The Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia knows all about war. Its roots date back to the Middle Ages, but it rose to prominence during the 1930s and 1940s. Now home to the nation’s largest arms manufacturer and the grounds of the Ukrainian Royal Air Force headquarters, firepower is still in abundance.
Talking to Boxing Social whilst approximately 10,000km from those streets he grew up on, Vinnytsia’s own Serhii Bohachuk (18-0, 18 KOs) is vanquishing opponents at every outing. His infallible record of stopping every boxer he’s shared the ring with as a professional is gripping, but in reality, it’s not something the super-welterweight places much importance on.
“My first professional trainer, Abel Sanchez, he told me that I should never chase the knockout. If it comes, it comes,” explained the unbeaten prospect, speaking through his translator, Samir Azizi. “If I do that, if I try and chase the knockout, it could play a prank on me [and backfire]. I’d miss a lot of punches and I don’t want to do that.
“I just want more people to know about me. I want more people to watch my fights and that’s why I’m also working on building my social media profiles. I’m doing it to increase my reach, so that there’s more people watching my next fight, because I know that’s what I have to do.”
Bohachuk seems to have an impressive, solid grasp of boxing’s business element, despite only recently learning basic English and fighting without the benefit of a blockbuster opponent thus far. Despite that, the backing of Tom Loeffler (360 Promotions/GGG Promotions) – respected promoter of both Serhii and Gennadiy Golovkin – has been a constant as he continues boosting his fighter’s profile.
It was a grind, building up his following and interacting regularly with fans on his own, but it’s also what led to this conversation with Boxing Social.
He doesn’t come from much, so in essence, Bohachuk has little to lose. But breaking away from the family unit in Ukraine was tough, and moving to America after suffering through a childhood with very little cash had led to his appreciation of hard work and the success that could follow.
“First of all, it was never actually my intention to become a boxer. I just needed to protect myself in my neighbourhood and to defend myself against bullying, so I started boxing when I was about 11,” he said. “It was a bad childhood; I’m from a very poor family, so I had to achieve everything on my own. Nobody helped me. It was cool, but in the neighbourhood, I had to do everything for myself.”
The California-resident continued, “I have two older brothers. One is seven years older than me; the other is nine years older. My parents got divorced when I was nine, so I was living with my mother and my brothers. They’re still living in Ukraine now, actually. When I started earning my first money in boxing – back in Ukraine, during my amateur career when I was attending and winning championships – I decided this could really become a career.”
It was on a fateful evening in Kharkiv, Ukraine, that Bohachuk’s potential was revealed to an unsuspecting, wider audience during a WSB show. He was drafted in to face the reigning Olympic champion and Cuban maestro, Roniel Iglesias. Bohachuk has commented previously that he was only “there to fill the gap”, as nobody else fancied the task. But he did and he emerged victorious, shocking almost everybody in attendance and leaving the venue roaring.
The decision to move to Big Bear, California, ahead of a professional debut in February 2017 wasn’t taken lightly. Dubbed ‘El Flaco’ (translated to ‘The Skinny’), Serhii was in unfamiliar territory, surrounded by experienced pros and an extremely disciplined head trainer in Sanchez, famed for his recent work with Kazakh legend Golovkin and Murat Gassiev, amongst others.
“I came to the US because I wanted to really make it in professional boxing,” the 25-year old stated, recalling the transition. “Unlike the amateurs, when you only have three rounds, I feel much more comfortable as a pro. Three rounds were never enough for me. In the third round, I’d dominate, but that wasn’t enough to win. I came to America to dominate as a professional.
“When I came here at the beginning, the language barrier was very difficult for me. I couldn’t understand the language, or speak it. Now, I’m much better at understanding the way Americans speak, but it’s the values of people in the United States, the culture and the mentality that I struggle with. They’re very different from ours [in Ukraine], so that’s what I’m adjusting to now.”
Due to issues with previous management, Bohachuk and Sanchez parted ways and the Ukrainian is now working alongside the highly respected Manny Robles. Robles – revered for his part in Andy Ruiz’s extraordinary heavyweight title triumph – is taking the 154lbs talent to the next level and the pair are looking ahead to their second fight together in December.
Currently at junior-middleweight, the situation with world titles is easy to digest, with three belts – the IBF, WBA and WBC – held by Jermell Charlo, and the WBO belt presently residing in Sao Paolo, Brazil, with Patrick Teixeira. For Bohachuk, it doesn’t matter when his opportunity arrives, he’ll be ready.
“I think my next fight will be a defence of my WBC Continental Americas title, but in terms of the world titles, that’s not up to me. That’s up to my promoters. It depends what needs to be done [by the guys behind the scenes] because a lot of people want to fight for these titles – it’s not easy to do that. But I’m ready.
“The question is: ‘Are they ready for me?’ I will always be ready for the big world title fights,” Bohachuk stated, with a steely sense of certainty. The man who spoke of his love of fishing at the lakes in Big Bear, and shopping for clothes in his tiny slither of downtime, suddenly flicked the switch.
Punishing fights will follow and tougher hurdles must be cleared if Bohachuk is to realise his goal, but that leaves him calm and emotionless. He’s left behind that young boy from Vinnytsia, the one who tip-toed nervously into the boxing gym to keep himself safe from the young men in his neighbourhood. He represents the city, hoping to export his own heavy artillery and to cement his family’s name in boxing’s rich history.
“Normally, I’ve been winning fights when I’ve been the underdog. I have fought guys when nobody thought I’d win and I’ve won them. Nobody gave me a chance. It’s what I do, and it’s what I want to continue doing in the future,” he said.
“I want to fight the strongest guys, boxing legends, and the best boxers. I want people to know from my career that you can beat anybody, wherever you’ve come from, whatever you’ve been through. I want to be the best.”
Main image: Twitter @SBohachuk.