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Best Ukrainian Boxers in History: The Top 10

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Best Ukrainian Boxers in History: The Top 10

Ukraine inherited a strong boxing legacy following its independence, and we take a look at the best Ukrainian boxers ever to have laced the gloves.

Selecting the top 10 boxers from a country that has produced numerous elite athletes over the years is a challenging endeavor. We have undertaken this formidable task by considering a combination of factors, including impact, statistics, and eye tests.

Top 10 Ukrainian Boxers in History

Below are our top 10 best Ukrainian boxers in history. There will always be room for debate, and while we've done our best to be objective, this list will always have an element of opinion. With that said, let’s find out who made it into our list of the best Ukrainian boxers of all time. 

10. Yuriy Nuzhnenko 

Yuriy Nuzhnenko secured the vacant WBA interim welterweight belt in 2007. However, his presence in this list is primarily attributed to his remarkable progress in 2001 and 2002, when he was arguably the most improved boxer in Ukraine.

He made a name for himself by defeating notable figures in the amateur arena, including Mark Dungca and Jonell Matias. His championship victory against Cristopher Sazon via TKO is a match that remains vivid in the memories of those fortunate enough to witness it.

Known as the “Real Man,” the 5’9’’ Ukrainian boxer’s orthodox style and enduring fighting attitude made him one of those fighters that many people could get behind. His record of 30 victories, of which 14 were KOs, is impressive, if not spectacular, in his weight category. 

9. Ismail Sillakh

Ismail Sillakh possesses one of the most intriguing stories among all the boxers on this list.

Hailing from the distant city of Zaporizhia, he received training at a boxing club situated in the city's metal construction factory, Lenin. Starting his competitive journey at the tender age of nine, he swiftly earned recognition as one of the esteemed open-class boxers in European boxing.

While his professional record may not stand out significantly, with 27 victories in 34 bouts, notably, 21 of them ended in knockouts.

He held the NABF light heavyweight championship from 2010 to 2011, securing the title with a TKO victory over Daniel Judah. This period marked the pinnacle of his professional career.

However, it is his remarkable amateur record of 302 victories that will be remembered as a testament to his enduring excellence in the demanding world of boxing, giving him a spot on the list of best Ukrainian boxers in history.

8. Alexander Dimitrenko 

Although a German national, the six-foot-seven monster of a man is a Ukrainian by birth, thus, he finds himself in this list.

Interestingly, Dimitrenko began his boxing career while representing Russia at the age of 14. He didn’t move to Germany until he won the World Junior Championship at the age of 18 in 2000. He began his professional career just one year later. His size and reach made him a crowd-puller, and he was regarded as a title contender from very early in his career. 

By the end of 2006, after some impressive victories, Dimitrenko was ranked as the World no.9 in the heavyweight category and the number four contender for the heavyweight championship by WBO.

Dimitrenko reigned as the WBO Inter-Continental heavyweight champion for four years between 2005 and 2009 after winning it by defeating Andreas Sidon in Hamburg by KO. His 29-0 winning streak at the start of his career remains impressive to date. 

7. Andreas Kotelnik

The former Olympic silver medalist Andreas Kotelnik, is the next prominent Ukrainian boxer on this list. He began his career in the junior flyweight circuit and achieved success by winning the 1995 European Championship in Siofok, Hungary. Standing at 5 feet 7 inches, Kotelnik gained global recognition after securing a coveted Olympic medal for his country. 

Although he faced a tough challenge in the final and lost to Cuban Mario Kindelan, settling for silver, he soon tasted championship glory by defeating Fabrice Colombel in a unanimous decision to claim the WBA inter-continental light-welterweight title in 2003.

However, it wasn’t until 2008 that he got his hands on a major title when he won the WBA light-welterweight title in Cardiff, defeating Gavin Rees. His exceptional status in Ukrainian boxing folklore is assured by regional and World boxing titles like WBO Asia Pacific and Inter-Continental championships in the light welterweight category.

