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Text: Andrey NOVOKHATKO
Photos: Alexey CHUGUY

Gleb Bakshi: “When I step into the ring - I put on the mask of warrior”

CM №1 (24) 2020

A Crimean, world boxing champion, champion of Russia and world-class master of sports Gleb Bakshi is undoubtedly our hope for receiving a gold medal at the Tokyo Summer Olympics 2020. We have met with Gleb in between training camps and had a conversation with him not only about boxing, but also about sanctions, raising of children, breathing techniques, precious metals and plans for future.

Being a part of the national team, the athlete passed the first stage of training camps in Kyrgyzstan in January. The team carried out the second stage in Kislovodsk in February and traveled to Italy to take part in training camps. The final preparation for the games was held at the beginning of March in Sochi. After, the national team had to go to London for a license tournament, where Olympic quotas in eight weight categories were raffled.

The Crimean Magazine: Gleb, in one of your interviews you mentioned that you had workouts instead of the childhood and you didn’t have a graduation party either… Don’t you regret that you chose big-time sports?

— How can I regret? I have traveled such a path. Of course, it was difficult. But the work is always paid off. I regret of nothing and I am glad that I chose that way. It tempered me. Now I really enjoy boxing.

CM: When you will have your own kids, can you mentor your child so strict way as your father did?

— To tell the truth, I thought of it very often. I want him/her to go to school and enjoy his/her childhood. However, if my kid wants to become an athlete of his/her own will, then I will support him/her at all costs.

CM: When did you start boxing? Do you remember your first competitions?

— My father brought me to the boxing school “Tavriya” when I was seven. First, I trained three times a week. Three years later, I had workouts every day. The first competition “My first fight” was held at my native club. I came to the training after the illness and it turned out that competitions were held there. I was asked whether I would take part in it. I refused. Nevertheless, a trainer said strictly to me: “Today, you will be boxing!” I stepped into the ring and won before the time in the first round. Then it all rolled from there on: championship of city and republic and further and further.

CM: Tell about coaches you cooperated with.

— My first trainer was Oleg Melnik. He was a trainee of the boxing club “Tavriya”. Oleg Vladimirovich taught me the basics of boxing and provided me with an insight what boxing was. Many people think that we are brutal men, who just throw fists. But it’s not about it.

When I grew older, I started training at Ivan Nikolayevich Karandei. I gradually achieved what I got now under his “stick”. He made me work by one order more. We had workouts twice a day, six days in a week and had a day off only on Sundays. After morning drills, I used to lay on the ring and sleep until lunchtime, then Ivan Nikolayevich woke me up and we continued training.

Ivan Karandei, Gleb’s coach:

— In 2014, when Gleb won the second place at the sports and athletic meeting of youth of Russia, we began training harder. Thereafter, we started participating in all-Russian tournaments of “A” class. Gleb won four competitions during the year.

CM: What was the most difficult period in your athletic career?

— When you are at your awkward age, it’s not easy to resist as you see that your age mates hang out, go on dates and play football after school. As for me, I knew that I had to go training and work on myself. There were two occasions for my entire career, when I was on the brink of quitting boxing. The first occasion took place when I was very young. I was a very small boy and I just wanted to play and take walks as all children did… The second time occurred when I was 18 years old and financial issue arose. I had already gone for competitions, but I didn’t get much money for that. Representatives of the Boxing Federation of Crimea and Sports Training Center helped me, though it was not enough for living. I worked everywhere — I labored in the boxing club and handed out leaflets, as well as I worked as a loader. Afterwards, I had workouts. Well, how can a person train after working? That was the time, when I could become a broken man, but there were people, who told me that I needed to be patient for a while and things would get better. And it came true. Ivan Nikolayevich created the right course we follow to.

CM: Do younger guys come to you to get some advice?

— They really do and I feel obliged to help them. I know talented boxers, who foolishly selected the wrong way in their life. I try to explain it to younger guys, but sometimes I don’t succeed.

CM: Are you in touch with Alexander Usik?

