29 April 2010 – By Steve Wellings
Take two local trainers, a Cork businessman, BBBofC matchmaker and one ambitious Georgian heavyweight. Such an eclectic mix may seem strange in anywhere other than the hectic world of Irish professional boxing.
The heavyweight in question is 31-year-old Vladimir Chanturia, a 12-1 (8 KOs) prospect straight out of the Ukraine and ready to base himself in Belfast.
This is Vladimirs second time in Belfast, the first was in 2001 for the World Championship tournament and hes delighted to be back here, Gary Hyde enthused about his new signing.
Zauri Antia, the Irish amateur boxing coach, is a friend of Vladimirs and he told me of his abilities and said he just needed a good manager.
Ive never been so excited about a fighter.
High praise, considering Hyde once held the multiple signatures of Cuban trio Alexei Acosta, Mike Perez and Luis Garcia, and currently counts red hot prospect Guillermo Rigondeaux amongst his stable.
Hell be based in Belfast, continued Gary, but we are looking to move him about. Having a valid visa for the United States means we can take training camps over there.
We want two fights in May to get him back on the radar and I think within a matter of months he can be ready for anyone. Hes got great enthusiasm and is ready for anything.
Vladimir comes with quite an amateur reputation, having claimed a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Even more impressively the V-Train outpointed former WBA heavyweight champion Ruslan Chagaev with the Uzbekistan native arguably at his amateur peak. A quarter-final reverse to another future professional champion, WBO ruler Sultan Ibragimov, saw Chanturia turn professional. The move to the paid code was in name only, as his training stayed strictly amateur.
He has all the foundations to be a top professional but the style needs tweaked because he is still a little amateurish, explained Tony Dunlop, who will be overseeing the fitness regime alongside former Martin Rogan trainer Paul McCullagh.
We want to get him to improve the punch leverage and shorten his shots while taking side steps Paul McCullagh is a master at this. He can do nothing but improve and I see Vlad as a fresh 31-year-old whos taken no punishment. He punches very hard, trust me, Ive felt that knockout power on the pads.
The laconic Chanturia exudes charm and speaks enough broken English to put his points across.
Im aggressive, I like to come forward and get inside to throw the hard shots, he said.
Belfast is a great city and I have a good trainer and manager here; I aim to be a world champion.
The immediate plan is to travel down to Dublin for some sparring work before preparing for his May 8 debut in the Holiday Inn on Alan Wiltons next show. Vladimir made sure we understood the circumstances surrounding his sole professional loss, to Vladimir Lazebnik.
My loss was a very bad decision and it was on the opponents home show. I knocked him down twice but still lost the fight and after that I left Ukraine. I said it would be my last fight there after being hard done too.
Hes a personality with loads of charisma, interceded Hyde. Vladimir has a wife and three kids at home and once success comes along we will bring his family over. He has a Belfast visa so can come and go. Hes already sending money back home what a great character.
Hes ready for the big time, no record padding; I reckon a fight in the US in June could be on the cards and then back to Belfast.
Quite where Vladimir fits in on the domestic scene remains to be seen and Belfast appears to be little more than a solid base for his career progression. Polish journeyman Tomasz Zaprzalka will provide the first test, which will likely be a sharpening-up exercise.
I thought when I saw him at 12-1 he was the finished article, added Paul McCullagh.
He has got that far already and I can see things we need to improve on which means there is a lot more to come it takes time, he added.
The best way to gauge Vladimirs potential will be next Saturday at the Holiday Inn where the fans will be able to catch their first glimpse of The Midnight Train from Georgia.
Tickets available from the matchmaker on 07882671139 or Alan Wilton direct on 07880926596.