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Oleksandr Teslenko

Anyone who follows boxing, or my writings, knows that a sovereign state nestled between the Black Sea and Russia has become a conveyor belt of intriguing prospects. That nation is the Ukraine and the latest entry into the must-watch list is 24-year-old Oleksandr Teslenko.

“The Panther,” as he’s been dubbed, picked up the gloved game as a spritely 7-year-old youngster and competed at length in the amateurs. He fought against international competition, as well, amassing a reported record of 224-23. Though hot and cold against the best, his style looks as if it’s well-suited to the hardships of the professional game. Teslenko holds in his possession a timely left, both the jab and hook; a technically proficient right hand; the ability to unload in combination; a liking to the breadbasket (not a trait you see much from a heavyweight anymore); good length; swift-moving hands; and impeccable timing. His height of 6’4” is a favorable asset, too.

So far “Sasha” (another nickname of his) has paced himself nicely, fighting nine times in a little over a-year-and-a-half. His tenth bout is scheduled later this month against Marcos Vazquez, a Mexican whose record shows 8 wins, 0 losses and 1 draw. Vazquez’s draw was to a man making his debut, however, and he has defeated only one opponent who holds a winning record, so it seems highly unlikely that he finishes on his feet against Teslenko. But it’s all in the name of progression. Few fighters bypass these near-entry level fights and it’s almost assured that his rate of growth will expand more quickly than what we often see—a guy who takes 25-30 bouts before dipping his toes in the cold water of the upper echelon.

Moreover, the state of heavyweight boxing, which has parity due to Wladimir Klitschko’s decline, enables a skillful man like Teslenko to weave through the light traffic as he approaches the top. In fact, with the opposition “The Panther” has already fought and beat, he’s managed to come away with a ranking of 74 on boxrec.

Heavyweights are some of the hardest ones to makes bets on in terms of where they will end up because the chances of them falling victim to a knockout is higher. Does Oleksandr Teslenko have the chin to withstand the punishment? I don’t know, but Slavs are renowned for their work ethic. When you combine that with ability you already have a leg up on the competition.

The Ukrainian “Panther” should be a player in a few short years.