However, he will forever be remembered as the man who won his country and Olympic Gold medal. In his 37 fights, he won 32 of them and of the four losses, two came in the last three matches of his career. 

6. Vyacheslav Senchenko

A fierce competitor, Vyacheslav Senchenko made his professional debut in July 2002.

It took him only four bouts to get his hand on the WBC CIS and CISBB Welterweight Championship, which he successfully defended against Evgeny Ershov in the same year and Dzmitri Kashkan in February 2003. Senchenko defeated Aliaksandr Shnip in just three rounds to win the International Boxing Federation Inter-Continental welterweight championship on April 8, 2004, in Donetsk. 

Senchencko stepped aside from the Inter-Continental championship at the beginning of 2006 and challenged Kazakh fighter Assan Seksenbayev for the International Boxing Federation International welterweight title. Senchencko was now undefeated at 16-0 with 11 knockouts. At the Druzhba Arena in Donetsk, in front of his home audience, Senchenko triumphed once more.

Senchenko eventually had the opportunity to compete for a world championship in 2009. He was scheduled to fight WBA World Champion and fellow countryman Yuriy Nuzhnenko on April 10, 2009.

This was a historic event because it was the first time two of the best Ukrainian boxers would compete for the official world title in their own country. It had been over twenty years since professional boxing first appeared in the former Soviet Union. 

Both competitors entered the battle with 28 victories and no losses. After a fiercely contested twelve-round fight, Senchenko prevailed by unanimous decision. His record read 37 wins and two losses at the end of his illustrious career. 

5. Wladimir Sidorenko

Sidrenko made a splash with back-to-back gold medals in the 1998 and 2000 European Championships in the flyweight division. The peak of his amateur career is probably winning a silver in the 2001 World Championships and a bronze in the Sydney Olympics.

With a remarkable record of 290 wins and 20 defeats in the amateur ranks, he transitioned to the professional arena after the World Championships. In the pro circuit, his record stands at 22 wins, three losses, and two draws.

There are likely to be eyebrows raised on the fact that his name is so high on this list. He wasn’t a crowd-puller because he wasn’t a knockout specialist, nor did he have the most attractive style. He recorded just seven wins by KO out of his 22 victories.

However, his reign between 2005 and 2008 as the WBA bantamweight champion is what ensured his legacy as a great part of Ukrainian boxing history. During this time, he defended his title a remarkable six times, and he was undefeated till his 24th fight. 

4. Kid Kaplan

The next individual on this list is a unique inclusion. During his time, there was no advanced analytics to measure his performance, but Kid Kaplan was a pioneer.

At the age of five, Kaplan's family left Ukraine and immigrated to the US, settling in Meriden, Connecticut. Kaplan began his boxing journey at the Connecticut County level. On the northeastern coast of the US, Meriden was a hub for boxing. 

Early in his career, Kaplan faced Charlie Pilkington, a former New York State champion and a popular local favorite. In the first four years of his professional career, he engaged in nearly 50 fights, establishing himself as an active fighter.

In a much-told story, Kaplan defeated Sailor Cunningham in one of his first bouts in 1920 in under two minutes. Following his victories over Earl Baird and Hughie Hutchinson in 1922, Kaplan saw a sharp increase in popularity.

In 1925, he won the World featherweight championship and paved the path for all the upcoming boxers of Soviet origin, something that simply can’t be measured in statistics. 

3. Sergei Dzindziruk

The man nicknamed “Razor” was as slick as they come. Born in Nyzhnohirskyi in the Ukrainian SSR, he won his first meaningful medal in the 1997 World Amateur Boxing Championships. Even though he had to settle for a silver after losing to Russian Oleg Saitov, Ukrainian boxing had a new star on the horizon.

It didn’t take long for the 6-foot southpaw to realize that professional boxing was his calling. He made his debut against Ramdane Kaouane on January 22, 1999, in Warsaw, Poland. That started a whirlwind journey in which his record at one time read 37-0! A run in which he had never been knocked down even once.

