Postol ready to deliver
Viktor Postol has been biding his time. The WBC’s No.1 contender at 140lbs has been waiting patiently in the shadows for his shot at unbeaten champion Danny Garcia ever since earning the mandatory position with an impressive 11th round knockout of dangerous Selcuk Aydin in May 2014. Ukraine may be torn by conflict and civil unrest, but Postol’s achievements have provided a measure of solace for his fellow countrymen.
Postol, 31, harks from the same elite amateur system that produced the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko and the Klitschko brothers. It is little wonder that WBC title-holder Garcia has been in no rush to fulfill his mandatory obligation against the skillful Ukrainian.
Their encounter has been delayed twice by a (now modified) step-aside agreement that allows Garcia to face fellow 140lbs champion Lamont Peterson in a non-title, catchweight 10-rounder at the Barclays Center on April 11 with the undefeated Postol fighting a tune-up bout on the undercard.
There is a suggestion that Garcia (whose last mandatory engagement was Lucas Matthysse in September 2013) may relinquish his WBC crown to move up in weight leaving Postol to fight for the vacant title against the hard-hitting Argentine and No.2 contender. The WBC stated in February that the winner of Garcia-Postol must face Matthysse next.
“I believe that Danny Garcia does not want to fight me because he does not want to lose his belt,” Postol told Boxing Monthly whilst part of Manny Pacquiao’s training entourage in Macau (fellow sparring partner and 13-2 (2 KOs) pro lightweight Stan Martyniouk translating). “From my understanding, Garcia just wants to fight Lamont Peterson for a bigger payday. I’m looking forward to my title shot. I don’t care if it’s for the vacant belt – if it’s against Danny Garcia or Lucas Matthyse. I just want that world title shot, against anybody.
“As far as the ratings go, I am the number one contender so I should be fighting the champion, but a lot of guys have been avoiding me,” continued the Ukrainian. “They don’t want to fight me because they are chasing a big money fight like Danny Garcia, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. They keep avoiding me as they are afraid they will lose and not get that big shot. Everyone is about money these days.”
Postol, 26-0 (11 KOs), lives with his wife approximately 30kms outside the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, but flies out to the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles to work with master trainer Freddie Roach. He spent the autumn in the Philippines helping eight-division Pacquiao prepare for that dominant win over Chris Algieri at the Cotai Arena in Macau.
“It was a big opportunity for me to spar with Manny. I got some great experience,” Postol told BM. “Manny is a very good fighter and not easy to spar against. Freddie looked out for me, even though I was working as Manny’s sparring partner. He made sure I had a good workout and took good care of me. I learned a lot from Manny. It was a different training regime from what I am used to. I had previously sparred Ruslan Provodnikov and did very well against him. Now I’ve sparred Manny so feel I am growing as a fighter. I would say Manny is the fastest fighter I’ve encountered. He moves very well on his feet, he’s very quick and throws a lot of fast punches.”
Stories circulated in late October that Pacquiao had broken Postol’s nose in sparring, but the Ukrainian’s unblemished features in Macau illustrated that these tales were wide of the mark. “My nose was never broken. I just got hit in the nose in sparring,” explained Postol. “My nose was a little bruised up but it went away in a couple of days. Someone over-exaggerated the damage and wrote something that was not true.”
Trainer Roach was certainly impressed with Postol’s contribution in the Philippines. “Viktor is a good boxer with a very educated left hand,” said the celebrated trainer. ”He can get a lot better when I teach him to use both hands [effectively]. It is coming slowly, but it takes time. There are a few small adjustments we need to make, just to make him a better fighter. We do have a language barrier that hurts us a little bit. But Viktor was the most difficult sparring partner for Manny in the Philippines. Manny liked to work with Viktor because he challenged him a little bit. Taking Viktor’s jab away from him was not easy and it took Manny a little while to make the right adjustments.
“I bet you money Postol is naturally left-handed,” continued Roach. “I’ve watched him in the restaurant and he eats with his left hand and cuts his food with his left hand. He looks like a leftie to me. I’m not positive yet. I know that’s his best hand though. Like Oscar De La Hoya who was left-handed (but a converted southpaw) - I think Viktor is one of those.”
Roach’s right-hand man Marvin Somodio assumed training duties for Postol’s impressive knockout of Jo Jo Dan conqueror Aydin with the in-demand trainer otherwise engaged. “Marvin looked after Viktor at the last camp because I was really busy. So I was on the floor that night. I was the bucket boy!” laughed Roach, arguably the most qualified bucket holder in boxing history. “I didn’t give Postol any advice. I gave Marvin the job because I want him to grow and gain more experience of being the boss. People were yelling for Viktor to pick up a bit and knock Aldin out so Marvin said, “Shall I let him go?” But I said, “No, hold him back, keep him calm, two more rounds.” Two rounds later, I said, “Okay Marvin, tell him to finish.”
“Viktor stuck to the gameplan and not all young guys can do that. They get a little anxious and want to take the opponent out sooner,” continued Roach. “I said this guy is maybe a little too dangerous. It was a good performance. I was really happy with Viktor’s professionalism. Not being too greedy and trying to get someone out of there who might still have a chance of knocking him out. I think Garcia is afraid to fight him, yes.”
Postol’s manager Vadim Kornilov is unsure whether Garcia will vacate rather than fight his man. “I think Garcia might actually fight Viktor right after he fights Peterson,” Kornilov told BM from his base in Carson, California. “I think it is likely he has been avoiding Viktor. Garcia had a lot of time to take care of the mandatory with Viktor before this fight if he was not avoiding him. We have a (step-aside) agreement with a financial consideration.
“I met Viktor through his Ukrainian promoter Elite Boxing Promotions,” continued Kornilov. “He is a great fighter, a very hard worker. I know he will become a world champion one day. He deserves it. Viktor has definitely become a better professional fighter since he started training with Freddie. I am sure everybody saw the improvements in the Aydin fight. I would give that performance an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Viktor still will improve. It was only his first camp with our team, but he did very well, better than expected.”
“The Aydin fight was one of my best performances,” agreed Postol, who also holds decision wins over contender Hank Lundy and former WBO 140lbs champion DeMarcus Corley. “That’s what everybody keeps telling me. I had a great team around me. Each fight I always do something different and add something new to my style. I wouldn’t say I am an aggressive fighter. I am more of a counter puncher. Everything depends on my opponent. If the opponent comes at me, I am going to box and if the opponent backs up I am going to pressure him.
“I had a lot of experience in the amateurs. I boxed almost 300 amateur fights and travelled a lot and that’s really helped me develop in the pros,” recalled Postol, who represented the Ukrainian military team and as an amateur won bronze at 64kgs in his national championships. “In Ukraine, we have a great boxing programme from the old Soviet school. That’s what we were taught and where the good fighters come from. I began boxing at 12 years old and then I went into a boxing academy. Nobody helped me to become a boxer. My dad left when I was very young so it was very difficult for me. I had to do everything on my own. I know I can go far in boxing, but nobody has given me a shot and a chance to go to the next level. I feel like I can be a world champion. I will fight anybody.”