We talk to Astana Arlans’ General Director Bolat Mankenov about his team’s progress this season.
Congratulations on making the finals. You made significant changes at the beginning of the season. Are you happy with the way things have progressed so far?
Definitely, we have made good administration decisions. Moreover, since the very beginning we have imagined having 22 boxers for our team, which is much more than required. However, we deeply analysed the situation and came to a conclusion that 15-17 boxers may be not enough as many of them get injured or sick. We wanted to make sure of having enough replacement boxers to keep our team strong at all times. That strategy proved to be the right one.
With so many International fighters in your team how do you structure your training?
Actually we’ve managed to organise the training centrally for the whole team apart from the Croatian boxers – who train at home. We have got their training programme and compare them to ours so that we are in line with each other. So far this approach has worked really well.
You spoke at the beginning of the season about building the brand into a major international sports team. In addition to having a great WSB season have you developed any additional structures to consolidate this?
Our strategic development plan was designed over a five year period and we are following it. Our team has been one of the most consistent performers in WSB over the last three seasons. But apart from a purely sportive point of view, we are also working on the marketing side with merchandising and so on. For instance, this year we have launched our own clothing brand. Also during the last three WSB seasons we have gathered around 10,000 amazing photos which will be exhibited and sold at the Team Finals. We have also made many documentaries about our boxers and those films have been successful in the world of Social Media. Soon we’ll be launching the footage on TV. Basically, we are on the right track to accomplish our goals.
Who has been your stand out boxer of the season?
I would not like to distinguish anyone in particular as each and every boxer has done his best and I am not just talking about those who fought this Season, but also about those who did not have the opportunity to fight. Everybody has worked hard and we have the feeling that our whole team is one family, where everybody matters.
What are the main factors that have contributed to your success this season?
I would first of all like to say a big thank you to the Head of our Supervisory Board, Mister Maydanovitch, who has been with us since the very beginning. He has given me the freedom to write the program the team follows. He hasn’t only approved the whole development programme, but he has also taken care of the team like nobody else could. We feel his support in whatever we do. And we all know that the team owes its success to Mr. Maydanovich.
How are your team feeling as the event gets closer?
They are in a great shape. We always organise different sports activities for them, like basketball for instance. Last Friday they were playing paintball against a team of journalists and supporters!
How do you feel about facing Ukraine again?
I respect all the teams in WSB, they are all great and I would not differentiate between them. As for the Otamans, I have very good relationship with this team, their management and many of their boxers, but after all we are opponents in the ring so all these relationships will have to be left aside. Talking about them in the ring, they have an excellent team of really famous boxers. So I am convinced that the whole world will enjoy this Team Finals as we will see some really excellent boxing in there. But it will be in the ring where we will find out which team is actually the strongest.
You beat Ukraine twice this season already; do you think they will be more dangerous this time?
It is a great honour to be in the finals with a fantastic Ukrainian Franchise. But I must say, as an athlete with 40 years of experience, for boxers it does not matter if they get ready for a first match, the quarterfinals or semi-finals. The efforts are always the same. We like the Ukrainians, always get the guys ready as for their last battle. Therefore I hope these Finals will be historic and we will remember them for outstanding boxing.
You have a very large and international team. Will that be the case next season as well? Do you have any plans for next season yet?
It would not be just me to decide it, but I must admit that I like our team a lot this season. It represents 10 different cultures and thanks to that they enrich each other. This is impressive. We even have one Israeli and one Iranian in our team who against all political issues play in one team, train together, pose in pictures together and hug each other so honestly. This confirms that we are all children of one God. All our boxers have the same goal and we are just like a family.
Finally, what does it mean to the people of Astana to be hosting this event?
Taking into consideration the discussions around it in the social media, there is a huge responsibility upon us. We have 10,000 seats to fill in the famous Velodrome, and I am confident we will manage to get it full, so this will be a great event. But apart from the city of Astana, the event will be followed on a national scale. As you know we have a huge country with 17 million citizens. All of them will be able to watch the finals on TV as it will be broadcasted nationally. Many of them are already asking for tickets. We started a huge promotion campaign around the country with TV spots, billboards etc. on May 1st, so we hope all 17 million citizens will countdown to the finals with us. Moreover, there will be a charter of fans from Ukraine. 100 people are planning to come to support Otamans as we have offered really attractive fans packages. The atmosphere will also be amazing, with our volunteers around the venue, the sale points of the clothing brand, our photo exhibition and so on. Finally, we have three years’ experience in hosting events now so we know how to create quality productions.