Avtandil Khurtsidze Interview - The Prodigal Son Returned to Georgia from US!
By Ken Hissner (Dec 17, 2009) DoghouseBoxing  
Like the Four Horseman in the Book of Revelation they came to this country to find their fame and fortune. The first three came in 2002 from their country in Georgia. They landed in the city of Philadelphia known for its boxing history. The other followed in 2004.

There was Koba Gogoladze, Shalva and Ramazan Paliani arriving first. Gogoladze and Ramazan had participated in the 1996 Olympic Games. Gogo won his first bout and then lost to future world champion Leonard Doroftei, known as Leonard Dorin from Romania.

Doc Nowicki and Jimmy Williams would manage these fighters while J. Russell Peltz would serve as their promoter. The managers housed them and took good care of them. “Hammer (former nickname for Khurtsidze) once carried a refrigerator up the steps on his back. That was how strong he was,” said Williams. “We thought highly of him. If he hadn’t lost he would still be here. We did all we could to reverse that decision and to get him back,” said Nowicki. It would be a short lived career for Shalva who would go 4-0 (3) in six months before losing his license attempting to fight in New York for medical reasons. It seems he was in a car accident at age 16 hitting his head on the dashboard. This spot on his brain appeared on an MRI. His management tried in vain to get him re-instated but failed.

Gogoladze was 7-0 when making his debut in 2002 and only fought in Philadelphia once more in 2004 while winning both fights. He would move onto another promoter and lose in an interim WBO super featherweight title bout in 2007.

Ramazan was 11-0 when he drew with top contender David Diaz in 2005 over 12 rounds for the IBA lightweight title. He would return to Georgia and win 3 bouts at middleweight. He decided to come back to the US for a “money fight” in 2006. He had to get down to 135 to fight Ray Narh 19-1 for the PA title in Philly. Narh is from Ghana but was living in Pittsburgh. He destroyed Ramazan stopping him in 8 rounds. Whether he was beat at the scales or by a better fighter, he hasn’t fought since.

This brings us to the main character of this article Avtandil “The Tornado” Khurtsidze. In February of 2004 he won a 1st round knockout over debut in Atlantic City. A draw would follow in Glen Burnie, MD, against Orazio Robinson, 1-1-1, with one judge scoring all four rounds for Khurtsidze. In June he made his Philly debut winning every round over Jon Gaddis, 1-0. A couple of knockout wins followed before drawing with Carlos Antonio Escobar, 5-5-1, in November at the New Alhambra in South Philly. He would go to Atlantic City and defeat Chris Hall, 3-2-1, winning every round in six. His weight was a steady 155 or less. In March of 2005 in his last fight in Philly he stopped Calvin Shakir, 7-2 in 3 rounds. He was 6-0-1 (3) and matched by Peltz with veteran Tony Marshall, 36-12, in the latter’s home area of Saratoga Springs, NY. Marshall hadn’t fought in 18 months since losing back to back fights.

In this fight Khurtsidze won the first 6 rounds on all the scorecards. In the 7th knowing he could only win by a knockout or by hook or by crook, Marshall started fouling his opponent while the referee Dick Pakozdi stood silently by. Marshall hit him low 5 times and then on the back of the head doubling Khurtsidze over to where his hands were touching his feet. Marshall followed with an uppercut that caused the referee to stop it and award it to Marshall by technical knockout! I’ve seen a lot of strange stoppages but never one so blatantly wrong.

Nowicki and Williams petitioned Ray Kelly who was the New York commissioner at ringside to no avail. They also got Congressman Peter King and Attorney General Lisa Elvoich involved with no successful results. This writer reviewed the fight on tape and was horrified how something so blatant could happen in the US and right near the Hall of Fame.

Khurtsidze would never fight in the US again. Like in the book of Luke, the Prodigal S on returned to his homeland in Georgia before moving to the much more active Ukraine going 21 months without a fight. He has since won 14 straight moving up to the middleweight division winning the European Boxing Association and WBA Inter-Continental titles. He is currently ranked #5 in the WBA and #6 in the WBO. In his last 4 fights the competition has picked-up. I recently did a Q&A on this boxer who decided to return home after receiving a raw deal in the US.

Ken Hissner: What happened in your opinion in the fight with Tony Marshall?

Avtandil Khurtsidze:
It was not Tony who won the fight but the referee. I was destroying him until the moment he landed that foul blow! Of course, it is not pleasant when people that did not see the fight look into my record and say he was stopped by a shot and worn out 35 year old veteran. However I have completely forgotten about that unfairness. I do not take it hard anymore and I look ahead confidently. I have turned that unpleasant page over and am not going to come back to it anymore.

KH: Have you kept in touch with any of the 3 boxers who came before you to Philly from Georgia?

I only know Ramazan Paliani trains boxers in Georgia.

