In the mid nineties football - Ukraine number one sport - got a serious competitor. Glorious victory of Vladimir Klichko at the Olympiad in Atlanta and his triumphant performance at professional ring together with his brother Vitaliy, ex-kick boxer, predetermined new priorities among sport fans. Martial arts acquired popularity and understanding, and their heroes – fame and adoration. However, against a background of this mass passion in a shadow of men-heroes there were women for who martial arts were a part and parcel of their lives. One of such women is Elena Tverdokhleb, the champion of the world and Europe. Though, it is far from being a surprise. A real surprise is that Elena does not only perform at the professional boxing ring, but also heads the legal department of one of Ukraine biggest gambling industry operators. This is a proof of the fact that fighting merits and firmness of purpose are good not only on the battlefield, but also in a “civil’ life. After all, despite all the differences the principle is the same – to win.
- - Elena, you are a practicing lawyer, the head of the legal department of one of Ukraine biggest gambling industry operators and at the same time the champion of the world and Europe. How did you happen to get involved into martial arts which are completely non-related to jurisprudence?
- As long as can remember, I always did sports: from games to track-and-field athletics. And when in the mid 80s there appeared judo for women, I immediately joined the section and I should say I was doing fine: for two years I’d been the champion of Kyiv, a prize – winner of Ukraine Championship and some international tournaments. Though, it was not quite my cup of tee… Finally, in 1991 I chanced to meet an expert who started to promote boxing for women and I realized that boxing and kick-boxing was just what I needed. I stared to rapidly advance in popular at that time of 90s kickboxing and in 1992 I won my first silver medal at X World Championship in Greece (WAKO), then I got bronze medal at IХ World Championship in Budapest (WAKO) in 1993, and in 1995 I became the champion of the world at X World Championship in Kiev (WAKO) and the champion of Europe among professionals of WAKO, and then in 1997 in Milan I became the champion of the world according to prestige American version ISKA. And of course, I was permanent champion of Ukraine. Since 2003 I have been performing in professional boxing.
- Such a temperament can’t appear like a bolt from the blue. Did you fight a lot in the childhood?
- No doubt of that, fighting was just going all out of me; I was a habitual ringleader and a participant of all the out fights. The boys of our yard never doubted the victory over the neighboring boys if I took part in the fight. I was fighting desperately and had no fear of broken nose and teeth. Everybody thinks that my nose was broken on the ring, but actually it is a trace of my pugnacious childhood.
- And still, if you were to choose between jurisprudence and boxing, what would you choose?
- When my friends form Europe and America wonder how can I, a practicing lawyer, be professionally into boxing, I always laugh off that professionally I am into jurisprudence, and boxing just helps to persuade opponents… But to be serious, I never faced and I will never face such a choice – I can do both and even more. It is eight years since I have been heading the legal departments of the biggest companies, the recent two years in gambling industry, so now gambling houses for me are not an entertainment, but the field of professional activity.
- Vitaliy Klichko has repeatedly expressed opinion that boxing is not for women. What would you answer him?
- I would say that boxing is not for all men either...
- Recently, Ukrainian men combined team has won the third place at World Championship Cup in boxing, but it was a complete disappointment. And what is the situation with women boxing in Ukraine?
- Speaking about amateur boxing, the result are obvious – competitions and championships regularly take place, the combined team takes part in European and world competitions, there are some good results at the world level. Unfortunately, the best results can not be achieved because of lack of financing. That is why for European and world championships they promote not the best boxers, but those who managed to find sponsors. On the other hand, the number of women taking up boxing is increasing, which is good, because quantity inevitable grows into quality. And if speaking about professional boxing, there is nothing to say, since professional women boxing actually does not exist in Ukraine. Few persons boxing at the professional level perform in Europe. Unfortunately, our boxing associations cant give a hand even to men fights a couple of times a year, and those “professional” events hold in Ukraine leave much to be desired, especially as for the casting of the participants.
- There has been more sport, including boxing, on TV channels; however, we still do not see women boxing. What is the reason for that, in your opinion?
- It depends on channels. Speaking about national ones, that’s right, as we have no professional women boxing in Ukraine, and, correspondingly, there is nothing to broadcast on our channels. And to buy form foreign channels is expensive. Though, this is the item to address “Nemiroff”, the “general fan” of professional boxing.
However, some canals, for instance, French CANAL+, which is top-popular in France and other European countries, the situation is completely different, since they have what to show. And most importantly, European viewers vote for this euro.
- Elena, do you ever feel in conflict situations that people do not contradict you because they are afraid of you? And what does a phrase “a strong woman” mean for you?
- It depends on a conflict situation. In professional situations they do not contradict me because I am competent at the issues I discuss. It is usually a discussion or dispute which brings the truth. If speaking about moments when it is needed to put a cad in his place, so let him be afraid, since I can prove my words not only with oral evidence, which is sometimes inefficient, but also with fists. It is better then to gulp back offences. And as for “a strong woman”… Kindness and good manners must be with fists in the direct meaning of it; otherwise cads will wipe their feet on them.
- Many people call Leila Ali the greatest in women boxing, just as her father used to be called the Greatest. What do you think?
- I don’t know people who would frankly call Leila Ali “the greatest” in women boxing. It is rather homage towards one of the greatest boxers of the past, Mohamed Ali who is remembered and respected by millions of boxing fans. This legend lingers on due to his name. Beyond any doubt women boxing has got more interesting, striking and technical fighters than Leila Ali, though to do her justice, she has greatly improved recently, thanks to the miracles of financial investments...
- Could you describe what you feel when you send your rival to the canvas: what’s that – triumph, anger, a feeling of a well done job…?
- Never thought of it as about a job – I would then lose joy of treating boxing as an exciting hobby… Triumph – that’s the right word.
- There is a Russian movie “Man’s job”. In your opinion, what shouldn’t a woman do? What kind of sport?
- I’ll talk about sport: I do not understand such kind of sports as women weight and power lifting which disfigures and maims a woman! Another ridiculous, unaesthetic and hardly interesting to anybody show is women football when performed by passionately swearing persons of undefined sex. Our football federation should better direct these funds to search and training of young talented people since it is a shame to look at our club teams. Women bodybuilding does not evoke pleasant emotions with me either…
- Have you had any moments, probably after losses, when you felt like quitting boxing?
- Such a moment happens to every sportsman, one just has to overcome it. I had such a moment in 2005 after I lost 10-round fight in Marcel for the title of WBA World Champion which was organized and hold by Europe and world most popular promoting company of Michele Akaris. Sportsmen wait for such a chance for years, and most of them never get it. It is extremely vexing to lose due to the reasons which do not depend on your, when you had chance to train twice a week, not twice a day, and when you could not even dream about sparing partners. I felt lie quitting, but after I calmed down I made certain conclusions and now I am preparing for new fights. Me competitors and their managers will be surprised, and I think even astonished!
- Is sport you only passion or you can as well spend time in a casino?
- I don’t have chance to relax in a casino since I work in gambling industry and it is considered unethical to visit your casinos, to the least of your competitors’ casinos. That’s why sport is my only passion.