The big plan: Al Siesta interview
Photos: Twitter al_siesta
James Lupton gets to know Albert Khachaturov aka Al Siesta, the Kyrgyzstan-born promoter and manager who is making a big splash in the boxing world...
Albert Khachaturov may not be a name you’re familiar with, however, his alias Al Siesta is a growing name in boxing management. matchmaking and promotion.
Siesta is best known for having guided Mairis Briedis to the WBC world title and the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight semi-finals. Siesta now finds himself staging boxing shows all across Europe, with Bracknell being the chosen location for his cards in England.
“I was born in Kyrgyzstan in a city Frunze which is now called Bishkek," Siesta tells Boxing Monthly. "At the age of six, we moved to Uzbekistan where my younger brother was born. We lived in a city called Andijan, which is known as a boxing Mecca in Uzbekistan. All the best fighters such as [Ruslan] Chagaev came out of Andijan.”
Siesta grew up in Moscow during the fall of the Soviet empire – the last ten years basically. “When I was 8 years old we moved to Moscow," he explains. "I grew up in southern Moscow where I went to school and university, and then I dropped out. One of the most interesting things was that in Soviet times there was no real class difference between people. It’s not like in England where you come from a posh middle-class family or whatever that you would live in one area and if you are less fortunate you would live in the projects.
"In Russia it is all mixed together, I actually think it excelled Russian intellect and life understanding because everyone is mixed together. If you speak to a taxi driver or a doctor, they will speak the same way, with the same accents and language, using the same adjectives and so forth.
“So I grew up in Moscow, my father was an architect and my mother is a genetic engineer you would consider me to come from a middle-class background, although I grew up in southern Moscow called Biryulyovo, it was known for its gangsters, you could compare it to the Bronx in New York or a Compton in LA.
"Because we came from other areas of Russia, we were put in the flats in the less fortunate areas of Moscow. I was basically brought up on those streets, the school and street education went hand in hand in my upbringing during Soviet times. Funnily enough, it wasn’t that rough because communist states, whether you like them or not, are quite well organised. There is not much crime on the streets, it’s more fighting between different areas and communities. I was like most kids though, I loved playing football and loved music.”
With a passion for music Albert, aged just 22, embarked on a new journey.
A journey which brought him to England.
“As a young man the area was very volatile, the country was struggling to move from communism to capitalism. It was a tough transition, I was creative and a musician, I could see no immediate future for me there. I could see that it would take many years for Russia to change to what we see now. It was very tough and violent.
“I was 22 when I emigrated to the United Kingdom in Southampton to study music at the university. I then dropped out of university and was playing music for a living and was producing and recording. I then discovered boxing and here I am.”
Boxing was a sport which Russia was ‘obsessed’ with according to Siesta who recalls watching heavyweight greats Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson with great fondness when he was growing up.
“In Soviet times everybody was obsessed with boxing. I have loved it since I can remember, we were brought up on it in Russia. When I was younger I used to watch the Olympic games, we used to watch Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. Boxing is a huge part of Russia. During Soviet times that included countries such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan, it’s safe to say boxing and the Soviet Union went hand in hand.”
Being a boxing fan is one thing, but how does a music student turned musician end up being a boxing manager and promoter?
Siesta explains the gambles he has taken and the efforts he has put in.
“It was a challenge, I wanted to see how far I could go without having any finance behind me and [if I could] move a fighter through to world title opportunities through sheer determination.
“It worked to a certain extent, but I’ll be honest with you, it gets tiring, I realised that some fighters are not very loyal people and only look out for their own interests. They disregard all the work you have done, the sleepless nights and time spent away from family to put together opportunities for them. They can sometimes only think about how much the camps cost and can tend to disregard the effort that goes into creating the world title fights and things like that.
“I tell you this, the relationships between promoter, manager and fighter that are genuine are the successful ones. The teams that have the fighter purely looking out for his own interests never work until they are lying face down on the canvas. It’s just my observation. [Oleksandr] Usyk’s team is a great example of a team being genuine.
"Usyk is an amazing individual altogether, he’s very loyal and understanding and has a great intellect, he’s a great fighter and his team is phenomenal. Very nice and simple to work with, very professional and straightforward people. That is the recipe for success.”
Siesta is not one to hold back or bite his tongue. Indeed, he has been very vocal regarding the many recent judging controversies which have caused the sport to come under scrutiny in the last 12 months.
“Judges need to be handed the Nobel prize for breaking the laws of mathematics recently," he declares. "I just don’t know how they put the scoring together recently. I’ve been to many shows and I don’t know how they judge these contests.
“The worst thing about boxing is the judging and refereeing. I think boxing has moved on considerably but the judging and refereeing is lingering behind. We need to rewrite the ruling of boxing!”
Siesta Boxing Promotions is an outfit on the rise. Their most recent show, The Bracknell Carnival, was a great success. Packed with great talent, can’t-pick-em fights and underdog upsets. They are extremely fan-friendly.
Siesta has worked with some of the biggest promoters in the world, including Comosa AG on the WBSS, and more recently Matchroom. “They have an enormous influence on my shows," he says of these experiences. "I learn every time I go to one of these big shows. Matchroom taught me organisational aspects and understanding the business. I’m have a great education working with these people. I’m like a sponge observing everything.”
In summation, the future seems bright and Al has big dreams: “I want to be a televised promoter with a good contract and make champions… and everything in between. This is the big plan!”