your ring entrance?
Vasily Jirov: See, to music that connects with my soul. I canít name one particular style. Before it was ďDeep Forrest,Ē but I donít pick a particular style, because we are always changing and growing, and the type of inner vibration I am feeling at that moment is the type of music I select. When you go into the dressing room before a fight, and begin to meditate, and turn yourself off, and start to concentrate on the fight ahead, you donít pay attention to anything else.
ESB: What do you like to read?
Vasily Jirov: I love to read about life, about who we are, and about our previous life, and where we came from. Everything we were taught in school, is important, but not all that we as people need, not only for happiness, but for a peaceful balance in life. I read things that discuss us and who we are in reality.
ďAnastasia,Ē or the ď Ringing Cedars of Russia,Ē by Vladimir Megre. In English, I am reading ďTelos,Ē by Aurelia, Louise Jones.
ESB: What about Movies?
Vasily Jirov: Movies that also make us aware of our existence. For instance one movie I want to watch is called, ďConversation with God.Ē There is even a book like that, and Donald Walsh wrote it, and now the movie is coming out tomorrow over here in Phoenix. Then there is also another movie called ďSecret.Ē Spiritual movies, that are basically similar in nature to what I read.
ESB: Interesting. I also always wanted to ask about that comedian Borat. Do you know who that is?
Vasily Jirov: Nope, never heard of him.
ESB: He is this British comedian who likes to rip on Kazakhstan all the time.
Vasily Jirov: Well then I think itís time he and I have a chat. (laughing) Seriously though if that is how he earns his bread then good for him. I donít get upset over things like that, but I will say that he should be careful because one day somebody might not get his jokes.
ESB: Vasily, thank you very much for your time. This interview will be seen by both Russian and English speaking readers. What do you want to say to them?
Vasily Jirov: I want to say, I hope people live with love towards one another and the earth our mother. So that everybody is happy, and that there is peace in the world, because right now we are going through this period, where the earth is getting rid of the dirt that has piled up. It seems many people donít understand that this is happening, and I hope that they have patience towards themselves, and to everything else living on earth.
I want to thank Vasily Jirov for his time, and truly I as well as many boxing fans, wish him title shots, titles, fame, fortune, and anything else a boxer like him deserves.
I would also like to thank Yuri Foreman for getting me in contact with Vasily. Yuriís hand has healed, Top Rank has him signed, and fighting on the Cotto, Margarito showcase card, December 2nd, seems like a giant possibility, which is why we wish him luck as well.
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