Ran Nakash isn’t afraid to go to war in order to get another shot at a cruiserweight title. In fact, he’s quite the authority on the subject.
The 33-year-old former title challenger also happens to be the Chief Commander and Head Instructor of the Israeli Defense Force’s Krav Maga instructional division.
To put it plainly, when he’s not preparing for a bout such as this Saturday’s eight-round affair with Derek Bryant at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, Nakash is teaching soldiers in Israel how to be deadly street fighters.
“Krav Maga is a system of self defense. And I use the word system and not martial art, because there is no ‘art’ to Krav Maga. There is one goal. The goal is stay alive, that’s it,” explains Nakash. “Muay Thai, Karate, it’s (all) good. But if you want the system to fight outside in the street, it’s Krav Maga. You become a fighting machine.”
Nakash (25-1, 18 knockouts) heads up his division with the ISD twice a week at home in Israel, during time not spent training in his new fighting discipline of boxing, which he took up five years ago. Due to his late start in the sport, he’s never been the most refined of pugilists. Seldom will he take backward steps, as it’s not in his nature to shy away from danger.
He describes brawling on the inside as “his game,” but he cannot use the form that he’s a worldwide authority on during a boxing match, as low-blows, elbows to the back of the head and eye-gouging would result in point deductions, or disqualification.
“Only mentally,” says Nakash of the one element of Krav Maga he can put to use while boxing. “Go all the way.”
After 25 wins, Nakash stepped up in class and went all the way to the final bell with WBO titleholder Marco Huck last April. The challenger gave Huck more turbulence than he has been used to during his title reign—perhaps enough to warrant better than the lopsided results two judges turned in (scores were 116-112 and 118-110 twice).
“They didn’t give me any rounds. If you saw the fight, I won the first five (rounds). Even the guys that worked at the fight for EuroSport–I’d never met them–but even they said after the fight that it was crazy,” claims Nakash. “But listen, this is Germany. I know the game. This is Germany, and if you don’t win with a KO, you lose.”
Even if he hadn’t turned in an impressive effort, he can be forgiven, as he took the bout on short notice. Since then, he’s taken a more measured approach for his next bout, moving his training camp to Canada, where he visits a new gym every day in southern Ontario to get varied sparring. Before he embarks on his sparring tour though, he wakes up at his base in Toronto, puts in the requisite roadwork, and chops wood in the snowy forest.
“It’s horrible,” joked Nakash. “I’m from Tel-Aviv. Tel-Aviv is a desert. The worst winter day, you can go t-shirt and a jacket, that’s it. Here, the day before it was minus 15.”
Barring a victory over Bryant (20-6-1, 17 KOs) on Saturday, the fighter and his manager, Rannan Tal, have their eyes set back on Huck. The goal for 2012, they claim, is to get revenge on the German on North American soil. Since a rematch is not immediately possible, Nakash will help Alexander Povetkin instead, reporting to the WBA heavyweight titlist’s training camp to help him prepare for Huck, who makes his debut in the division.
While he can’t be certain that he willever get Huck back in the ring, let alone beat him, he is at least sure that he would come out victorious in a street fight with him, or any other boxer, for that matter.
“Listen, it’s a different story. A kick to the groin, it’s over,” said Nakash. “But I want him in the ring, in the United States, not in the streets.”
Corey Erdman is also the host of RingTV Radio. Follow him on Twitter @corey_erdman