Russian bare-knuckle boxing may conjure images of bare-chested burly men in the woods swinging sweat-stained fists into each other’s faces to render one another unconscious. Olga Gurova is as far from that stereotype as can be.
Aside from that one feature, slightly bent out of shape by shipping bare-fisted blows, Gurova resembles any other 23-year-old. But then, not every 23-year-old girl craves the adrenaline of bare knuckle boxing matches.
A fighter since her father took her to a boxing gym at the age of eight, Gurova slugged away to reach the level of master of sport – a prestigious title stemming from the old Soviet ranking system – and is now navigating the pro game.
Before her third professional fight – an eight-round bout against experienced Elena Saveleva on the undercard of Artur Beterbiev light heavyweight title defence in Moscow, Gurova spoke to RT Sport about bare knuckle fighting, pleasing her parents, and why boxing doesn’t bother her.
You have already a bunch of flights outside of professional boxing, give us a little bit more detail about your ‘second career’.
Apart from my pro fights, I had a lot of fights in my amateur career. Aside from that, I have had a fight in bare knuckle boxing in the Top Dog organization and not long ago, on March 6, in a different organization, ‘Punch Club’, not bareknuckle but in MMA gloves. After a bare knuckle fight, a fight in boxing doesn’t worry me that much because after all you have more defence and boxing is more natural to me than a bare knuckle fight.
Why do you do such unforgiving sports?
I just want to test myself, to battle with myself to overcome my fears first and foremost. As for boxing, my dad got me into that. That’s why I box now. My father first brought me to the boxing gym and was my first trainer.
What does he think about the fact you fight bare knuckle? It’s not really the done thing for girls to be involved in a sport like that.
In general the majority of fans are against seeing girls fight bare knuckle and my parents are no exception! They are against it. So… I’m going against my parents.
That’s no surprise! Looking at you. You are 23, correct? You’re good-looking, trendy and smart. Why aren’t you looking for easier routes? I’m guessing you have a bunch of other options to earn good money. Why are you boxing and fighting bare knuckle?
I’ve been doing sport since the age of 8. In combat sports. I’ve already many times wanted to finish my sporting career. But it’s not letting me go because at the end of the day I want to fulfil my potential.
Because I have already had a lot of injuries, that became the reason I couldn’t fight. Now I’ve had operations on my knees and I want to reach the top. I don’t train for the sake of it and have dedicated the best part of my life to this.
Exactly what do you want to achieve in professional boxing?
To become a champion of course! In every organization.
We did an interview not long ago with Joey Beltran, the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship heavyweight world champion. He said that the emotions that he experiences during a bare knuckle fight is unrivalled. What exactly do you experience during a fight?
Of course during a fight the adrenaline is pumping and when you feel these emotions during a fight a normal life is difficult. It’s difficult to live without those feelings.
So if you don’t train and you start living a quiet life you constantly want that extreme, you constantly want to feel those feelings and emotions that you feel in the ring and in the fight, those heightened senses.
Artur Beterbiev said not long ago that he wants to try his luck in MMA. Some say in MMA gloves he would ‘murder’ an opponent. It was said a little bit tongue in cheek. If he switched to bare knuckle fighting, what would you expect from him?
Bare knuckle boxing is a different beast altogether. It’s not boxing and it’s not a fight. There should be very heightened senses and a very strong character. People who go for a bare knuckle fight are very strong people first and foremost. Not everyone can fight bare knuckle.
It’s one thing to fight on the street and there you can end things with one punch. Here we have very strict rules, a number of rounds, time, set rules, only boxing, no kicks or wrestling or whatever. It’s a little bit not boxing and not MMA it’s a sport in its own right. For which I believe you have to have a big set of balls to go and fight there.
Especially not just to fight in one fight but to win some titles. Because they also have titles in bare knuckle.
And if you won a belt, would it please your parents?
Now? Of course. My parents first and foremost want for me to reach the top in my pro boxing career. Initially I had a goal in boxing. Naturally they are big boxing fans.
What’s best in your opinion: boxing or bare knuckle?
Boxing is the original. I think that boxing is better than anything! It’s just the original classic combat sport.