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Bakhodir Jalolov: Chasing More Gold

Jalolov

Hoodwinked into fighting. It’s not a claim you hear every day, especially not from an elite boxer such as Uzbekistan’s Bakhodir Jalolov.

Yet that’s exactly how the undefeated heavyweight prospect and Olympic gold medallist describes his introduction to the noble art, his father duping him into killing time in the gym while he awaited a call from his school football team.

“My dad was a very tough rough guy,” Jalolov tells Boxing Social. “He was a wrestler himself, a freestyle wrestler. As a kid I was always playing soccer. My dad told me at the age of 11 years old that he’s gonna get me into a boarding school. So I stayed there. And he told me that there is no room in the soccer classes there but there’s room in boxing classes.

“So I should do boxing for a little bit just to stay in the school and then he’s going to move me to the soccer team. But he was lying because there was no room at all. He just wanted me to be in boxing. You know, be involved in a ‘man’s sport’. He didn’t really like soccer so he wanted me to be a fighter. I started boxing, didn’t like to for the first of couple of months, but little by little I started getting better and better.”

This Friday evening Jalolov will be showcasing just how far he’s come since those early days of schoolboy pugilism when he takes on Belgium’s Jack Mulowayi. The 6′7″ Uzbek’s journey into professional boxing has thus far been a perfect one; 10 fights, 10 wins, 10 knockouts.

But it’s also come at a time when amateur boxing introduced one particularly significant change, namely the 2016 introduction of professionals into the Olympic Games. It meant that Jalolov, who made his pro debut against Hugo Trujillo in 2018, was also in competition against the likes of Frazer Clarke and Richard Torrez at the Tokyo Games in 2021.

It’s made his development an unusual one, the added sharpness from facing quality amateurs helping him to dispatch inferior opponents in the paid ranks.

“I’m a realistic guy and I understand that when I just turned pro the fights were easier, the opponent is not top level, top quality. At the same time I was facing the very top notch in the amateurs so the fights in the pros weren’t as hard.

“But it’s never easy because you’re preparing for a fight. You’re training, you’re sparring, you’re learning in training camp. It’s always hard, you always work, I always prepare for the toughest fight of my life. Looking at it realistically I understand that the fights are getting tougher and tougher. This guy (Jack Mulowayi) is is a very good boxer and I respect him.

“I do not underestimate any of my opponents, I know that I’m a heavyweight and in this weight class one punch can change anything.”

Winning Olympic gold last year has undoubtedly been the highlight of Jalolov’s career thus far, the culmination of consistently competing at an elite level which earned him gold at the 2019 World Championships and 3 gold medals at the much-revered Asian Championships in 2017, 2019 and 2021.

He’s rightly proud but is already trying to put it to the back of his mind as he aims to fulfil another lofty ambition.

“Everything comes with experience. I’ve been in the Olympic games when I was very young, still growing up (2016 Games, losing in the quarterfinals to Britain’s Joe Joyce). That gave me some experience. Then I became an Asian champion, a world champion, and each step has given me more and more experience and confidence.

After striking Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020, Jalolov now hopes to become undisputed heavyweight champion as a pro.

“The Olympic Games was my dream, it was my goal. When I was younger, at the first Olympics, I set the goal that I want to become, and that I’m gonna become, an Olympic champion and I did it last year. After that I have my goal to become undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Right now I’m focused on that.

“The Olympic Games and everything else is in the past. That experience is everything that I have right now but I’m learning and growing up towards my main goal, and that’s becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion.”

Jalolov will once again head into this next fight under the guidance of his trainer, Gennadiy Mashyanov. The two have formed a close bond over the past few years, the Russian honing Jalolov’s agile footwork and fast hands to maximum effect. The experienced cornerman was recently celebrated for the manner in which he managed Dmitry Bivol through to victory over Canelo Alvarez earlier this year, and Jalolov feels certain that such success can only be a good thing for his own development.

“His style is a very, very good fit for me. In 2018 we started working together. I spent time with him, Dmitry (Bivol), and Sergey (Kuzmin) and I really picked up a lot of things from him. He was helping me, advising me during my world championship and Olympic Games. So he’s very experienced.

“He’s raised himself a couple of Olympic champions and good amateur and professional fighters, been in professional boxing for a while, so his advice and his technique is kind of unique but it fits me really well. The distance in boxing, the management of distance and using my all my attributes like my size and length and my jab and footwork.”

Many have already been touting the 27-year old-southpaw as the future of the blue ribbon division, with Jalolov himself champing at the bit to take on the best in his weight class. He recognises, however, that patience will be required in order for him to reach the heavyweight summit.

“Me as fighter, myself, I feel myself ready, anytime, ready to go. But this is professional boxing and there’s a business side to it. And that’s the reason I have a team of professional people around me and when they tell when they give me the opportunity. When they tell me that I’m ready, let’s go. If it’s up to me, I think that I’m ready right now, but that’s the reason that I have a team around me. When they will guide me to the world championship fight I’ll be ready for it.”