Rising boxing star Andrei Mikhailovich has fit plenty into his 24 years on earth and he’s channelling all of it into being a world champion.
Although not a household name in Australia, Mikhailovich is already a two-weight champion in New Zealand, having held the Pro Box NZ middleweight title since August 2019 and the PBCNZ super welterweight crown since November 2020.
Watch Dana Coowell v Ender Luces IBF SuperFeatherweight World Youth Title Live on Kayo Wed 13th April from 7PM. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
He’s built an impressive 16-0 record but despite the local success, Mikhailovich had his big moment in the limelight last June on the Justis Huni-Paul Gallen undercard when he settled his rivalry with Aussie Alex Hanan via a devastating second round KO.
A clip of the fight has more than 20 million views on the Main Event Facebook page alone.
The entire lead-up to the fight had been wild, from a bitter press conference to Hanan pointing a finger gun at Mikhailovich during the weigh-in, to a stomach punch before the fight had even begun.
All that may have rattled lesser men, but Mikhailovich stayed focused and locked in, finishing the fight in quick time.
“I’m still relatively young, even though I’m 24 and married with two kids. Maturity in terms of being under the lights and crucial moments, that’s something I’ve learned about myself,” Mikhailovich told news.com.au.
“I have actually genuine maturity and I can handle pretty much anything now. I had to deal with him being a bit of a muppet at the press conference, at the weigh-in, at the fight, and I handled all of it real good, real calm and cool the whole way.
“I just understand myself as a person, as I’m starting to grow up and understand that this is part of it.
“This is a job to me and I try to stay as emotionless as I can and I do my job, which is to go out there and beat someone up. And that’s it. There’s not much more to it, it’s just a fight at the end of the day.
“And if you look at it like that and take away everything else, it’s just two guys fighting, one wins and that’s it. You’ve just got to be cool, man, just got to relax.”
Boxer needed treatment for drug, alcohol addiction at 12
Keeping his cool in the stunning knockout of the previously undefeated Hanan was a big step forward in Mikhailovich’s career, but it wasn’t so surprising for a man who’s endured what the 24-year-old has.
Born in St Petersburg, Russia, Mikhailovich and his twin brother were adopted at 18 months by New Zealand couple Paula and Marcel Driessen.
Although he doesn’t remember much about of his time in an orphanage, the boxer said he struggled through his youth, revealing he started drinking at the age of 11, which led to other early life addictions.
“I was drinking, smoking chronic and durries and all that – that was pretty tough,” he told news.com.au. “And then I had to go through counselling and stuff like that for drug and alcohol addiction at like 12 years old, it’s ridiculous.
“And then went through counselling and all that s**t for being adopted, which was pretty tough as well.
“Then I started boxing at 15 and that’s pretty much what turned my life around. I had a bit of a relapse at 19 when a few things went wrong in my life. But then I turned pro when I was 20 and everything went really well from there.”
When Mikhailovich says he’s turned his life around, he means it.
The fighter is now married with two young sons, which he says “really fulfils me and makes me happy”.
Although his adoption is something he admits still impacts his life, Mikhailovich has also come to peace with it, channelling it into his boxing.
“Of course it was hard not knowing my birth parents but it’s not something I’ve really focused on too much because I have beautiful parents that raised me, my mum and dad Paula and Marcel,” he said.
“They did a really good job with me and then my teenage years were pretty tricky, pretty tough. I had a lot of drinking issues and all that because of adoption issues but we got there in the end. It’s been a long process and a lot of self work on myself and stuff like that, but I’m definitely getting there.
“I think the adoption certainly gave me that attitude of discipline and all that. It’s given me like a fire and controlling that fire and putting it in the right spaces.
“But I think what it’s done is just taught me a lot of lessons about life. I’ve already had so much life experience like getting married and having kids, I had to grow up extremely quickly. When I was 15 and left school, I had to grow up so fast.”
Stepping stone on road to world title
Mikhailovich will return to the ring on Wednesday April 13 as the co-main event headlined by the IBF youth super featherweight title fight between Dana Coolwell and Ender Luces.
He comes up against 2002 Commonwealth Games light welterweight bronze medallist King Davidson, who used to go by Davidson Emenogu before arriving in Australia from Nigeria. Davidson has tallied regional belts around the world, including the Australian super welterweight title in 2009.
While Davidson hasn’t fought since late 2018, Mikhailovich said he was eager to get back in the ring and test himself again a fighter with such a strong pedigree.
“He’s a really solid opponent and much needed, I haven’t fought since June last year so I’ve had a little bit of time out of the ring myself,” Mikhailovich said.
“It’s a real challenge I’m looking forward to and he’s got a wealth of knowledge and experience … I’m thinking that’s going to be a real interesting technical fight so I can’t wait to be in there with him.
“I have a lot of respect for him, he’s done a lot of good stuff and fought for a long time. I can’t wait for it.”
As for what’s next, Mikhailovich is driven to compete for a world title and has the likes of Isaac Hardman or Michael Zerafa in his sights as the pair prepare to fight in a world title eliminator at Melbourne Convention Centre on April 20.
The winner will move up to No. 2 in the IBF middleweight rankings and be in line for a fight against Brazilian Esquiva Falcao for Gennedy Golovkin’s soon to be vacated middleweight title.
Golovkin will move to middleweight in order to get a trilogy fight with pound-for-pound boxing king Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
But while Mikhailovich is not yet in the world title conversation, promoter Dean Lonergan said he’s ready for the big time.
“The winner of Michael Zerafa and Isaac Hardman will be going to fight for a vacant world title and one of those guys will win that world title. I think it will be Isaac,” Lonergan said.
“Andrei will be one of the first guys fighting for that world title when they bring it home. It’s a very exciting time for Australian boxing with another world title shot just on the horizon.
“If we can win that world title, whoever wins it will make two or three defences in Australia against Australians in the middleweight division because the division is hot. You’ve got Isaac Hardman, you’ve got Michael Zerafa, you’ve got Andrei Mikhailovich. But also coming through you’ve got Daniel Lewis and a kid down in Melbourne called Benjamin Bommber, and he throws punches like a bomber.
“It’s going to be an exciting time over the next couple of years as this unfolds.”
As for Mikhailovich, he believes he’s ready for the next step in his career with big goals in sight.
“I’m actually really excited to watch their fight. I like Zerafa, he’s alright, I’ve sparred with him,” Mikhailovich said. “I don’t actually know Hardman all that well even though he’s talked a lot and talked a lot of s**t or whatever. I don’t really know him that well so I can’t value him as a person but it will be interesting to see the outcome. It’s a real 50-50 fight, so good luck to both of them.
“Of course I want to be a world champion, that’s a given, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be, I back myself that much. But in terms of belts and stuff like that, they’ll come and go, I don’t really care about the belts but it’s world titles and fighting the big fights and fighting on pay-per-view is the goal for me.”