Before I continue, you may want to make a mental note of the name which I am sure you will hear a lot more from in the years to follow. Taras Shelestyuk may be a name that your already familiar with especially UK residents from his bronze medal-winning exploits at the London 2012 Olympics but that feat only scratches at the surface of the fighter that will blossom in a professional career that offers up so much intrigue.
A winner of a gold medal at the 2011 Amateur championships in Baku amassing over 300 contests, he has now set his sights on replicating the form in a professional capacity which at the time of writing stands at 16-0 (10 KOs), winning the WBO NABO welterweight title and the WBA Intercontinental title in the process.
TopClassBoxing’s Michael Shepherd recently took the opportunity to put some questions to Teras:
How did you start boxing and what age did you start going to a gym?
My first step into a boxing gym was when I was 14 years old in Makiivka, Ukraine. I already knew what I wanted to achieve in boxing. I wanted to win Olympic Games, then turn to the professional ring and become an absolute champion there!
For our readers that don’t know, what was your record as an amateur?
My record at amateur was 300 wins and only 15 losses for 12 years as an amateur. I won a Bronze medal at the Olympic Games in London 2012, Gold medal at the World Championship in 2011, Bronze medal at the European Championship in 2010, Gold medal at the European Cup in 2010 and 3x times straight Ukraine National Champion (2009-2011).
Were there any occasions during your time in the amateurs that made a significant impact on you?
From November 2006 till November 2007 I took a break in my boxing career. I didn’t train or compete. I went to work to help my family, but I always wanted to return and resume my career. I knew I had not done anything in boxing yet.
As an amateur was it always your dream to turn professional?
Yes, as I told you before, from my first steps at the boxing gym I know what I wanted and now I continue my dream to become an absolute champion.
Was it tough to turn full time? Finding time between work, paying the bills etc
It’s not tough. Our life is like a journey. I always try to enjoy every moment.
What would you say are the major differences between amateur and professional boxing? And did you have to change the way you trained when you turned professional?
When I fought in the amateurs, I fought with headgear, also in the amateurs you have only 3 rounds, but you can have 5-6 fights during one tournament and you need to control the weight all this time and plan your strategy quickly bout from bout.
Amateur and pro boxers have a different gloves and wraps. As you know at the professional boxing have longer distance at the fight – 8, 10 or 12 rounds. Weight-in before the day of the fight (in amateur weigh in the same day when you fight).
Of course, I changed my training when I turned pro because training is different in Ukraine and in the States. Every coach has his own style. I’ve been trained by Freddie Roach, Eric Brown and now working with Joel Diaz all of these men are legends i the boxing industry. But I still use a lot of training tricks from my Ukraine National team program.
Any fighters from past and present that inspire you, if so who and why?
I do not have any idols, I like many styles of fighters such as Mike Tayson, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Muhammad Ali, Arturo Gatti and many more, I also like McGregor because he was able to raise his career to such high level.
Could you take me and the readers through a training camp week?
Monday-Wednesday-Friday in the morning I have physical condition training and afternoon sparring session.
Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday I run in the morning and afternoon I work on heavy bags and mitts with coach.
I eat three times a day with personalized diet, and every day have a recovery session, on Saturday I go to the sauna and massage. Sunday is a rest day.
What ranks as your proudest moment in the sport?
Of course it’s Olympics medal. It was an honour to be part of this biggest sporting event in the world and represent my country Ukraine!
In the professional ranks who has been your hardest opponent so far and why?
Kozaev (30-2,7KO) was the toughest opponent in the ring because he had more fights and experience at professional and it was my first 10 round title fight.
What are your hopes for the rest of 2017 & 2018?
I hope I will be busy in 2018 and have the opportunity to fight for the championship belt with the champions in my weight class.
If you could talk to a young Taras Shelestyuk what would you say to him?
Stay focus, be happy, keep training hard and be smart! You will have a great journey!
Who is Taras Shelestyuk outside of boxing?
Outside the ring, I have a huge love for life. I like to explore the world, travel, try myself in new sports, I love hiking in the mountains and always try to find a new challenge for myself. It makes my life bright and fun.
Any plans for after boxing?
I want to do some business and enjoy rest of my life with my family and future kids.
Final words or closing statements?
Don’t blink, because next year I will be a champion! Follow my career, be strong, never give up and be happy!