A successful bankruptcy lawyer and a boxing fan and promoter at the same time? World-renowned boxer, sports nutritionist, on the eve of the fight? Yes, Mykola Kovalchuk, lawyer, senior partner of L.I.Group, owner of the promotional company Kozak Promotions, has something to amaze you! Opponents at the rank and in the courtroom will be discussed below.
Your hobby is boxing, why, when and how was the love for this sport born? Have you ever planned your sports career?
– My love to sports started in childhood. My father has always been a fan of active lifestyle, so it was him who cultivated my love to sports. I remember how he always exercised every morning (he continues to do so now, at the age of 78), played volleyball several times a week (he is a candidate for master of sports in volleyball) and was actively involved in swimming. That is, sports have always been present in his life. In fact, when I was four or five, he took me to the pool for the first time, and when I was six, I started doing gymnastics, which I attended six days a week. I have dedicated several years of my life to this sport.
He later became interested in various sports, including swimming, judo, tennis, aikido and others. My interest in boxing always accompanied me, but, unfortunately or fortunately, my father did not allow me to take it seriously. He thought it was too early for me, and it was quite dangerous to my health. So, I just actively watched boxing, woke up at night, watched the fights of the Klitschko brothers, Mike Tyson, Roy Jones, Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, Arturo Gatti and many others. During my childhood, the “The Ring” boxing magazine was published, each of which I bought with the money my mother gave me for school lunches, and the walls in my room were plastered with posters of world champions.
When I entered the university and learned the taste of independent living, I started boxing. I did not plan any serious sports career, because there was a catastrophic lack of time, because I studied at three faculties at the same time. When I had the financial means, I started attending fights, and not only in Ukraine. I flew all over the world, met and communicated with fighters, coaches, promoters, satisfying my curiosity and making interesting and useful acquaintances.
At the moment, it’s a kind of hobby in my life, but it’s getting more and more addictive and grows into something more serious. In particular, I founded the promotional company “Kozak Promotions”, I lead several professional fighters, I have warm friendly relations with many outstanding boxers. For several years in a row I was Oleksandr Usyk’s personal lawyer, dealing with many issues of his professional and personal life. I still help many soldiers. Our clients today include Serhiy Derevyanchenko, a well-known Ukrainian professional boxer living in New York. In addition, I am a member of the Supervisory Board of the League of Professional Boxing of Ukraine, I am actively involved in promotional and managerial activities.
Who is a role model for you in boxing, why? Whose autographs or souvenirs do you have?
– In fact, for me a lot of boxers are role models. Some in the manner of boxing, some in the technical capabilities, some in the art of fighting, and some in the achievements after a professional boxing career. The main role model for me is Mykhailo Mykhailovych Zavyalov, who is the “godfather” of Ukrainian boxing, has been the coach of prominent boxers of the USSR and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic all his life, and created the League of Professional Boxing, which is still the sanctioning organization in Ukraine. A striking example of a successful boxer and politician is Vitali Klitschko. He was not only able to become a multiple world champion, but also a good politician following the end of his boxing career and is only gaining momentum in his political role. I am very impressed by the human qualities of my friends: Oleksandr Hvozdyk, with whom I always enjoy communicating as a highly educated, erudite and very decent man, who is also a very good family man, has a wonderful wife and three children. Serhiy Derevyanchenko, Dmytro Mitrofanov, Ivan Redkach, with whom it is never sad and who makes the whole boxing of Ukraine not sad even with his sensational posts on social networks and interviews. It is probably not very prestigious now, but it so happened that I am friends with the family of Teofimo Lopez, who recently defeated our compatriot Vasyl Lomachenko and became the absolute world champion. An example of an extraordinary boxer and an extraordinary personality for me is also my friend Terence Crawford – the absolute world champion in welterweight. This is a completely unique boxer who grew up in a very poor family and was able to achieve incredible success. We are friends with him, I even visited him at home and at his mother’s house in Omaha, Nebraska. She is a very simple and kind person from a poor area of Omaha in the United States. Despite his titles and ranks, Terence is a modest, decent and simple person in life, who easily does any housework on his own, always personally helps relatives and friends who live in the very poor neighborhood where he was born. He has five children and will soon have a sixth child. Terence adores children, raises them and tries to dedicate all his free time to them. In my opinion, he is a born fighter and has such natural instincts that cannot be developed and cannot be taught. He was just born with it. I think he still has a lot of outstanding achievements ahead. I am also peering with and I have a lot of respect for boxing coaches Serhiy Vatamanyuk, Ihor Kalenchenko and Yuriy Tsybenko, with whom we work on various projects.
As for autographs and souvenirs, I do not collect them. Honestly, all boxers that I know are quite close to me. These are people with whom I communicate very often and have professional and friendly relations, and friends are not given autographs or souvenirs)) Although I have a lot of photos with famous people from the world of boxing. And once upon a time I visited an auction where I bought photos of the Klitschko brothers with their autographs.
Is there a competition for amateur boxers? Did you take part in them?
– Yes, there are tournaments for amateur boxers, these are the so-called white-collar competitions. They involve people from completely different professions that have nothing to do with boxing. Of course, all the participants there box at a very amateur level, they make a show out of it. I have never participated in such competitions and did not even think about it. I practice only for myself and help professionals. For me, boxing is about maintaining good health, good mood, and some basic skills.
What do you usually think about during the training?
– During the training I only think about training. There is a Chinese saying: “When you wash a cup, wash the cup.” This applies to everything. Therefore, when you train, you should take your mind off any other thoughts and think only about sports. Only then it will bring benefits and a positive result. Before training, I always turn off the phone so that nothing distracts me.
