April 14--Alexey Zubov is in good company when it comes to fighters who have trained at Kronk Gym over its many years as the world's best-known boxing gym.
Locals like the great Tommy Hearns, Hilmer Kenty, Milton McCrory and Mickey Goodwin, who worked under the iconic Emanuel Steward.
And visitors such as the legendary Muhammad Ali, Wilfredo Benitez, Hector Camacho, George Foreman, James Toney, Evander Holyfield, Oscar De La Hoya, Andy Lee, Migel Cotto, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko.
Born in Russia, Zubov is the latest to join the list of boxers making the Kronk, now located on Mettetal Street in Detroit, his home away from home.
On Friday, Zubov, an unbeaten cruiserweight, will fight on Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" card from the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, N.Y. He meets Constantin Bejenaru (10-0, 3 KOs) of Moldova.
Zubov can thank current Kronk trainer Sugar Hill, the nephew of Steward, who died in 2012, and Dmitriy Salita, former world title contender from the Ukraine, for his chance to shine on the TV network.
Zubov, 29, is living in Oak Park, where he does much of his road work. He trains every day at the Kronk under Hill and is promoted by Salita, who resides in West Bloomfield after relocating from Brooklyn, NY.
"I like Detroit, so much like my home in Russia," said Zubov (10-0, 6 KOs) on Thursday from Verona. "I live alone in Oak Park, but I have made a lot of friends at the Kronk. I like training there with Sugar and sparring with fighters such as Anthony Dirrell. It's good for me."
Zubov, who was born in Magnitogorsk, an industrial city in Chelyabinsk Oblast in Russia, knows how much Friday's fight means to him. Victory would put him into world title calculations.
"I know Bejenaru is a southpaw," said Zubov, a big hockey fan. "But I'll be the winner. I'm looking to give him a good boxing lesson."
Hill, a former Detroit policeman, is pleased with Zubov's attitude and conditioning since he arrived at the Kronk.
"He is in the best shape of his career," said Hill, who'll be in Zubov's corner against Bejenaru. "Physically and mentally. I recall Alexey as once a chubby kid at around 220 pounds. He's now 199 and ready. He is relaxed. He's a good guy, with no quit in him. Alexey has really adopted Detroit as his home and the Kronk as base camp. He trusts us. He is a family member."
Zubov, who has not attended a Detroit Red Wings game but knows Russian history is a big part of the organization, hopes to repay Hill's faith in him.
"I'm Kronk now," said Zubov. "I never got to meet Emanuel, but I knew what a great man he was. I want to be the next champion for the gym. It would be such an honor."
Contact Mike Brudenell: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mikebrudenell.
What: "ShoBox: The New Generation."
When: 10 p.m. Friday on Showtime Boxing.
Where: Turning Stone Resort & Casino, Verona, N.Y.
Who: Alexey Zubov (10-0, 6 Kos), Detroit, vs. Constantin Bejenaru (10-0, 3 Kos), Moldova, in cruiserweight action.
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