Igor Goloubev is the 2023 TSS Boxing Trainer of the Year


By Arne K. Lang

It’s been a good year for boxers from Australia. Cruiserweight Jai Opetaia and super welterweight Tim Tszyu are widely considered the top fighters in their respective weight classes. Australians, male and female, are well-represented in the rankings of all the major sanctioning bodies. Tim Tszyu’s younger brother Nikita is making great strides and, in tandem, the sons of the great Kostya Tszyu are the poster child of boxing in the Land Down Under.

Standing behind the brothers, working in the shadows, is their trainer Igor Goloubev who has been there from the very beginning.

Goloubev is a member of the Tszyu family in the literal sense. He is married to Kostya Tszyu’s sister. Kostya came to Sydney in 1997 with a touring Russian amateur team and stuck around, although he would eventually return to Russia and start a new family. Igor Goloubev, a training partner of Kostya in the old days, never left.

In 2023, the Tsyzu brothers were collectively 7-0. In March, Tim stopped Tony Harrison in the ninth round, dominating the Detroiter in a bout that was expected to be far more competitive. He followed that up with a highlight-reel, 77-second knockout of Carlos Ocampo and then a unanimous decision over underrated Brian Mendoza.

His win over Mendoza brought him the WBO 154-pound title which was stripped from Jermell Charlo after Charlo bypassed Tszyu in favor of a match with super middleweight Canelo Alvarez. Tszyu had been calling out Charlo for many months but Jermell wanted no part of him.

Nikita Tszyu, a pro for less than two full years, scored four wins in 2023, pushing his record to 8-0. He won all four of his 2023 fights inside the distance

As amateurs, Nikita was busier. He was thought to have the bigger upside because he packed a harder punch and, unlike his brother, was a southpaw. But folks forgot about him when he put his boxing career on hold for five years to pursue a college degree in architecture.

Outside the ring, Kostya Tszyu was an introvert. Partly because English wasn’t his first language, he never transcended his sport. Igor Goloubev likewise eschews the limelight. “He’s difficult to pin down for an interview,” noted Jamie Pandaram, a writer for Australia’s Daily Telegraph. But Pandaram succeeded in getting Goloubev to share some of his unorthodox Russian training exercises. Here’s two:

*To develop neck strength, balance and coordination, Goloubev has his fighters stand on their head in the middle of the ring for three minutes.

*To improve a boxer’s speed, reaction time and hand-eye coordination, he has a coin trick: five coins are lined up on a flat surface and tossed into the air. The boxer must catch all five before they hit the ground.

Kostya Tszyu basically trained himself after he left the amateur ranks. As a pro, he never needed any prodding to go the extra mile in his workouts; he never cut corners. His sons are no less dedicated, but Goloubev works them hard. “He would make us vomit,” said Tim, recollecting the running drills across sand dunes that Goloubev put them through as kids.

Team Tszyu is headed to Las Vegas right after the first of the year for an eight-week camp in preparation for a March card on which both brothers will appear. The show will run in conjunction with a National Rugby League doubleheader in Las Vegas that will serve as the launching pad for the 2024 NRL season. There are still a lot of details to be worked out including the brothers’ opponents.

The brothers’ manager Glen Jennings hopes to boat the elusive Jermell Charlo for Tim. Erickson Lubin is Plan B. He hopes that he can induce Nico Ali Walsh to oppose Nikita.

Training both brothers simultaneously is a juggling act. In Las Vegas, Goloubev will oversee all aspects of Tim’s training, A to Z, but another member of the team, Mark Gambin, will monitor Nikita’s workouts other than sparring which would command Goloubev’s eyes too and his voice in the corner.

Goloubev recently said “he hasn’t reached his full potential,” and he was referencing Tim, not Nikita, who is ipso facto a work in progress. If that be true, the transplanted Russian trainer just may be back for an encore on this page next year.

Honorable mentions: Brian “BoMac” McIntyre, Shingo Inoue, Bill Haney, Andy Lee