Astana Arlans Kazakhstan’s General Director Bolat Mankenov has revealed that the defending World Series of Boxing (WSB) champions will be looking to bolster their line-up this season in the face of increased competition.
The team are taking recruitment so seriously that they have even considerd risking a deadline day move for up to six boxers at the 2013 World Championships in Almaty to ensure that they take to the field with the “strongest current fighters” available this season. With the deadline for registration on October the 15th the gamble is widely viewed to be the result of their having been drawn in the so called “Group of Death” featuring the WSB bad boys Azerbaijan Baku Fires, the proud Mexico Guerreros, tough underdogs Hussars Poland, an unknown quantity in the potentially lethal Russian team and of course WSB new boys the Cuba Domadores.
In this candid interview Mankenov reveals how his team has been preparing in the pre-season.
When will you be confirming your final boxing roster?
We are planning to announce all our boxers for the next season around the first of November as we should have finalized the whole selection process by that time.
Recently 29 of our would-be team members were sent to a training camp getting ready for the competition. This is, our first phase of preparations. They got back on the 26th of September and left shortly after for the final stage of preparations in the training camp in Almaty. There they are focusing on physical training before the Season starts in November.
Apart from that, in August, the guys also had a health care program at the Black sea where we ran diagnostics. This is how we primarily evaluated their capacities and readiness for the season. After observing the boxers throughout all the preparation phases we will be able to finalize the roster.
Are there any boxers that you can already confirm for fans?
Definitely! I can already say that there are at least 12 boxers selected again from last season. We have already renewed the contracts for our foreign legionnaires: the Croatians Hrvoje Sep and Filip Hrgovic, the Ukrainian Sergiy Derevyanchenko and the Iranian Ehsan Rouzbahani. We made the same offer Romanian boxer Mihai Nistor, but unfortunately he declined it. Thus sadly he won’t be with the Arlans this season.
Are any of your boxers going to the World Championships?
We don’t usually get this information from the Federations (as many of our boxers are internationals), so this is something we find out randomly. So far I know that the Uzbek boxer Ramzjon Ahmedov and the Israeli Konstantin Snigur are going to be there. Out of the four legionnaires who, as I just mentioned signed contracts with us, both Hrvoje Sep and Filip Hrgovic as well as Ehsan Rouzbahani will also be there I expect. Meanwhile the Ukrainian Sergiy Derevyanchenko is getting ready for the new WSB season.
We really hope that they will all perform well there, as of course, they are representing our team as well.
How much rest will the boxers need following the World championships to recover? Does an athlete start training again quite gently or can they start training at full power/speed etc. quite quickly?
It should be decided on an individual basis depending on the exertion they go through during the World Championships. Each boxer should be approached differently in this regard. Ideally, there should be at least one full month of recovery afterwards.
As the world championships is quite close to the start of the season, is there a chance it could affect your team selection?
Let’s be honest, of course we would prefer to have more systematic approach to training and preparation process but we took into consideration the fact that the World Championships is taking place right before the new season. We may try to sign a few extra boxers at that time. I really hope that the boxers we approach will be interested in joining our team after the Championships. It will also help us to complete the team with the current strongest fighters and this is an advantage in this case.
Do you have a centralised or decentralised structure (e.g. do athletes all train together or are they spread around the world)?
As I said, I prefer a centralised and systematic approach when all the boxers spend their time within the team. The reason for this is simple – we are one big united family. Besides that it is really risky to appoint line-ups for the matches without being able to watch how the boxer performs at the trainings at any particular moment in time. And with this team competition format when the score of the team depend on the summary of victories of the boxers, we have to control boxer’s performance.
How do you coach your international boxers during matches and in the build-up – are there language barriers?
We have never ever had any problems with our legionnaires. Our team is very international and we have to deal with different cultures, languages and religions on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons why I prefer the centralised training approach by the way. That is how they get together and help each other, they all learn things from each other and integrate better and faster. As for our management, almost all our managers speak three languages including English, our sports manager also speaks English so we don’t have any difficulties in that department. In order to facilitate the life of our boxers we had Russian lessons for English speaking boxers and English lessons for Russian speakers. I would say we managed to create very comfortable atmosphere for everybody within our team regardless their origin.
Who do you view as your main rivals in the group and why?
This season every single team in our group is a serious rival as they are all potential pretenders to our throne. We will have a difficult task this year to defend our position as champions. We are fully aware of that and we will be getting ready to defend our title by overcoming each and every team. At the same time, we all remain colleagues outside of the competition. I fully respect and appreciate all of them. But this is sports and once the boxers get into the ring we become competitors.
Outside of boxing – which city are you most looking forward to visiting this season and why?
I have been lucky enough to have visited almost all the cities in the WSB franchises. I have also been to Havana…The only city I have not been able to visit yet is Warsaw. I guess I would like to visit it as I studied Polish history at school. It sounds impressive; I would love to see it with my own eyes!
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