Andreas Katzourakis (6-0, 5 KOs) is in serious shape. Every edge of his torso is sharp, and his defined abs look painful, chiselled into his skin. This isn’t just an average fighter travelling overseas to make up the numbers or keep morale ticking over in the gym after national publicity; it’s a war machine.
The unbeaten middleweight, known as the ‘Pride of Hellas,’ has recently made the permanent transition from the suburbs of Athens – a city drowning in ancient culture – to the rolling hills of Big Bear, California, which are either smothered with debilitating snow or barely breathing in the intensity of summer heat.
The Summit Gym awaits Katzourakis again, with his trainer Abel Sanchez plotting his next middleweight king’s route to the top. Pressure doesn’t affect the European star, however, who detailed the additional weight of expectation when speaking to Boxing Social.
“I wouldn’t say that it was a lot different in terms of psychology, or that I was feeling more pressure to fight here in the US. I enjoy it as much as I was fighting in my gym back in Greece. Nothing changed for me in this manner. But it’s different because here, you know that with boxing, you can have a future,” said Katzourakis.
“That’s something that you know here in the US, and even in the UK. These are the two powerhouses in professional boxing. The only thing that really changed in my mind is that here, if I give everything, I will have a future.
“Back in Greece, it’s different because we don’t have the professional ranks. We don’t have many shows, and we don’t have the money to produce talent. I knew that if I continued back in Greece it could be more difficult for me to achieve my goals, but even though I never like to use the word ‘impossible’. I mean, it is very difficult for me moving to the other side of the world to achieve my goals. But at least here you have the possibility. In Greece, you wouldn’t have the same opportunity.”
An early introduction to combat sports in the Greek capital set Katzourakis on his current career path and fighting runs in the family. His father is a kickboxing instructor, and it was this discipline which brought the young fighter to the gym at age five.
“I started fighting and competing when I was five-years old in point fighting, in semi-contact. It’s like a kickboxing style, but it’s similar to karate. So, as I was growing older and older, I was starting to fight in light contact (low kicks), then full contact, and all those kinds of styles. When I was 14-years old, I started boxing,” he said.
“So, the first real, vivid memory that I have, since I was young and I was fighting, was when I was eight-years old and I fought in my first European championship. And I think the category was either eight to 10-years old, or eight to 12-years old. And I remember I went to the semi-final, and I fought a Ukrainian guy that was the world champion at the time. I lost that fight. But then I took third place in the European championship.
“I think that’s like the most vivid memory; because I’ve never had a beating like that in my life again,” laughed the 23-year old, who is beautifully fluent in English from his time studying the language at school. He had been subconsciously preparing himself for a move to Los Angeles, also studying Sanchez’s previous, career-defining work with 160lbs destroyer, Gennady Golovkin.
It’s this division that Katzourakis intends on dominating, following in the footsteps of middleweight greats such as Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins. He didn’t quite strike Boxing Social as the cold, calculated warmonger, Hagler, or the loud, braggadocious reformed prisoner, Hopkins. Katzourakis was more like Golovkin, if anyone; he was quiet, but spoke extremely well, and his eyes could cut clean through glass.
Katzourakis spoke of the next 12 months and was unsurprisingly all business. “By the end of the year, the best outcome for me would be five more fights. And probably by the beginning of the next year, to fight for a title. Not the whole world title. You know, to fight for a smaller title that will begin my progress in the ranks,” he said.
“I think it will be massive [to fight for a world title in Greece]. And that’s one of my goals. When I become a world champion here, in the United States, I want to basically raise the level of boxing back in Greece, too. To be able to put boxing in every home back in Greece, and for more young talents to be able to showcase their skill set, and to give more opportunities to the fighters back home. Because we have talent. We have good fighters, but if there is no potential, and if there are no opportunities for you to make a living out of it, then most people will not continue.”
The unbeaten Greek prospect has been allowed to follow his own dreams with the assistance of management powerhouse, Split-T, and the guidance of Brendan Segalas. The company – who look after Teofimo Lopez and an abundance of young talent – have taken Katzourakis under the wing and are preparing for further success.
Katzourakis explained the importance of a solid management company when discussing his immediate future. “Once I split with my other manager (for personal reasons), I stayed in Greece. I think it was around eight months. And within those eight months, Split-T got in touch with me. Brendan Segalas, my manager, got in touch with me, and we started talking about the contract, negotiating, see how my career would progress here in US with them, and everything took shape,” he recalled.
“I think it’s very important. It’s very important because what you said is 100% true. In any other sport, a loss, or a bump, or if you’re not doing so good for a certain period, it’s nothing serious, you know? You have time to regroup, and train, and get back. In boxing, if you lose a fight, your career is done. So having the right people beside you to guide your career, make the best deals for you, it’s very important to me.”
Bringing big time boxing to Greece is a massive ask, as the nation have not experienced headlines from the sport since the Olympics of 2002. But Katzourakis, built for combat, is determined. And with the support of his burgeoning management company, and his renowned trainer, who can argue against him?
“I’ll tell you that what I have in mind right now is to become a world champion and to be able to defend my title as many times as possible,” said Katzourakis. “And from then on, you never know. If everything goes well, I will become a multiple-division champion and I’ll keep defending my titles.
“I have dreams of being a real professional that will get to the world championship level and stay there. Not just get there, stay for a night, and finish. I want to bring boxing back home.”