Prospect Watch: Heavyweight Apti Davtaev



Prospect Watch: Heavyweight Apti Davtaev
Pic by Terrell Groggins

There is heavyweight boxing, and there is everything else, a distant second.

OK, Team Canelo would perhaps today beg to differ, being that the Mexican (super) middleweight will soon start cashing checks from DAZN to the tune of some $30 million plus per fight…

So, that old adage is up for debate.

But by and large, especially in these United States, the heavyweights resonate.

We simply have an affinity for the jumbo sized items, don’t we. Bigger is better, be it boobs, balls or bucks.

So, the search for top tier heavyweight boxers is always of a higher caliber, the people who seek such prizes perk up that much more when they come across a prospect.

Promoter Dmitriy Salita’s eyes lit up way back when, when he saw a transitioning kick-boxer named Jarrell Miller in a boxing ring, and learned that “Big Baby” wanted to just start using his fists and not his feet as implements of warfare. Fast forward some 4 plus years later, and Miller is on the cusp of getting a world title crack, for a WBA strap, in a couple months.

Salita isn’t done yet; he’s maybe the fastest riser of any and all boxing promoters, as he’s carved a territory (NY and Michigan) niche, while collecting a solid array of talent known (Claressa Shields, Miller) and about to be known.

Slot heavyweight Apti Davtaev into the latter category…

The 16-0-1 from Russia is 29 years old, and is now living in Michigan, training with Emanuel Steward’s nephew “Sugar” Hill.

Davtaev grew up in the Voronezh region, and has two sisters and one older brother. He’s been boxing since he was 19, and looked up to a sterling role model as he pondered his path into adulthood: Muhammad Ali. “It was him that I was inspired by,” Davtaev told me.

I wanted to get a sense if we should be on the lookout for Davtaev as someone who will be making the leap from prospect to contender soon. What are his strengths, and weaknesses, I probed.

“I have strengths and weaknesses, like any athlete. I mainly work on correcting my weaknesses. I have been training in Detroit Kronk Gym with “Sugar” Hill for close to a year now. I have made a lot of progress and an very greatful for this important experience that is taking my boxing to the next level. But still, I consider my strength to be my will to win. To be a champion you have to have world class skill and like Muhammad Ali said, the will has got to be stronger than the skill.”

OK, he’s savvy, and proud, he didn’t want to give foes a peek at any possible holes….

Bottom line, is he a future star?

“Definitely, this is my goal to be a star and a dominant force in the heavyweight division,” the fighter told me.

The 6-5, 250 pound hitter can be seen, on video, as possessing solid hand speed. He is a busy boxer, and does well to keep the punches tight, not tending towards looping, and leaving a lane for counter punches. He will do well to listen to Hill when told to be active with his feet, and keep those hands high, so as not to get tagged after launching. He mixes punches well, folds in uppercuts smartly. Foes will be made aware his power is there and he knows to ramp it up when he gets you in trouble.

Bottom line is this: Apti Davtaev is on my heavyweight watch list.

Founder/editor Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the then-impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist has covered the sport since for ESPN The Magazine,, Bad Left Hook and RING. His journalism career started with NY Newsday in 1999. Michael Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live, since 2017.