— Of course, he was always a senior mentor and club mate for me. When I had a difficult period in my life and wanted to leave boxing, Sasha persuaded me not to do that and made me believe in myself. I am grateful to him for that assistance. He had put things in order within my head when I needed so much.

CM: Frequently, competitors go all lengths to win. They can strike you with elbow or head or undercut your legs. Will you shake a hand of such opponent?

— I respect my rival. Just two of us know what we have gone through before this boxing fight introduced us to each other. In general, almost all fights can be dirty, as any boxer wants a referee to raise exactly his hand in the end. When an athlete understands he’s losing, he can go all lengths. But if I notice that my rival acts dirty during a sparring, then I realize that he has failed in his heart. When the fight is over, I can calmly talk to such a person. I am not an aggressive person.

All of us put on mask in different life situations. A psychologist of the Russian National Team told me about that fact. When I step into the ring — I put on the mask of warrior. There is no other way. Only you, your rival and coach’s voice are inside of the ring. I put off the mask after the fight.

CM: Do you like to interact with the psychologist? Does it help you to prepare for competitions?

— Previously, I used to not to wrestle with my demons that existed within my head. Now, all things are quite clear for me. I learned a lot from her — right up to breathing techniques. There are guys in the national team, who don’t like to have training sessions with the psychologist. As for me, my interaction with her delivers measurable results and gives pleasure to me. I am grateful to her for putting things in order within my head.

CM: What is a daily regime of the national team of the country?

— Our first training is at 7:30 a.m. Then we have breakfast. The menu is done by a nutrition specialist. I am always on a diet — I don’t eat sugar, salt, bread and dairy foods. Sometimes, I don’t consume meat for two or three days. Generally, there are three major food intakes and two additional ones. I drink six liters of water a day. I usually sleep after breakfast. If we have an opportunity, we can play billiards or gaming console. Afterwards, we have a main training — cross, gym or water pool. Then, we have dinner, train with gym gears and mitts, as well as with each other in pairs. Lights out at 10:30 p.m. There are times, when we ignore rules. However, when we have a pre-contest period, then everything is very strict. Our smartphones can be even taken from us. By the way, we also keep a “diary of a boxer” and all necessary information is inside of it, which is a throughout the day pulse, analysis of a workout and mistakes we make…

CM: How do you set yourself for a fight?

— I use to sing, dance and have fun. I start thinking of a hard fight only when I step into the ring. I know the plan, I know how many efforts I have made to reach this level, thus I just turn on the music and hang out.

CM: What kind of music do you like to listen to?

— I usually listen to popular tracks of a music compilation of Apple Music. I like the US rap (he’s laughing).

CM: Do you hear what your trainer talks to you during a fight?

— It seems to me I can even hear his heart beating. When I watch video of my fights, I can see how Ivan Nikolayevich is boxing in parallel (Gleb’s laughing). A brain works on reflex, on autopilot during a fight and it’s very important to hear what your trainer talks, as mistakes I make are obvious to a person on sidelines. I can hear a rival’s coach too. Nevertheless, every coach possesses his own tricks, which can’t be understood by any other person.

As in the ring, Gleb’s coach is always there. Even at the interview, he came to support the pupil.

Ivan Karandei, Gleb’s coach:

— More frequently I tell: strike with the front hand, repeated pack of punches. Don’t let it go! In short, you need to give instructions.

— My favorite phrase “don’t let it go”. There can be a situation, when I have delivered six blows, I feel I am about to die and I need to breathe, then my trainer shouts “don’t let it go!” Phew! Yes, sir.

CM: What do you discuss between rounds?

— I always tell him: “Ivan Nikolayevich, take it easy, everything is alright”. I am his trainee, I am like a son to him, that’s why I treat him such a way. I realize it’s not easy for him, I can’t watch guys’ fights, as I start to shake and get turned on. When I go into the corner, I calm him down and listen to his instructions. If everything is fine during a fight, then a trainer tells: “Go on, Gleb”. If I make mistakes, I can get a bonk on the head. If it’s not a physical kick, then it will be a moral one.

