Daniyar Yeleussinov is in somber spirits and has the look of a man who has been worn down by the bureaucracy and red tape of professional boxing.
“I don’t really like boxing, I just like to win,” the 31-year-old Kazakh welterweights tells Bad Left Hook.
“I need a promoter; I need to fight,” he continued. “If this doesn’t happen by the end of 2022 then I will have to retire. I am too good to be an ‘opponent’ for a promoter, I have proved this. I deserve a promoter who believes in me and is willing to fight for me.”
Yeleussinov (11-0, 6 KO) thought Eddie Hearn was that man, and that promoter. The Kazakh signed with Matchroom Boxing after turning over from a successful 2016 Olympics — grabbing gold in the 69kg division — but soon saw his career losing steam and attention despite cruising to a 10-0 record. He has fought once since leaving Hearn, recording a unanimous decision in Kazakhstan against the unknown Juan Hernan Leal, but is becoming frustrated by the phone not ringing.
“I would have stayed with Matchroom but their offer included slave-like conditions. It was worthless. I had to commit to just $100,000 for each fight, even if this was against some of the biggest names in the division; Conor Benn, Vergil Ortiz, or Errol Spence. These fights should earn me six or seven times that amount! And I had no right to increase my fee at all.
“There are lots of promoters that I would love to work with: Frank Warren and Al Haymon, but they have their own fighters and obligations. After all, I am a Kazakh; nobody seems interested in promoting me. We’re still waiting on an option that suits me. I guess these things take time.”
Yeleussinov seems completely disillusioned by the professional game. A decorated amateur, the welterweight dominated in the unpaid ranks, taking scalps of fighters like Jamel Herring, Josh Taylor, Shakhram Giyasov, and Josh Kelly en route to Olympic, Asian and World Championship golds, but that world feels a distant memory following four years of treading water as a pro.
“I guess my style also doesn’t suit certain promoters,” he adds. “For example, I feel like Eddie Hearn prefers punchers to boxers like me. It’s also important for fans to get to know fighters and that doesn’t always happen with us Kazakhs. Maybe I need to become a trash-talker to get my name out there a bit more, but that’s not really my personality.”
As downbeat as Yeleussinov is, I get the impression that he is at peace with any decision he might be forced to make in the near future. His family have raised their concerns of his career as a prize fighter, including his two sons that don’t like watching him fight, and he is confident that his home nation will provide him with an alternative future.
“I’ll have plenty of opportunities in Kazakhstan if I retire,” he explains. “At home, Olympic champions are national heroes. Who knows what I will become; maybe it will be a secret like 007!
“My main goal was to win gold at the Olympic Games, so I guess everything now is a bonus. I would love a big, big fight so I can demonstrate my boxing ability and my superior defense, but what happens, happens. [Terence] Crawford, Spence, and Boots Ennis are the sort of guys that I should be fighting at this stage of my career, but it’s just never happened. I’ve just been waiting for news far too long.”
I was sitting ringside at Daniyar Yeleussinov’s second pro fight inside London’s sweaty York Hall back in 2018, and if you were to tell me that this talent would be allowed to slip through the fishing net of boxing, then I’d have shook my head in disbelief.
Professional boxing is a different animal to that of the amateur ranks and Yeleussinov has found himself rolling too many 1s during his time playing snakes and ladders.
It might not be game over just yet, but the “Kazakh Thunder” is closer than ever to packing away the board.