KH: Can you tell me how you got started in boxing and about your amateur record?

I was born in Kutaisi, a nice city in western Georgia. When I was a schoolboy age six a boxing trainer came to our school. He searched for candidates for boxing class. He ranged the boys in a line and asked who was right and who was left handed. I lied that I was right handed and he decided on me. In 3 months I became bored and stopped boxing. Ten years later I went in for kick boxing just to feel secure in the streets. After that I decided to come back to boxing. I trained under famous Gergian trainer Eldar Gabrichidze. My record was 7-3 and won the championship of Georgia at 20 and made the National team. I also won price winning places at two international tournaments.

KH: Who trained you when you came to the US and who is your team now?

Augie Smeca and then Popo Ocasio. Now, K2 East Promotions is my promoter and Alexander A. Krassyuk is my manager. When I moved to the Ukraine, I trained in gym where Alexander Lichter, a famous Ukrainian trainer, saw me and recommended me as a sparring partner to Zaurbek Baysangurov. Then people of K2 saw me and invited me to K2 East. I became European (EBA) champion and WBA Inter-Continental champion defending it four times. Lichter still trains me.

KH: Who is your current champion you are aiming to fight?

Being ranked 4th in WBA my main target is current WBA World middleweight champion Felix Sturm.

KH: When you fought in the US your nickname was “hammer”. Did you change it?

My ring name in Ukraine is Tornado. In the past I had the name of Chakucha which in Georgian means sledge hammer or big hammer. I got that name when I was young after I managed to crush one big guy in a street fight with one punch.

KH: In your second fight in the US you fought to a draw with Orazio Robinson and a draw with Carlos Antonio Escobar in your sixth fight. Tell us something about those fights.

I remember him quite well. He was a good boxer. I have video of that fight and I saw it many times. I believe I deserved victory by points. The matter was that the fight was on his home turf and it was organized by his promoter. With Escobar I had a close fight and not an easy one.

KH: You defeated the South American Champion Javier Alberto Mamani, 34-6-1, of Argentina for the vacant WBA Inter-Continental title. It was probably your first name fighter since Marshall.

The fight was a difficult test and I still remember that bout well. He is a very experienced fighter, one of my strongest opponents. He kept the distance quite well and it was difficult to get inside. The situation was aggravated by the fact that I caught a cold before the fight and boxed having high temperature. That is why it was very important for me to distribute force smartly and not to break down. I did not look for KO in the first half of that fight. I knew that if I would step up the tempo but fail to KO him I could start losing my strength and then serious problems might begin.

KH: Next you had an easy win next over another Argentine in Valentin Ochoa, 19-7-1 before defeating tough Atilla Kovacs, 25-2, of Hungary. How would you describe the Kovacs fight?

I respect this boxer very much. He is a real fighter, a versatile talent and stout opponent. It was the most difficult fight in my career, a real war. He tried all the tricks and several times changed his tactics. He boxed and he tried to exchange to catch me with a punch. I must confess that several times I felt that I got into trouble but finally I won. We knew well beforehand about our fight and we both trained very hard. I am proud that I fought in the ring against such a glorious warrior as Attila Kovacs and that finally I came out victorious.

KH: Next up the Belgium champion Jamel Bahki, 19-2-2, having won 8 of his last 9 fights, losing only in Italy for the WBC International title over 12 rounds. You win a majority decision.

He’s a good boxer, very fast with good hand speed. He is not a durable fighter and he does not punch hard. That is why bout against him was an easy drive for me. He could not counterpunch effectively and I could press and land hard bombs with minimum risk to face a hard punch suddenly.

KH: In your last fight in September you defeat Kuvanych Toygonbayev, 30-5, of Uzbekistan who debuted in the US and went to France only to return to the US and now out of Russia.

He is a good boxer, experienced and reckless of danger. He has good skills and nice timing besides he is able to punch. He managed to land some good punches on me. I must say that at the same time he is quite dirty. He head butted me and used his elbows. Well, he made me work very seriously. I got excited. I understood that he studied my fights before and he had a fight plan. He adjusted quickly during the bout. For me it was comfortable to fight him. He began to get tired more and more as rounds passed. In round 7 his trainer was on the verge of throwing in the towel. I regret that the referee hastened to stop the fight – as a result there are still some unsettled questions between Toygonbayev and me. I think I was just in tune for winning by KO, but the bout was stopped due to cuts.

Khurtsidze has a better chance of getting a title bout with a promoter like K2 behind him with Felix Sturm holding the WBA title fighting out of Germany. “We are negotiating Felix Sturm and look for a world title shot for Avtandil,” said Krassyuk. Sebastian Sylvester, another German, holds the IBF title. Whether he would return to the US if a Pavlik bout for the WBO title was offered is in question.

Ken at: kenhissner@yahoo.com

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