During this time, he won the WBO Inter-Continental light middleweight title, defeating Marcelo Rodiguez, the European light middleweight title, defeating Mamadou Thiam, and the WBO light middleweight title, defeating Sebastián Luján. He retained his WBO light middleweight title six times. It was this run that cemented his immortality in boxing history as one of the best Ukrainian boxers of all time.

After dominating the light middleweight class,  Dzinziruk moved into the middleweight class and challenged the crafty Argentine boxer Sergio Martínez for the unclaimed WBC Diamond title at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Martinez out-jabbed Dzinziruk throughout the round, dominating the bout and tying the score five times until winning by TKO in the eighth round.

From there on, injuries meant he was never back to his best. He did fight two more bouts, but they ended in a draw and a loss, and then the great man hung up his gloves.

2. Wladimir Klitschko

The younger of the revered Klitschko brothers, Wladimir enrolled in the Brovary Olympic Reserve School to begin amateur boxing training. Klitschko received coaching in Poland's Gwardia Warszawa boxing club in the early 1990s. He first gained international recognition at the Summer Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia. 

He won the gold medal in Super-Heavyweight boxing by defeating Paea Wolfgramm. Under Fritz Sdunek's guidance, Klitschko became a professional boxer with Universum Box-Promotion in Hamburg. In 1998, Wladimir won his first major title, defeating Marcus Mclntyre by KO to secure the WBC International heavyweight title. He retained the title twice before losing it to Ross Purity, Wladimir’s first loss of his professional career. 

Then, in one of the most anticipated fights, Wladimir defeated Chris Byrd by UD to win the WBO heavyweight title, which he retained five times before losing to Corrie Sanders. Chris Byrd was on the receiving end again as the younger Klitschko claimed the IBF and IBO heavyweight titles to usher in an era of dominance. 

He went on to retain his titles a surreal 18 times, adding the WBA (super), WBO, and The Ring heavyweight titles to his ever-growing arsenal. The six-foot-six giant was one of the most dominant forces in the modern boxing arena.

The only sadness is probably the fact that he didn’t get the ending his career deserved, as he lost his last two matches against Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, but his immortality had been assured by that time.

1. Vitali Klitschko – The Best Ukrainian Boxer in History

The older of the Klitschko brothers, who dominated the professional boxing arena for nine years between 2006 and 2015, Vitaly Klitschko was a boxer who won several heavyweight world titles.

From 1999 to 2000, he was the World Boxing Organization (WBO) champion; from 2004 to 2005, he was the Ring Magazine champion; and from 2004 to 2013, he was the World Boxing Council (WBC) champion twice. 

In total, he completed 12 successful title defenses and beat 15 challengers in world heavyweight title bouts. However, mere stats can’t fully explain his dominance. After the older Klitschko started boxing professionally in 1996, the 6-foot-7 giant won his first 24 matches via technical or early knockout.  

On June 26, 1999, Klitschko defeated Herbie Hide of England via second-round knockout in his 25th professional bout. He made two successful championship defenses. On April 24, 2004, Klitschko squared off against Corrie Sanders of South Africa to win the WBC heavyweight title and The Ring titles that Lewis had left behind. Sanders had defeated younger brother Wladimir via TKO in the second round.

However, the older brother promptly took revenge, which kick-started a run of dominance that saw Vitali retain his title a staggering 10 times and thrice after he had crossed the age of 40. The stat that best illustrates the dominance of the older Klitschko is that he won 41 of 45 matches by knockout.

The brothers never fought each other, however, and the world missed out on one of the greatest spectacles of all time, as their mother made them promise never to fight each other.

Bren Gray is our resident Kiwi, and has been writing about sports since he could first string words together. He first fell in love with boxing when David Tua took on Lennox Lewis in 2000, and hasn't looked back since.