How often do you train? Some of the newcomers say that the hardest part of training is “hitting the first person who didn’t do anything to you” 🙂 Do you agree? What is the most difficult for you?
– I usually train three times a week. It used to happen that I went to training every day, but such a regime takes a lot of time and it is very difficult to combine it with professional activities. So today my schedule is three times a week, and I try to stick to it.
It is absolutely easy to hit a person first. This is a sport, and it should not be treated as an aggressive fight. You beat a boxer who tries to do the same to you. Like a football player kicking the ball, it’s the same in boxing as you hit your opponent. In my opinion, the fear of hitting is a fiction.
In my life I have never seen more sincere friendships than boxers after a fight. No matter how hard and bloody the battle was and no matter how much damage the fighters inflicted on each other, after the fight there are sincere hugs and words of gratitude to each other. As a rule, boxers are friends and respect each other.
How do you find time to train being a lawyer and a manager? Does your family support your hobby?
– It is very easy to find time for training – you just have to devote it. There may be many excuses and reasons not to do so, but everyone will agree: if you have something in priority and if you want to do something, you will definitely find time for it. It doesn’t matter in the morning, day or night, there will be the time, the main thing is to have a desire.
Of course, my family supports my hobby and is amazed at how passionate I am about it. I am very lucky in this regard.
Is there enough infrastructure in Ukraine for boxing as a hobby and professional boxing? What can be improved?
– Ukraine is a boxing country. From the Klitschko brothers to a whole galaxy of current world-class megastars: Vasyl Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, Oleksandr Hvozdyk, Serhiy Derevyanchenko, Artem Dalakyan and many other boxers, due to whom Ukraine is known all over the world today. Amateur boxing is well-developed in our country, there is a large number of Olympic boxers in the country. Soon, I hope, we will have another Olympic champion Oleksandr Khyzhnyak, who is also called “Poltava tank”. He has already won the title of world champion and will soon become European champion.
Although our country has a boxing infrastructure, there is always something to improve. There is always a lack of funds, so it would be good if the state paid more attention to this sport. In particular, it means providing decent nutrition and participation in competitions for young athletes. Parents of young promising boxers often simply do not have the funds for travel, ammunition and competitions. In Ukrainian boxing today, the problem is not in infrastructure, but in funding.
In Ukraine, the amateur school is relatively well-developed, and there are many more professional boxing specialists in the United States and the United Kingdom. In these countries, less attention is paid to amateur sports, and the emphasis is on the professional level, where you can really make a career, earn money and make a name for yourself. We are also developing this area, but professional boxing schools, unfortunately, still lag behind the world level. However, we are moving in the right direction, as evidenced by the presence of many world champions.
What can you advise to the beginners: how to choose a gym and a coach?
Today there are a lot of gyms, among which you can choose any. However, it is important to choose a coach who is a boxer, has achievements, has undergone career steps and has been in the ring many times. Only such a person will teach you to overcome difficulties, fear, laziness and help you develop. Definitely it should be a boxer.
The traditional question: what do boxing and legal practice have in common?Did you find clients through your hobby?
That’s a sound question indeed. There is a lot in common in boxing and legal practice. In the courtroom, you also have an opponent, use certain techniques, but these are intelligence and public speaking. You are constantly improving, you can make a show out of court and win it if you have a good legal position and public speaking skills. You also need to train in jurisprudence. It is necessary to study the regulatory framework, which is constantly updated, to follow the case law. This is the same as knowing the technique in boxing. It is very important to be able to take the heart. It is not always possible to win. However, when it turns out, the fun and emotions are similar to winning in the ring. It is because of the boxing field where I have made a lot of acquaintances. In addition, it also has a positive effect on increasing the number of customers. It is worth noting here that in my professional activity I treat boxers differently than those who have nothing to do with boxing. This can be explained by the fact that I know more about them than just about their boxing qualities, which everyone can see on TV screens or during fights. First of all, I know them as people, I know their main qualities. It is the presence of such details that gives me an advantage among colleagues and a peculiar attitude to clients from the world of boxing.
Have there been any interesting cases in the field of boxing?
– By the way, an interesting case – once I was directly involved in preparing for the championship match between Oleksandr Hvozdyk and Adonis Stevenson, when the Ukrainian knocked out his opponent in the eleventh round and became the world champion according to the WBC. At that time, my close friend’s sports nutritionist to Oleksandr Fotsi, Oleksandr Hvozdyk, was not given a visa to Canada on time, and he was unable to fly to accompany the boxer. I had a visa, and my friend and Hvozdyk’s manager Egis Klimas asked me to help. I arrived in Quebec and spent a week playing the role of sports nutritionist to Oleksandr Hvozdyk. I would wake him up every day, prepare special food for him, take part in trainings, lift weight before the fight and recovered the boxer after weighing, but all this, of course, under the clear professional guidance of Oleksandr Fotsi. We entered the ring together, so that victory was especially exciting and important. I am often in the locker room before a fight, in the boxers’ corner in the ring, where I help them. It’s an incredible atmosphere when you feel, experience all those emotions and excitement before, during and after the fight. It’s like a drug that couldn’t be better. By the way, the world’s most famous promoter Bob Arum, who turns 89 in December, is also a lawyer, in parallel with his professional activities, he accompanied the boxers. As a result, he became the most successful promoter and was the manager of the legendary Muhammad Ali. Today he runs a huge promotional company “TOP RANK” with huge profits and the best fighters. By the way, one day my friend WBC World Ambassador Chico Lopez, Oleksandr Hvozdyk and I were at his birthday party in New York, where the jet set of world boxing were present.
“Ukrayinsʹkyy yuryst”, № 12, 2020