2015 state champion in the men’s 56 kg boxing E.Tsendbaatar moved up a weight class and gave a jaw-dropping performance at the 2017 State Boxing Championship. The 20-year-old seized the championship title after a fierce bloody battle against Olympic bronze medalist D.Otgondalai, who was the favorite to win the men’s 60 kg.
In the following interview, E.Tsendbaatar explains his reason for moving up a weight class and speaks in detail about his match with D.Otgondalai.
Half a month has passed since the 2017 State Boxing Championship. The most spectacular match of the championship was the men’s 60 kg, in which you took victory by beating D.Otgondalai 3:2. Why did you decide to move up a weight class?
The recent State Boxing Championship was a big test for the next Asian and World Boxing Championships. I put on more weight because I wanted to show a strong battle without decreasing my usual weight. I could’ve participated in the men’s 56 kg, but the strongest boxers compete in the 60 kg weight class, so I decided to sign up for this competition. Besides, my weight is usually 60 kg. Most of all, losing weight diminishes my strength. I experienced this during the last Olympic Games, so this time, I didn’t want to lose weight again.
In addition, I competed in the men’s 60 kg of Chinggis Khaan Cup after returning from the Rio 2016 Olympics and won first place. I tried out the men’s 60 kg again at the State Boxing Championship and won again.
…Training and competitions are completely different. We have to keep repeating our punches during training but during a match, you have to hit for real…
Are you saying that there aren’t strong opponents in the men’s 56 kg weight class?
Of course there are many great boxers. The main thing I wanted to do was challenge myself in the 60 kg weight class. Oki (D.Otgondalai) and I were left in the finals and I got to do three great rounds with him and I won.
Did you want to fight D.Otgondalai in a real match? What did your coaches think when you said you will compete in the men’s 60 kg?
My coaches told me that I couldn’t win Oki and that he could beat me without even touching me. But I hoped to have a good match inside the ring and believed that I could win. In the end, I did win. In fact, we train together so we knew exactly how each of us boxed.
Training and competitions are completely different. We have to keep repeating our punches during training but during a match, you have to hit for real.
The final match looked fierce. Did you only think of winning during the match?
I fought with everything I had with the sole goal of winning. Oki is slightly taller and stronger than me. He’s really the best – he could beat practically anyone. That’s why, I knew that I had to exert all my power or I wouldn’t win. The match probably looked more fierce and competitive because of that.
You never had the chance to meet D.Otgondalai in a real match before. Now that you’ve experienced it, how was it?
I don’t know. We just kept on hitting each other. It wasn’t that scary for me. I went inside the ring thinking that I should enjoy the match. I kept telling myself that I would win and that I’m fighting only to win. Even if I lost, I don’t think I would’ve been that upset because I was actually boxing against one of the best Mongolian athletes who seized an Olympic medal. I also respect him a lot. In any case, I got my victory.
I went back to my regular training schedule as soon I returned from the Olympics. I didn’t take a break at all and continued to constantly workout. I might have won because I continued to train.
…No matter which weight class it is, there’s bound to be strong opponents. Only by beating the best boxer in that weight class can I improve my achievement…
Will you continue to compete in the 60 kg competition? Have you made your plans?
I will participate in competitions in my former weight class, 56 kg, this year. But I will move up to 60 kg competitions starting next year. I have some ideas for what I want to do. I will keep boxing until the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but I want to become a professional boxer afterwards.
Since you plan to move up to the 60 kg weight class, you will be competing with D.Otgondalai for an Olympic quota. Wouldn’t it be a win-win situation for the both of you if you stayed in 56 kg weight class?
No matter which weight class it is, there’s bound to be strong opponents. Only by beating the best boxer in that weight class can I improve my achievement and enter international competitions. The better athlete who wins the state championship gets the chance to represent our country overseas. I plan to become the state champion for 60 kg weight class and get my right to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Like I said before, losing weight weakens you. I was able to stay strong when I maintained my usual weight and competed in the 60 kg competition. I won a gold medal. I won against a world class athlete. I realized that I could even beat tall, European athletes in the 60 kg weight class.
You’ll be 23 years old in 2020. Most boxers experience the peak of their career when they are 27 or 28. It’s possible for you to enter the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic. Why do you want to become a professional boxer after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?
It’s my dream. I want to go pro after becoming an Olympic champion. I would’ve already become a professional boxer if I’d won a medal in Rio de Janeiro. But I didn’t. It was difficult to recover during the Olympic Games, especially at the bronze medal match. The 12-hour difference was really difficult for me. I was able to recover my strength at first because I got weighed in the morning and fought in the evening. But for the bronze medal match, I went straight into the ring a couple of hours after getting weighed. I couldn’t rest or recover my strength. It was a really weird match. I could’ve defeated US’s Shakur Stevenson. But things didn’t work out. I know his boxing style. He used to compete in the 52 kg weight class, but he put on weight for the Olympics and entered our weight class.
Do you regret anything that you did or didn’t do during the Olympics?
I became a state champion in 2015, but I wasn’t sent to participate in the Asian or World Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournaments. The athlete I defeated was sent instead. I was very frustrated at the time because I had never competed in the Asian or World Championships. I thought I’d never be able to participate in international competitions abroad even if I win.
Back in 2014, when I was 17, I beat G.Gan-Erdene (one of Mongolia’s most successful boxers) in the men’s 49 kg at the State Boxing Championship. I was expecting to go to the Asian Championship and then World Championship since I’d won, but I couldn’t because I was under age. I didn’t think much of it though. But I was really upset when I couldn’t go again in 2015, even though I’d won the State Boxing Championship and reached the eligible age. I regret it a lot. Had I gained more experience at the Asian and World Boxing Championships back then, I would’ve fought differently at the Rio 2016 Olympics. My rank would’ve been higher. Coaches Batsuren and Erdenebayar didn’t allow me to go. I don’t know why. Maybe they didn’t believe I could win. E.Iderkhuu (also a 56 kg boxer) couldn’t win a medal at the Asian or World Boxing Championships. The coaches took me to the Olympic Qualification Tournament as a last resort. I gave everything I had to earn an Olympic quota. I fought every day. By the end, I thought it was never going to end and wondered when I would get a quota. Before I realized, I’d already secured it. I could finally relax. I was very calm when I was fighting for silver medal and I’m glad I won.
…When I become a professional boxer, I will demand a rematch with Shakur Stevenson…
When did you start thinking about becoming a professional boxer?
I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I was able to fight in professional boxing events only once or twice. One of them was ABP Pro Boxing, which took place last year in Moscow. I knocked out a Turkish boxer in that competition. We had to do six rounds. I want to go pro and become a legendary boxer. I want to become famous like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson.
When I become a professional boxer, I will demand a rematch with Shakur Stevenson. He went pro right after the Olympics. I will also go pro.