When veteran boxing coach and Bay Ridge resident MichaelKoslowski, 49, first saw Yegor Plevako, 20, spar at Gleason’s Gymlast summer, he knew he’d struck gold.
He could take punches and not surrender. He could endure, andprofessional boxing is about enduring, Koslowski said.
Upon seeing Plevako in action, quick on his feet like thelegendary heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, Koslowski said hethought to himself, This kid can be real huge professionalchampion. He can be superstar.
At 6’4 and 215 pounds, Koslowski believes Plevako may very wellbecome a superstar sooner rather than later. He is confident hewill win gold in The New York Daily News Golden GlovesSuper-heavyweight category in the next two months.
Born and raised in Ukraine, Plevako started boxing at 10 yearsold. While he admired great American boxers like Muhammed Ali as aboy, he did not always dream of becoming a great boxer himself. At12, however, he competed for the first time and in 2008 he became abronze medalist at the Under-19 World Championship in Mexico.
Encouraged by his achievements, he began thinking about trainingin the U.S. Plevako said staying in Ukraine to box would have beenfine. He would be getting paid, at least. But, he would not have asmuch opportunity to grow and become recognized.
It would be regular, said Plevako. I don’t want a regularlife. I want something special.
So in the summer of 2010, Plevako came to New York under astudent visa barely speaking English. Whisked from John F. KennedyAirport to a Harlem hostel where he shared a room with at least 10other guys, barrack style, his first impressions of New York werenot quite what he had seen in the movies.
Soon enough, however, he found what he came for at Brooklyn’slegendary Gleason’s gym in coach Mike Koslowski.
Mike’s style is Ukrainian style but higher level, Plevakosaid, dressed in a green and yellow jersey pantsuit, the colorsmatching a fading bruise under his right eye.
Like numerous of Koslowski’s other former students he hasenvisioned turning into world champions over the last 26 years,Plevako not only trains, but also lives with, his coach.
Koslowski first invited him to live with his himself and hiswife in their water-view apartment off 77th Street when Plevakoshowed up one day to the gym feeling weak because he had run out ofmoney and had not eaten for two days. Except for a brief return tothe Ukraine last fall, Plevako has slept on the Koslowskis’ livingroom couch ever since, leaving little room for slacking.
Sitting on his bed-turned-couch for an evening dinner inKoslowski’s mini museum of coach-of-the-year trophies and framedphotos of his trained champions like Yuri Foreman and Jill Emery,Plevako said, I was a little bit lazy.
He was too much lazy! shouted Koslowski across the tablespread with his wife’s homemade red and yellow stuffed peppers,finely chopped potato salad and an array of thinly-sliced kielbasaand cheese assortments.
Now, I make him like machine, Koslowski said encouraging hiswife to serve the biggest of the stuffed peppers to his latestprotégé.
He’s more heavy, I’m more happy, Koslowski laughed.
In preparation for his official boxing debut in the UnitedStates, Plevako is sticking to a tight training schedulescrupulously monitored by Koslowski. Every morning, Plevako trainsfor at least an hour-and-a-half, running miles in the cold alongthe Hudson. In the evening he trains for another two hours. Thereis no excuse for skipping a run or waking up late. Koslowski willbe breathing down his neck. And while of course, this adds to thepressure he already feels to become a great boxer, Plevako said heknow it’s good for him.
In between training, the self-described quiet guy is devouringbooks on modern history in which he already has earned a bachelor’sdegree and nearly a Master’s in his home country, leaving himlittle time to make friends or explore the city.
But that’s not why he is here, he said. He has to focus,Koslowski noted. He has to train. Even time spent watching otherboxing matches or spars should be spent developing and perfectinghis own skills so that he can become champion, Koslowskireiterated.
With me as coach and his talent, the two of us make like aHolyfield, said Koslowski.
When asked if Plevako, too, believes if he can become a worldchampion someday, he grinned saying, I believe coach Mike.