CM: You always call your parents after boxing fights. What do you tell them and what do you want to hear from them?

— I call them and tell that everything’s fine. In response: “We got you, son, relax”. I talk to nobody except them during competitions. They know I shouldn’t be disturbed and they try not to call me frequently. Our usual dialogue is: “Are you okey, Gleb?” — “Yes, I am”. — “Aren’t you injured?” — “I am not injured, mom”. By the way, my mother can’t watch my fights. She turns on TV and leaves a room. Others watch, but she can’t. I understand her reaction. Probably, I wouldn’t be able to watch it either. The same can be told about my father.

CM: What do you do, when you come back home?

— We go to a barbeque with relatives to the seaside. I like mountain hiking very much. We have got so wonderful nature — how can’t I enjoy it?! I like Yalta. I visited many world cities, but anyway Yalta is special.

CM: In 2019, you performed at the IInd European Games in Minsk. What did you remember most of all?

— That’s another kind of competitions. We lived at the Olympic Village, where only athletes were. There was a great atmosphere and everybody smiled to each other. The café could boast of having a wide range of national dishes of different nations of the world. The first two days I was with my mouth open. It was pleasant to meet so many sportsmen, who I have a lot in common with and who think like I do. Why do all aspire to go to the Olympics so much? Certainly, I know that I will face with the same competitors at the Olympic Games, who I had faced with at the world tournament. But the entourage and the way people react to that excite me. That’s why the participating in the Olympic Games is the highest point of a sport career.

CM: What were conversations within the national team about a possible non-admission of Russia to the Olympics?

— It’s a very difficult topic. We care of the way we will travel and whether any sanctions will be imposed against us. However, all these questions are tried to be drawn away from us. I am not qualified to respond to these questions. Of course, I would like to go to the Olympic Games under the flag of Russia and I want everybody to know where I came from. But I don’t know the way it will be.

CM: Do you see yourself as a professional boxer?

— Definitely, I shan’t hide I go through the last Olympic cycle this year. Then, I plan to join community of professional boxers. There are thoughts about it and proposals. But now I am full in the preparation for the Olympic Games — I intend to get golden medals from Tokyo. Other results won’t suit me. Any athlete knows that there is a wide gap between silver and gold. I don’t like any metal, except gold.

Competently

President of the Boxing Federation of the Republic of Crimea Sergey Voronkov:

Crimeans actively take part in all crucial all-Russian, European and world competitions. They successfully conduct fights and win golden medals. To the present day, seven Crimean athletes are members of sports national boxing teams of Russia.

The efforts of the whole team of boxing federation are aimed at raising champions of different ages and weight categories. And we have some athletes to be proud of. Gleb Bakshi handed significant victory after becoming a world champion among men. Our leading athletes are Vartkez Andreasyan, who is a winner of the European Championship among juniors under 18, Vadim Kudryakov is two-time champion of Russia and world champion among students, participant of the European Games, Akhtem Zakirov, who is a winner of the Russian Championship under 22, was selected to the European Championship. Pavel Doroshilov also became a world champion among students. Our athlete Marja Proskunova is a winner of the Russian Championship and bronze medalist of the European Championship among girls of 15-16 years old.

In total, our athletes won 48 medals at international and all-Russian competitions, as well as at championships and contests of Russia for the last year. We cooperate closely with the Minister of Sports of the Republic of Crimea Olga Torubarova and we are grateful to the Head of the Republic of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov for his facilitation in developing and popularization of boxing in the Republic of Crimea. We have important goals now: provide athletes with comfort conditions for conducting successful effective fights and afterwards save their physical and mental health. We raised the issue of sending our sportsmen to sanatoriums, preventoriums and boarding houses, where they could regenerate their health after sports competitions and training events. The budget of the Boxing Federation of Crimea consists of charitable contributions. It also includes costs of conducting inner competitions, travels of sportsmen to training camps and tournaments, as well as a personal support we provide prospective athletes and trainers with.