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Interview and photos by Bob Marovitz 
June 3, 2002

Zula Koutdoussova, 30, and Olga Vlasova, 26, first met each other in the ring as opponents during the Russian National Kickboxing Championships in 1994. Zula indicated it was a close fight, but she took the decision. From that ring encounter, a bond was formed. Zula and Olga came to the U.S. from Russia in 1994 to pursue pro boxing after their successful amateur kickboxing backgrounds. In 2001, Zula and Olga moved to Chicago to work with their coach/manager George Hernandez at the Garfield Park Boxing Gym.

Hernandez has been working with former Olympian Michael Bennett and Cruiserweight Jason Robinson. Featherweight Chris Kreuz has also joined the Hernandez stable and works with Zula, Olga and two other female boxers, Bose Ijaola and Nora Reyes. I had a chance to sit down and talk to Zula and Olga about their career and women's boxing.

BM: Did Russian men approve of women's boxing?

ZK/OV: No. Men in Russia don't like women's boxing that much, however they eagerly watch it when women are in the ring.

BM: How has George Hernandez help improve your skills as boxers?

OV: When we started training with him, he said we were moving around too much like amateurs do. He taught us how to take control of the fight from the beginning.

ZK: George showed us how to control the tempo of a fight from the inside with jabs and uppercuts. He wants us to catch an opponent and never let go.

BM: What is it like training together and being in each others corners during fights?

OV: Zula knows what I can do and helps bring it out of me during fights.  George talks in the corner, but I listen for Zula during the bout. I do the same for her when she fights.

ZK: We don't spar together anymore. Exchanges got a bit too heated in the ring. George has us sparring with guys in the gym, so we get a lot of styles to work with.

BM: What is your perspective on where women's boxing is today?

ZK: Promoters don't want to pay to get top female boxers in the ring, so you are left getting sub-par fights that don't impress anyone or create excitement for the sport. The best fighters should be showcased.

OV: I don't think promoters want to risk putting a top fighter in a bout fearing that if they lose, their ranking goes down. The best matches have to start being made if women's boxing is ever going to be watched by the media and public.

ZK: Their are so many women getting into boxing that don't have the physical ability or sports background. It is important for women who are considering boxing to have background in other sports and martial arts to build their strength and stamina.

BM: Would either of you sign to fight the other?

ZK/OV: No. How could we possibly train for a fight when we know each others moves so well.

BM: What fights have you learned about yourself from?

ZK: The first Byrd fight. I got locked in a brawl and didn't pace myself.  She was younger and used different combinations against me. I was too busy countering everything she hit me with.

OV: My last fight with Kanica Eley was uncomfortable for me because she was shorter than me and also outweighed me.I was hitting her in the head so much my hands hurt for two days after the fight!

BM: Has it been difficult for you to get fights?

ZK: It is hard to get fights with good opponents. Everyone knows me because I have won many big fights. If you don't have a belt, the money isn't there.

BM: Whom would each of you like to fight in the future?

OV: Chavelle Hallback. I have a fight in Miami on June 15, so maybe that fight can be put together.

ZK: Lucia Ryker and Christy Martin are on my short list.

BM: Among current male or female boxers, whom do you respect the most for their talent and skills?

ZK: Margaret Sideroff and Julio Cesar Chavez.

OV: Vasili Zirov

BM: In the 2004 Olympics in Greece, women's amateur wrestling will be a sanctioned sport for the first time. Should women's boxing be added as an Olympic sport?

OV: Sure, why discriminate against women when they show they can compete.

ZK: I have never felt boxing is in the true Olympic spirit between countries, but I would favor women getting their chance just as men have.

BM: What do you both do when you aren't training?

ZK: We love to cook. We go down to the lakefront in Chicago and roller-blade, bike and run.

OV: We play basketball and outdoor volleyball with friends.

BM: Is their anything either of you would like to tell your fans?

ZK: Thank you for your love!

OV: Thanks for following my career.

Chris Kreuz was also in the gym on the day I interviewed Zula and Olga.  Chris is in great spirits and looks lean, trim and ready to get back into the ring. But against whom? Chris was quick to respond, "I hear Debra Nichols is coming back. I'd love a rematch against her! Let's do it! I'm ready."

Bob Marovitz is a freelance writer and photographer residing in Chicago. (This article is for the exclusive use of Womens Boxing Archive Network.  It may not be re-printed or right sold without consent of the author). Bob Marovitz  rimcoaching@bigfoot.com 



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