When Ukrainian lightweight Ivan Redkach enters the ring at the Cook Convention Center in Memphis, Tenn., in pursuit of his third straight stoppage victory against Tony Luis on the Jan. 17 edition of ShoBox: The Next Generation, the undefeated southpaw will do so dressed in the colors of the Mexican flag.
For long before IBF featherweight titleholder Evgeny Gradovich called himself the "Mexican Russian," Redkach (15-0, 13 KOs), a 27-year-old who lives and trains in Los Angeles, called himself "a Mexican Ukrainian" due to his aggressive style.
"I have adopted Mexico as my country because I love the Mexican warriors' fighting style," said Redkach, who will compete in a scheduled 10-round bout against Canada's Luis (17-1, 7 KOs), a 25-year-old winner of two straight since being stopped in the eighth round by Jose Hernandez in January.
"It is hard-nosed, action-packed aggression and that defines who I am. There will never be a problem finding me in the ring as I come to fight. In fact, on Jan. 17, I will be dressed in the colors of the Mexican flag."
Although many of Redkach's bouts have been in New York, home of his promoter, Lou DiBella, he has spent much of his time in Southern California gyms, where he has sparred with IBF lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez as well as 135-pound title challenger Ray Beltran.
A product of the same Ukrianian program that produced heavyweight title winners Vital Klitschko and Wladimir Klitschko as well as Ismayl Sillakh, Redkach looks to join fellow Slavic titleholders such as Gradovich, Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev and Ruslan Provodnikov.
In fact, Redkach shares in this Q&A, below that he believes he can unify the belts, knocking out unbeaten Yuriorkis Gamboa in the process.
Ivan Redkach: I believe age is just a number. I feel as though I will be ready for a world title shot late this year. However, I am more interested in making my decisions based upon what is best for my career and not my age.
I have been relatively lucky insomuch as I have never suffered a serious injury. My body is in the best shape of my life, I feel like I am in my early twenties.
RTV: How many fights away from a title shot are you, and do you believe that it should happen this year?
IR: I believe I am three fights away from a title fight, and I am hopeful that it will be at the end of 2014. Ultimately, the decision rests with my manager, Larry Army, Jr. and my promoter, Lou Dibella.
RTV: Which of the belts or which of the champions would you like most to pursue?
IR: I don't have a preference other than one day, I would like to unify all of the belts in my weight class. That way, it doesn't matter who I get first or who I get last.
RTV: If not necessarily a belt, which fighter or fighters would you most like to be matched with?
IR: I want to fight Yuriorkis Gamboa. He is one of, if not the best fighter in my weight class. To be the best, you must beat the best, and I firmly believe I can knock Gamboa out and with that fight.
RTV: Where do you live in Southern California and how long have you lived there?
IR: I relocated to the United States a little over two years ago.
RTV: As a result of living there, what gyms have you been in and what sort of hardcore sparring have you gotten?
IR: I train at Ponce De Leon's boxing gym, but I have sparred many great fighters, including Miguel Vasquez and Ray Beltran to name a few. I consistently travel to the Wild Card gym and spar there as well.
I moved to California because the best fighters in my weight class live there and train there. As I mentioned, I have sparred with Miguel Vazquez, Ray Beltran, and many other great fighters. All of my sparring has been very beneficial because I have learned how to fight against many different styles.
RTV: Is it true that long before Evgeny Gradovich was the "Mexican Russian," you were calling yourself a "Mexican Ukrainian" because of your aggressive style, and, if so, can you elaborate on why.
IR: Yes. I have adopted Mexico as my country because I love the Mexican warriors' fighting style. It is hard-nosed, action-packed aggression and that defines who I am.
There will never be a problem finding me in the ring as I come to fight. In fact, on Jan. 17, I will be dressed in the colors of the Mexican flag.
RTV: Is it true that you had an extensive amateur background that included attending the same government-sponsored sports boarding school that Vital Klitschko and Wladimir Klitschko and Ismayl Sillakh went to?
IR: Yes. I have fought 300 amateur fights. I have won Ukrainian National Amateur titles, European Amateur titles and was on the 2008 Ukrainian Olympic Boxing Team. Learning how to fight at the same school as the Klitschko brothers and Sillakh has been a blessing.
RTV: It appears that signing with DiBella Entertainment was a good move for you, and can you elaborate on why you made that decision and whether or not you believe that to be true?
IR: Lou Dibella loves his fighters and knows how to support them. Lou has been great for me and my career. In fact, I recently ripped up my promotional contract with Lou and signed a new one to show my commitment to him. Lou has kept me very busy and has promised me at least four to five fights this year.
RTV: Do you believe that, since you were not getting enough fights on the Los Angeles scene — not being with Golden Boy, or say, Dan Goossen, that DiBella was good for you, since you were fighting a lot in New York?
IR: I am not motivated by the success of others because I don’t judge myself based upon what others do. My motivation is personal. I believe I can be the best fighter in the world because I believe in myself and hold myself to a higher standard than others do.
IR: I am, however, happy that other Slavic fighters have found so much success in the USA. So I know my decision to relocate was the correct decision.