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Orzubek "Gussie" Nazarov

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One of the best ex-Soviet fighters to turn pro in his time and ever, Orzubek Nazarov was also the first Kyrgyz world champion ever. After a stellar amateur career, he was brought to Japan where he started his pro career. He looked unbeatable for a long time, until an unfortunate accident at home in Kyrgyzstan and later an eye injury brought it to an end. In his rather short but impressive career, he captured the WBA lightweight title, making six defenses of it, and defeated fighters like Dingaan Thobela, Joey Gamache and Leavander Johnson. He is considered one of the greatest talents that burned out too early, in his time.


He was born in Kant, a city in the north end of Kyrgyzstan, close to the border with Kazakhstan, 30 August 1966. He is of Uzbek and Kyrgyz ethnicity. He grew up in the capital city, Bishkek. A hard-hitting southpaw, he started boxing at 10 and won the bronze at the 1986 world amateur championships in Reno and was a three time Soviet champion as well, beating Kostya Tszyu in the 1988 finals and losing to him in the 1989 finals. He also won the 1987 European championships and ended his amateur career with a record of 153-12. In 1990, he was bought by the Kyoei Gym from Tokyo, along with five other Soviet boxers, among them Yuri Arbachakov, a future world flyweight champion. He made his debut on 1 February that year and won by TKO 1. He scored 8 straight knockouts and then had to go the distance first time against the experienced Thai Daomai Sithkodom, winning after 10 rounds by decision. He won the Japanese lightweight title by TKO 4 against Kenji Yagi. In 1992 he also won the Oriental version on points against Iwao Otomo. He made three defenses of it, all by knockout, before challenging the reigning WBA champion, Dingaan Thobela of South Africa. Thobela had only one loss in 30 fights, to Tony Lopez, whom he then defeated. The fight happened 30 October 1993 at Nasrec Indoor Arena in Johannesburg. Nazarov entered history when he decisively defeated the South African and won by mostly wide scores, 118-108, 117-111 and 115-114. Thobela asked for a rematch and again Nazarov had to fight in his homeland, this time in Hammanskraal. This time, all three judges gave him the verdict by equally wide scores, 10 rounds to 2. He then faced Joey Gamache in his first fight in USA, 10 December 1994 in Portland. Gamache was the former holder of the WBA belt, before he lost it to Tony Lopez. Nazarov made short work of him, knocking him down three times to end the fight in the second round.


He then faced the 15-0-1 Korean Won Park and again won by KO2. He then decisioned the Pinoy Dindo Canoy before stopping the 12-0 Indonesian Adrianus Taroreh by KO 4, in November 1995 and April 1996 respectively. He then went to USA again to fight against Leavander Johnson, 26-1, at Conventional Center in Coconut Grove. Nazarov was again dominant and halted Johnson by TKO 7. Johnson would later briefly capture the IBF title before tragically dying after losing it to Jesus Chavez. That was 10 May 1997 and not long thereafter, Nazarov was visiting his home country when his car was attacked by bandits. One of the other occupants of the car was indebted to Russian mob. Nazarov was shot in the arm but survived. It took him some time to recuperate but he came back to the ring in October that year and won a fight at the 140 limit against Oscar Natalio Lopez by KO 4. Shortly thereafter however, he began experiencing eye problems and had to struggle to beat Freddy Cruz in another fight above the lightweight limit, in the end winning by decision in an 8-rounder in Saint Martin. He then made his seventh defense of his title, a year after the last, on 16 May 1998 against Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Mendy, in Paris. Mendy thumbed him in the third round and his retina tore. He therefore could not fight well and ended up on the losing end after the final bell sounded, losing by a clear unanimous decision. That was his last fight and the 32-yearold Kyrgyz hero retired with a record of 26 wins, 19 by ko, and 1 sole loss. Had he won the last fight, he might have landed a fight against the then-IBF champ Shane Mosley. Many experts wanted to see that fight but alas, it never happened. Because of his strong boxing fundamentals and good punching power, many believe Nazarov would have posed a serious challenge for Mosley.


Orzubek was called "Gussie" in Japan, after a famous fighter of old who had that nickname. He was an officer in the Kyrgyz army and in 2007 was elected to the Kyrgyz parlament. He was rather tall for a lightweight at almost 5'8 and had a big reach of 71 inches. He is definitely one of the most talented fighters to emerge from the Soviet Union and the most talented and accomplished fighter from Kyrgyzstan. Everyone agrees to one thing: he was capable of achieving even more than he did.

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