Kicked out of school at 16, binge drinking and experimenting with drugs barely as a teenager, it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that boxing saved Andrei Mikhailovich.
“When I was 11, 12, 13, 14, I had real bad issues with substance abuse, alcohol,” Mikhailovich told Ben Damon on The Main Event Boxing Podcast.
“I got kicked out of school at 16 because of fighting and drinking; it was just ridiculous what I got up to.”
The drinking continued, too.
“I think the year before (I turned professional), I had been drinking non-stop, like four-five times a week going hard,” Mikhailovich added.
That’s one part of Mikhailovich’s roller-coaster story.
But it doesn’t tell you why the boxer, who on Wednesday night fights King Davidson as the co-main event headlined by the IBF youth super featherweight title fight between Dana Coolwell and Ender Luces, turned to drugs.
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For Mikhailovich, who is now happily married and has two children at 24-years-old, his dependence on alcohol and drug use likely stemmed from his unique family upbringing.
Mikhailovich and his twin brother were adopted at 18 months by New Zealand couple Paula and Marcel Driessen.
The rising boxing star, who is 16-0 and already a two-weight champion in New Zealand, speaks glowingly of his adopted parents.
But the Russian-born, New Zealander-raised fighter acknowledges that talking about his biological family remains an emotional subject and one that has caused an immense amount of pain and, likely, led to his experimentation with drugs and alcohol.
He puts it down to “separation problems from my birth parents and not knowing who they were”.
“It’s a tough one talking about my birth parents,” he said.
“Everytime I talk about it, I always get somewhat emotional when I talk about it.
“I do know a little bit about my birth parents and I know that I was the 10th child from my birth parents. I didn’t know anything about my siblings and I don’t really know anything about my birth parents, I know names.”
Mikhailovich says he remains unsure if he would like to meet his parents, but says it is a “pilgrimage” he is considering later in life.
He will step back into the ring for the first time in almost a year, after Covid scuppered his momentum following his victory over Alex Hanan.
He’s the guy that pointed his hand at Mikhailovich, pretended it was a gun and shot.
Then he threw a cheap punch in the seconds before their bout on the Justis Huni-Paul Gallen card. The video has been seen by almost two million on YouTube.
But Mikhailovich knows that one hot day doesn’t make a summer and says he’s intent on creating more highlights.
“It was massive. It was crazy. It went all over Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok; it went crazy and the amount of love and support I got for the video was awesome but I also try to think about it, it was just one moment and it’s not a reflection of today,” Mikhailovich said.
“It was cool, it was a great moment in my life, but that fight’s gone. It’s a distant thing for me now. I’ve got to live in the present.”
Indeed he does and after being forced to upskill during the Covid-enforced lockdown, that is exactly what he plans on doing.
He will take on King Davidson, who has returned after a stint on the sidelines but has a wealth of experience under his belt.
“I watched him, I think he’s a talented fighter. I think he’s very skilful. He’s been at the Commonwealth Games. He’s good,” Mikhailovich said.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenge and I think it’s going to be a very interesting fight. It’s a real contrast in styles. It’s just going to be a really interesting battle. I can’t wait.”
But without the same animosity between the two fighters, can Mikhailovich go to the well and fight with the same anger?
“100 per cent. There’s no two ways about it. It’s my job to go out there and fight, I can’t go in there and not fight. I’m a fighter. I was born with natural aggression. It doesn’t matter who I’m fighting,” he said.
“I just think it’s going to be a great fight. I feel like I’m going to perform and put on an excellent boxing display of ability.
“You’re going to see so much drama. The one thing that I do is I feel like boxing is my theatre and I’m the lead actor and I’m the hero and the villain at the same time.
“This is my play of happiness. So you’re going to see drama.”