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Feature Story August 8, 2002
Bitch Slapped
By Seth Wienberg Browse author
Page 7 of 7
We go through the jogging and shadow boxing routine and afterwards through stations of lifting weights, hitting the bags, jumping rope and throwing a medicine ball. My partner this time is Mestoev, a powerful, lanky 6'3" fighter. The medicine ball drill is the only station at which I come close to keeping up with him.

After the hour-long workout, the fighters head downstairs to shower, and I go down to the office with Mark Ionovich and Romanchuk, who was merely a spectator at today's session.

Romanchuk sits across from Mark Ionovich and tells him about a shady contract he has been offered.

"Roman, I don't see why you would sign a contract which tells you with whom you can do business, where you can train, where you can fight, and so on," Mark Ionovich says, almost scolding him, "and yet doesn't tell you how much you will be paid. How much money do you have?"

Romanchuk tells him that he's out of money, that he just spent his last $200.

"What did you spend it on?" Mark Ionovich asks.

"New roller blades," the boxer answers.

"Those better be some good roller blades," Mark Ionovich quips.

Chuckling, Romachuk says that he has to leave. He thanks Mark Ionovich for his help and tells him that he'll be back in touch when he has more information about the contract.

Mark Ionovich escorts him out of the office and returns to his seat behind his desk.

"He'll probably be in the next Olympics," he says of Romanchuk. "He has a good chance to win, too."

According to Mark Ionovich, Romanchuk is no exception. Most of the fighters at Kitek have good prospects of making a career out of boxing.

"A lot of them become world champions and go on to fight professionally in Europe and America," he says with pride.

"And what do they do after that?" I ask.

"Some of them move on to jobs as security guards," he answers. "Some of the girls get married. But at the very least, all of these kids can become coaches."

He brings up the 19 year-old Kulakova, who has the ambition and ability to become a world champion and who says guys usually stop hitting on her when they find out she's a boxer. I ate my dinner from the Kitek cafeteria with Sveta last night in her room. She said that she wants to move out of her room at Kitek and move into a dormitory at her Fizkulturniy Institute.

"There's no social life here whatsoever," she told me. "And you can just forget about the guys here."

"What about the food?" I asked her, shoveling the mystery stew into my mouth without breathing through my nose.

"I do my own grocery shopping," she said with a hint of condescension.

"Sveta is a smart girl with great organizational skills," Mark Ionovich says of Kulakova. "I think she can have an outstanding career as a coach and a manager."

Still, the okhranik positions are a jackpot for most of the fighters.

"I just sent a kid off to work after he got an offer for $1500 a month," he says. "I told him that there's no way he can turn that down. That's great money in Russia."

"The thing is," he continues, "I just want my boxers to be happy. I want things to work out for them."

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