After 26 years the first meeting of the two, great world class amateur boxers Serik Konakbaev (USSR, Kazakhstan) and Mark Breland (USA).
After attending the amateur boxing world championships in Chicago, November, 2007 Serik and I looked forward to meeting each other again in NYC in February, 2008.
Mark Breland and I have been friends since I came to America, so when I was sure Serik was coming to New York; I wanted to arrange for them to meet again. After all this time, Mark Breland is still famous in the countries that comprised the former USSR. In Munich, Germany in 1982 Mark Breland became known as the sensational boxer who beat Serik Konakbaev, a man considered to be one of the best boxers in the world.
I remember one episode from the 80’s, that took place before Serik left for training camp to prepare for the 1982 World Championships in Munich. After work out one day, Serik and I sat the dressing room of our boxing gym in Jambul (now Taraz), Kazakhstan, talking. Serik told me then that he planned to bring home the Gold Medal from the upcoming championship because last year he had beaten everyone who participated against him, including USSR vs. USA Duals. He was so sure he’d win, that he was ready to replace the car the government had given him for winning the Silver Medal in the 1980, Moscow Olympic games with the car he was convinced he’d win now.
It’s true that from the beginning of the competitions in Munich, everything went perfectly for Serik. In the first bout he beat the tournament favorite from Cuba, Jose Luis Hernandez; the road to the Gold was clear. Serik never even paid attention to the young guy from America who had also destroyed everybody he fought in the finals. This young man was Mark Breland; and in the end, he blocked Serik Konakbaev’s easy path to the Gold.
Before the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Serik Konakbaev prepared only for Mark Breland. But world politics changed everything and the former USSR didn’t participate in the Olympic Games. Serik Konakbaev retired from boxing and moved into politics. They never met again.
After winning the Olympic Gold in the 1984 in Los Angeles, Mark Breland turned pro with an impressive amateur record. He’d won 111 fights with only one loss (Darryl Anthony, whom Mark later beat with a third round TKO as a pro).
In 1987 Mark Breland became the WBA Welterweight World Champion.
Finally, Serik and his wife Sholpan came to New York City. I invited them to visit me at my gym and meet my Team. What they didn’t know is that I had arranged for Mark Breland to meet us there and surprise Serik.
When they arrived at the gym, Mark walked slowly towards Serik and his wife. Remember, it had been twenty six years since these two great men had seen each other, and Serik wasn’t sure who Mark was. Soon it dawned on Serik, he looked at me and said… “Mark?” I nodded, yes. It was an emotional reunion for these two talented athletes. I watched them become young before my eyes, as they renewed a friendship that began long ago.
Columbia students, Daniel and Gabriel Castillo come straight from the university to meet Serik Konakbaev and Mark Breland. In 2006 Daniel Castillo won Bronze in Serik Konakbaev’s International Boxing Tournament in Shimkent, Kazakhstan.
I asked Mark: “How old were you when Serik Konakbaev won his first Boxing World Cup in 1979 ?” Mark answered: “I was 15″
Alternate for the 2008, USA Boxing Olympic Team in the 125lb weight division. Shemuel Pagan (who I train with his father Robert), came to my home to work out. I introduced them to Serik Konakbaev, who was staying with me. Shemuel will go to Colorado Springs for the National Boxing Championships, 2008.