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Sergey Kuzmin training for his upcoming bout against Amir Mansour

A 30-year-old prospect isn’t an uncommon site anymore. Loads of glove-branding pugilists from the former Soviet Bloc have grabbed their gym bags and made the foray, successful or otherwise, into the paid ranks around this age. Of course that means their patience is thin. The meaningful fights must come sooner rather than later.

At heavyweight, where Father Time delays punching holes in your timecard, the Russian-born Kuzmin may have years to work with before serious physical deterioration sets in. Part of preventing bodily decline is staying shape and all too often have boxing fans seen gifted and initially inspired individuals give way to hedonism. The common theme, not only among these post-title tubs who threw it down the drain but just about every heavyweight, is to gain weight as their career progresses. Sergey Kuzmin has trended the opposite. He began his career as a 260-pounder and has brought that to a fitter, quicker 244. I hope to see this continue.

Dedication will only let you climb the ladder of success, however. A multitude of other factors have to be conditioned and channeled into the ring to get you over the hump. The 11-0 (8 KO’s) Saint Petersburg-resident lacks the size and wallop that help others along (e.g. Anthony Joshua), but he’s not a love-tapper and he isn’t small. The eight stoppages inside the distance–five coming in his last five fights–tell you that something is there. Most of these finishes are the product of an improving straight right hand, which he masks well with a versatile jab.

His most well-known kayo might have been in the amateurs at the 2013 European Amateur Boxing Championships. Sergey took out Great Britain’s Joe Joyce in a round. In that fight he went right after the taller man, throwing a volley of blows which prompted a standing count from the referee. Once allowed to continue, the 6’3” Kuzmin kept up the pressure and it wasn’t long after that the Russian planted Joyce on the canvass with a stiff cross.

Kuzmin’s amateur experience extends to bouts with Roberto Cammarelle, Viktar Zuyev Magomedrasul Majidov and Filip Hrgovic, as well.

Stylistically Kuzmin has other assets. He is a come-forward guy who has a workmanlike pace. He doles out his left often and finds a way to close the distance with it, even against taller guys. He isn’t outside of letting his hands go in combination either. The left hook plays second fiddle to the straight, but it’s a tool he makes good use of for variety’s sake. His defense consists of inching head movement, both left and right, which is no doubt the byproduct of years as an amateur on the international level. While one wouldn’t classify him as slick, he doesn’t take many clean shots and I haven’t found anything to suggest that his chin is an issue.

In his next fight we may find out how good his chin is, as he has managed to lure the hard-throwing Amir Mansour from his American confines and into the cold fall of Moscow, Russia. A victory over the 45-year-old Mansour would get his foot near the door of the top-10 and closer to his greater goals. For a soon-to-be 12-fight pro, that’s a worthy step.

Playing the bettor, my money is on Sergey Kuzmin, who looks a notch above the Travis Kauffman Mansour struggled with, to see this one through.