Roman Zhailauov may be just 21, but he has already packed 15 fights into his pro career and possesses the same killer instinct his better-known countryman Gennady Golovkin brings to his fights.
Next weekend, Zhailauov will step into a South African ring for the third time to fight 31-bout veteran Thompson Mokwana, a crafty operator who has never been stopped in a career dating back 10 years.
Despite the obvious language barrier between him and trainer Harold Volbrecht, the Kazakh is learning the ropes just fine. “He’s a natural talent and when you’re training, language doesn’t matter,” says Volbrecht. “Boxing is an international language. Fighters pick things up instinctively.”
Zhailauov says much the same and is comfortable and satisfied with an arrangement that sees him jetting in three weeks before fight time. His manager, Alex Kuznetsov, and younger brother Dair will fly in next week, which ought to settle him more.
While Zhailauov grew up admiring Arturo Gatti, more recently he has warmed towards Golovkin, “probably our greatest sports hero of all time in Kazakhstan,” he says. “I met GGG before and he said he had heard of me, so I was very flattered.”
“His style is similar,” says Rodney Berman, who has promoted both. “I’ve told Roman that if he does it all right, he can become another GGG. They are both lovely guys with savage fists. There’s so much to like about them.”
Zhailauov says little about his opponent, only that he’s right handed and comes to fight.
“I will try and finish it early, that’s all.”
To borrow a phrase from GGG, he plans a “drama show” against Mokwana, particularly as his fight will be broadcast live in Kazakhstan.
Despite talk of a move to junior-welterweight, those plans have been shelved for now. He’s more comfortable at welterweight and, besides, there’s more money to be made there.