Boxing: Russian talent impresses Maloney

Steve Bunce
Tuesday 24 December 2002 01:00

Frank Maloney returned from a week in St Petersburg with a new fur coat and his first world heavyweight champion since his split with Lennox Lewis last year.

Maloney has been carefully grooming the Georgian Georgi Kandelaki for more than four years and when there was an opportunity to fight Russia's faded Alex Vassiliev for the vacant World Boxing Union heavyweight title he immediately accepted. Kandelaki improved his record to 23 fights without defeat when he stopped Vassiliev in the 12th and last round at the Ice Palace in St Petersburg on Saturday and Maloney believes that Russia is poised to become a leading fight country.

"There are thousands of quality Russian boxers and each time I go to a show in Russia I'm impressed," claimed Maloney, who had to buy a new wardrobe because of the severe cold when he arrived last week. "There are boxers there that, with a bit of quality coaching, could take on and beat the very best in the world."

During the last three years Maloney, who works for Frank Warren's Sports Network, has used hundreds of boxers from the former Soviet republics as opponents for rising domestic fighters but he now thinks it is time to change the emphasis.

It is probably a wise move to improve the quality of the imports because this year far too many looked in bad shape and fought without any desire in fights that were as one-sided as the mismatches involving fat Mexicans back in the 1970s.

"We will be looking to put on shows in Russia and develop the local talent because they are too good to be used as journeymen in fights all over Europe," Maloney added. "Kandelaki is the start and by the end of next year he will be ready for any of the other heavyweight champions."

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