- Inside one of boxing’s most famous fight clubs is a super middleweight prospect being guided toward a hopeful Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez payday.
- Vladimir Shishkin, a Russian boxer unbeaten in 10 bouts, fights for the 11th time on August 20 inside the Kronk Gym where he trains every day in Detroit.
- In the coronavirus era, boxing promotions have been getting creative in how they keep fans excited even though they cannot buy tickets and attend.
- We’ve had the UFC’s “Fight Island” and Matchroom Boxing’s “Fight Camp,” but with the upcoming Salita Promotions events, boxing heads back to its roots at the Kronk.
- Should Shishkin continue his winning run, his promoter Dmitriy Salita is looking to make the necessary steps toward a title shot against Canelo – the No.1 boxer in the world, according to Insider.
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A logo featuring boxing gloves hangs from the laces on the Kronk font painted beneath an arch on the double doors of a red-brick building in Detroit, Michigan.
Historic photographs stapled to the walls inside tell their own story.
Many of boxing’s best like Thomas Hearns, Prince Naseem Hamed, and Wladmir Klitschko all trained, sparred, and bled inside a Kronk ring, once coached by the late Emanuel Steward who helped teach each man how to bludgeon others in the midst of battle.
Today, by the leather double-end bags and the customary yellow and red colours synonymous with Kronk’s branding, Javan ‘Sugar Hill’ Steward adopted his mentor’s name and continues his legacy, developing modern talents at a new Kronk site.
One of those talents is the 29-year-old super middleweight Vladimir Shishkin, who is being touted as a blue chip prospect already skilled enough to defeat Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
It is a big claim as Alvarez has competed in 56 pro fights and only ever lost to Floyd Mayweather, with significant wins over Miguel Cotto, Gennadiy Golovkin, and Sergey Kovalev. He is Insider’s No.1 boxer in the world for good reason.
“Skill-wise, he’s good enough for Canelo now but he just needs to get out there so the boxing community can get to know who he is and have more interest in the fight,” boxing promoter Dmitriy Salita of Salita Promotions told Insider.
Russian fighter Shishkin has already cracked the top 10 rankings of the WBC and IBO despite only competing in 10 pro bouts to date.
He fights for the 11th time on Thursday, August 20, but will do so in extraordinary circumstances – the coronavirus pandemic – in a unique setting to outsiders but one familiar to him, at the Kronk Gym.
Boxing heads back to its roots
We’ve seen the UFC, the leading mixed martial arts firm, host four events on “Fight Island,” and Matchoom Boxing promote a series of shows at “Fight Camp” in the gardens of its grassy headquarters east of London.
Both of those venues saw the promoters involved, UFC president Dana White and Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn, put pizzazz into the sport, but at Detroit’s Kronk, boxing heads back to its roots.
Salita’s prospect Shishkin fights Oscar Riojas in a main event which will be broadcast on the UFC Fight Pass app, and is the first in a series of behind-closed doors fights at the Kronk.
“It is an honour to be fighting in the first event at the legendary gym where I train and have learned so much about fighting as a professional,” Shishkin, who has a record of 10 wins (six knockouts), said.
The contrast of Hearn’s in-your-face “Fight Camp,” to the TV-studio set-up that Top Rank has inside “The Bubble” at the MGM Grand Conference Centre in Las Vegas, got Salita thinking.
“I thought to myself, ‘What’s the most realistic situation we can come with up’ [to bring boxing back for Salita Promotions],” he said.
The Kronk Gym became an obvious pick.
“The Kronk is the most historic gym in the world of boxing … it’s a great idea,” he told us. “And so we invited production crews down to see if it can be done.
“If those walls could talk, they would tell you some stories. The sparring sessions and the fights which happened in that gym, though not seen by the masses, would have been some of the greatest wars of all time.
“So I feel this is a good opportunity for boxing fans to capture history in such a setting. Fighters from both side of the ring will put in the fight of their lives as history is talking to them. This is the real deal, the other venues are pretend, but this is a place where fights have been happening all the time for decades.”
Salita has his own relationship with the Kronk Gym, having been trained hy Emanuel Steward during his own boxing career which ended in 2013. Some of the fighters he promotes through Salita Promotions are now trained by Sugar Hill.
“We’ve been working closely with the Kronk Gym for many years. I trained with Emanuel, and have a friendship with Javan Hill that spans for a decade.”
Salita speaks highly of Sugar Hill, telling Insider of an apprenticeship where Hill remained by Emanuel Steward’s side from a young age, developing “a tremendous boxing IQ.”
Said Salita: “He only needs to look at three or four fights to see what style a fighter has, and can then scientifically break down fights and see the tendancies of fighters.
“For Shishkin, he’s perfect. The Kronk boxing system is a combination of European boxing and American. Because there’s a lot of things in the Kronk boxing philosophy that Europeans are good at – stance, distance. But adding the American way, it makes it what it is.
“So Shishkin coming over from Russia with the amateur career he had, being national champion, Sugar Hill added those Kronk basics to what is already something so tremendous.”
Salita and Shishkin will chase ‘Canelo’ after the August 20 bout
Salita said Shishkin entered his last bout, a 168-pound match against the unbeaten fighter Ulises Sierra, with a torn biceps.
Shishkin fought anyway, Salita said.
“We knew he would be skilled enough to be able to win it with one hand, and that’s what he did. He’s really special, a blue-chipper.
“In my opinion he’s [already] the best super middleweight in the world. I’ve seen him in the gym, sparring, and he’s very big, skilled, and in my opinion a future world champion.”
Salita expects his charge to be victorious in the first of the Kronk Gym series of events on August 20, and after that could pair him with prominent fighters in his division, like Fedor Chudinov.
Ultimately, Salita wants to put a plan together which sees Shishkin face Alvarez within a couple of years.
“I think he will beat Canelo Alvarez in the next 12-18 months,” Salita told us. “Canelo would be in for the fight of his life.”