- Michael Woods, Boxing
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Fight fans are always on the lookout for that next great KO artiste, the one-punch power hitter who viciously steamrolls opponents with animalistic fervor, without conscience and with brutal efficiency.
The game has been lacking in this department of late, with slick technicians such as Floyd Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins, Winky Wright clogging up pound-for-pound lists. Where are the destroyers hell-bent on meting out punishment, the human pit bulls who pack lead in their hands and can separate a man from his senses faster than Michael Buffer can spit out, "Let's get ready to rumble"?
Trolling the net not that long ago, ESPN.com came across a piece touting a Russian-born boxer who'd piled up knockouts in Russia and Australia. The super middleweight, Victor Oganov, had compiled a 26-0 mark, and all 26 of his wins had come via knockout.
Oganov, 30, had made Sunday King Hammer the 24th notch on his belt. King Hammer, according to boxrec, had a record of 11-2 coming into
his bout with Oganov. But eight of those bouts had come against men
making their pro debuts. His was a record softer than a goose down pillow.
But despite the mediocre level of Oganov's foes, word of his especially heavy hands has spread. Two months ago, Gary Shaw, a New
Jersey-based boxing/MMA promoter, signed Oganov, who lives with his
wife and two kids in Australia, to a multiyear deal.
The promoter acknowledges that the fighter has been in with some soft
touches but swears the Russian's hands are legitimately hard.
"He has very, very, very heavy hands," Shaw said. "I heard that in
sparring in Australia and here, he made a lot of guys quit. He's
Tysonesque, but not as muscular."
Last week, the fighter flew from his residence in Australia to Los Angeles to
begin training in earnest for his next scheduled fight. Oganov will
meet Fulgencio Zuniga (19-2-1, 16 KOs, one loss by KO), a
durable 30-year-old Colombian, on Sept. 1.
In halting but comprehensible English, Oganov spoke with ESPN.com about
his KO streak, whether he believes he can reach Lamar Clark's
mark of 44 straight KOs and why he's been a stealth presence in the game until now.
"I don't know if I will continue my streak," says the 5-foot-10,
168-pounder who was born in northern Russia. "We'll see. I
never try to win by KO because if you want it, it's hard to get,
but if you try and win on points, the knockout comes by itself."
It is clear Oganov isn't burdened by an overt fixation on his KO
run. He isn't focusing on the mark held by Clark, a Utah heavyweight
who feasted on a diet of soft-serve subnovices as he racked up KO after KO from 1958 to 1960.
Oganov understands that he is not a finished product and still has a ways
to go before he's seen as more of a fully formed professional than a statistical oddity.
"Sometimes having my power is good, sometimes it's not so good," he
said. "I must also have balance and technique."
Oganov started relatively late on the amateur scene for a Russian, at
age 15. Because he didn't hail from a larger city, he said, he didn't
receive the attention and funding that goes to more-heralded amateurs.
"You need funds and big sponsors to attend all the training camps as
an amateur," he explains. "I lived in a small city, not a boxing
Oganov turned pro at 22, and has yet to find a stable
situation with a trainer, manager and promoter. He has worked for a
spell with all-time bantamweight great Jeff Fenech, an Aussie, as well as with another Russian-born Aussie resident, junior welterweight stud
Kostya Tszyu. Sometimes schedules didn't mesh, other times
personalities. Now, Oganov has latched on with manager Edward Gumashyan, who
enjoys a solid rep for working with Russians in the States. He said a favorite
amateur coach from Russia will help co-trainer Manuel Robles hone his skills.
Shaw brought up a comparison with the archetypical finisher, Tyson,
the sport's standard-bearer for ruthless, irrepressible offensiveness.
That analogy will ensure the fight writers seek out a peek at his new find to determine for themselves whether that billing is hyperbolic or there really is a new badass on the boxing block who demands our attention.
"Oganov is very solid, throws very compact, short punches," Shaw said.
"Regarding his record, experience tells me that in 26 fights, it's not
easy to knock out 26 guys. There are always guys that run. But in the
beginning, his record was somewhat padded."
Shaw isn't promising another KO from the Russian with the perfect
record of early stops.
"The question is now, if he can't get an early KO, can he go 12 rounds?" Shaw says.
To get another take on Oganov's chops, ESPN.com tracked down Sam Reese, who fought Oganov in Russia in February 2006. Reese, the consummate journeyman, has been stopped four times and has lost 16 times in 42 pro starts, but he is no lay-down specialist. The fighter,
who lives in Virginia and sell time-shares full time, gives us his scouting report on Oganov.
"He's a legitimate puncher, a very good power puncher," Reese said.
"He's very easy to hit, though, but he hits hard, period.
Reese has been in with Edison Miranda and has sparred with top-shelf
crackers such as O'Neil Bell and Julian "Mr. KO" Letterlough.
"Oganov punches harder than any of them," Reese said.
"Is he ready for the next level? I couldn't say. But he always has a
And although we continue to scan the Net for that next Tysonesque
specimen, Oganov seems almost eager to finish his streak,
understanding that he cannot have a lengthy, productive career as a
one-hit wonder, a fighter too reliant on power over technique.
"I never think about Clark's record," he said. "I will be happy if I
win Sept. 1 by points. A knockout will be a bonus. But the
record, I don't think about the Guinness book."
Michael Woods, the news editor for TheSweetScience.com, has written for ESPN The Magazine, GQ and The New York Observer.
Victor Oganov, a Russian-born boxer, is coming to the States with his 26-0 record, all of them knockout wins. Even though he has fought many pro debuters, he still might be a challenging competitor, writes Michael Woods.