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August 19, 2011
Hammond, Indiana is the place, this Friday night, the time. And in this corner… from Siberia and Arapahoe, NC.. Evgeny Gradovich.Evgeny Gradovich in Don Turner’s training facility in Arapahoe.
Evgeny, a 24-year-old from Igrim, Russia has been training in Pamlico County for more than a year, building skills in his young professional boxing career. He has fought ten fights – and won them all (6 by knockout). Friday the climb up the ranks of the featherweight division continues.
In a bout that should be shown on ESPN2, Evgeny Gradovich will face off against Robert “Don’t Lose” DaLuz of Providence, RI. DaLuz is far more experienced – he has fought over 50 pro fights. But his alias may be deceptive – “Don’t Lose” has lost 38 of those fights.Don Turner in his training facility with Evgeny Gradovich.From Siberia to Arapahoe and now, Hammond, Indiana. Evgeny Gradovich.
The featherweight fighter has become a common sight on the streets of Oriental in recent months. He was here training because of one man, Don Turner, who runs the Knock You Out boxing training camp in Arapahoe.The sign at the entrance. Boxers from around the globe have trekked to Don Turner’s training camp.
Don’s been training boxers for 42 years, after a career in the ring himself. He was Evander Holyfield’s trainer when he took the heavyweight title. Don Turner was the man in Holyfield’s corner during the famous Holyfield-Tyson fights. Many of his other boxers have gone to the highest levels as well. And now, Evgeny.Evgeny Gradovich, seen here at Don Turner’s training facility in Arapahoe. He’s taping his hands before putting on his gloves.
Don Turner says he first saw Evgeny Gradovich about two years ago on a scouting mission to Russia. Evgeny at that point had been an amateur boxer and in Russia compiled a record of 126 wins in 150 bouts. One of those few losses, ironically, was the Russian national championship which the American scout came to watch. Still, Evgeny caught the eye of Don Turner and Egis Klimas, a Lithuanian-born boxing manager, and they thought, as Turner put it, “This guy might be better than all of them.” Klimas arranged for Evgeny to come to the States and asked Don to train him for professional boxing.
Which is where Don’s training camp in Arapahoe comes in. It’s a cluster of metal buildings, down a dusty road where woods surround fields of corn and cotton. (That’s one of the advantages: in Arapahoe there are few distractions for a young fighter.) Don’s trained other boxers there over the decades, but this past year and a half, he’s been focused on bringing Evgeny along.Evgeny training at Don Turner’s Knock You Out camp. Asked what about boxing draws him to the sport, he says, “I like it. It’s my life.”
One big adjustment for the young native of Siberia is that in becoming a professional, he had to fight more rounds in a match than he did as an amateur in Russia. Amateurs only go only three rounds while professionals do up to 10. “Instead of a nine-minute fight,” says Turner, “it’s a half hour.”
It’s like making the transition from sprinting to longer-distance running. Endurance is key. So far, Evgeny seems to have adjusted well under Turner’s tutelage. He’s won all 10 of the professional fights he’s been in in the past year and a half, the last one in April. Turner says he’s beaten three big names in the featherweight division.
After one of Evgeny’s last fights, Don asked John LaGuardia of Village Health and Fitness in Oriental to help Evgeny with strength, conditioning and balance.
John says that in addition to his two hours a day of training in the ring in Arapahoe, Evgency would come to the Village Club and go thru a workout that included stretches, jumps and medicine balls — (just try picking one up with the mistaken thought it’s as light as a basketball.)On those days when he didn’t train, the regimen still called for Evgeny to do what LaGuardia calls, “active rest.” He couldn’t just watch video, says LaGuardia, but “had to do something” and he did: basketball, swimming, bike riding.