A year ago, Bolat Mankenov wrote a letter of resignation as the General Director of the Astana Arlans. It was his own decision, no one pressured him. Twelve months later however, the situation is totally different.
The Arlans have won the World Series of Boxing (WSB) Team Finals in front of 5,000 screaming home fans in Astana. Squeezing out an exciting 6-5 win against Ukraine Otamans, the Arlans finally became WSB Champions. Mankenov, who is still with the team after all, explains what made his squad stronger.
What emotions did you experience when “Astana Arlans Kazakhstan” went down in the WSB 4:5 to rivals Ukraine Otamans after having dominated the match for so long?
Shock. We really were entering the “wolf’s lair” then. But thanks to Ruslan Myrsatayev we got out of it. After the victory of Baghdad Alimbekov I felt empty inside. I did not want to scream or cry. I just wanted to stand and be silent.
What’s the story about your tuxedo, you wore at the award ceremony?
I put on a tuxedo for the first time in my life at the ceremony. I bought it a year ago in Mexico when our club was fighting there. I said to the guys “I will only put it on after your victory in the WSB.” But then we did not make it to the finals. So I brought it this time to the locker room on the second day of the Team Finals, but when we won, I just forgot about it! The boys remembered though, and shouted “Bolat, put your tuxedo on!”
Which boxers are good examples of professionalism in your view?
There are many: Samat Bashenov, Ruslan Myrsatayev, Baghdad Alimbekov and others. Baghdad, by the way, is a great example of an athlete with a professional work ethic. Remember how hard it was for him last season. He had two fights and did not know what distance to box at. He often got caught heavily in exchanges. He asked the club to stick by him and we didn’t give up on him. Our doors are always open to our team and I’m as glad as Baghdad is to see him progressing. I am sure he will eventually box like Meirbolat Toitov – without any limitations.
You club name is “Astana”, but most of the matches took place this year in Almaty. Do you want to organize matches in other cities, like Shymkent and Karaganda?
That is my dream. But there is organizational complexity in terms of getting the same broadcast quality. According to the rules, it should be HD-quality. Do we have the same standard of equipment in all these regions for example? Also do not forget about the experience the Russians had. They wanted to fight in St. Petersburg this year rather than Moscow, and once suffered an event cancellation for logistical reasons.
You said that your dream was for the club to earn 33% of the total budget. Has that happened?
While that would be great, currently we earn 15%. But we have invested heavily, and the results are already there. We are also benefiting from the work of our PR firm which has launched an Astana Arlans clothing brand. And last year, we got about 60 thousand dollars through tickets sales (excluding rent). For this year we still need to do the accounting.
What about sponsors?
We are always open to negotiation and we never ask for a huge sum. But there was a case where one company said they would sponsor us, and in return we would have to place their logo on our banners and so on. Do you know how much they offered? 400 thousand Tenge (250 dollars). But if the offer is reasonable, we accept it with great pleasure.
What can be considered your major achievement of the year?
The atmosphere in our team is actually our best achievement. For instance I said to the head coach Sergei Korchynsky “gather the team on December 23”. We brought them all together with their wives and children. We had a fantastic holiday together. And the most important thing is that none of the boxers got out of shape.
I’ve heard that every boxer cooked the speciality food of his home country.
Yes. Also it turned out that Philip Hrgovich sings really well. But the most memorable speech was of the Iranian Ehsan Ruzbahani. He first sang and then danced and then so did the Irishman Donovan But the guys did not just make fun of each other and they also helped pitch in with everything. We are really a close-knit team.
Will Sergiy Korchynsky remain the head coach?
We talked to him, we shook hands and he will stay. Next year’s squad will be picked by him.