When it comes to working in the gym, undefeated Russian heavyweight prospect Apti Davtaev (14-0-1, 13 KOs) and his US trainer, Kronk Gym’s Javan Sugar Hill Steward, have their own way of communicating.
“We play a form of charades a lot. I physically put him in position sometimes and show him the openings,” said Steward. “It’s a challenge for me, which makes me love it more, to teach him without talking.”
The pair are currently hard at work for the big Russian’s (from the Chechen Republic of Kurchaloi) ring return, scheduled for April.
“He wants to learn so badly that he’s a sponge,” continued Steward. “Russians don’t have the same level of training as they do in the US. This is a dream come true for him. Bringing a Russian fighter over here to train is much different than a US fighter coming to my gym. They’re already Americanized. These guys are hungry. They have very little else going on in their lives. He’s a married Muslim and all he cares about is his religion and his family. There’s no Facebook or Twitter in his world. All he wants is to be world champion.”
Steward says that Davtaev comes with a high level of skill and their training focuses more on the finer points.
“He’s a big powerful heavyweight. Good basics and he learns fast. He can read opponents and makes adjustments very easily. I’m working with him how to set up more shots. He’s big and he needs to use his jab and his big right hand to put himself in position to stay in control. We’re working on using more ring generalship. When you’re big like that, you can’t let someone crowd you.”
28-year-old Davtaev, co-promoted by Salita Promotions and KA Promotions, says he’s enjoying his working relationship with Steward.
“From the first days of our acquaintance, we immediately found a common language. He gives me a lot of attention and has taught me a lot in a very caring way. That’s why I’m very grateful to him.”
Davtaev agrees he’s not in the US for the fun. Hard work and dedication to his mission are the only things on his mind.
“A professional athlete should be focused only on one thing,” he explains, “the achievement of success. It is always necessary to approach your goals with full responsibility to the training process and the fight itself. Certainly, I miss the motherland and my family, but knowing why I’m here and getting support from relatives and friends, helps me endure much easier.”
Always a haven for world-class fighters, Davtaev currently has a quality training and sparring partner to work with at Detroit’s Kronk Gym. Former heavyweight champion Charles Martin is training at Kronk as well.
“These are 6’5 250-lb guys and their skill levels are very even,” said Steward. “They are learning from each other.”
This is Steward’s fifth Russian fighter he’s worked with and Steward says he’s enjoying himself very much.
“He’s trying to learn English, but he we communicate just fine. We have a good time. Learning has to be fun, so he has a good time and I enjoy teaching him. He learns fast, even though he doesn’t know English.”