Giorgio Petrosyan: Top of the World

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International Kickboxer Magazine, July/August 2013

Giorgio Petrosyan is that great rarity in fightsports: he boasts an almost unblemished record of eighty fights for seventy-six wins. Interestingly, only one of those unsuccessful ventures is recorded as a loss. There are a handful of other fighters who can lay claim to near-perfect records, but their resumes are a patchwork of second-tier opponents and greats past their prime. Not so with Petrosyan; he has fought – and defeated – all of the best fighters in the world today in contests spread across all of the premier ‘kickboxing’ organizations. Necessarily, his career has sustained many ups and downs outside of the ring.  

Giorgio was born in Yerevan, Armenia as Gevorg Petrosyan. He arrived in Italy with his father and brother Armen as illegal immigrants on the back of a truck when he was thirteen years old. They slept in train stations and on the streets of Milan until they were taken in by a family in Gorizia, for whom they worked as night watchmen in a factory. Like many of the world’s best kickboxers, a tough immigrant upbringing forged the basis of the character.

“Arriving in a new country at thirteen years old was challenging but also exciting,” says Giorgio. “At that age the experiences you live in are a different spirit; I saw it as an adventure.”

Giorgio believes that the experience didn’t do him any harm.

“That experience has given me the right value to life and made me grow up faster.”

It certainly meant that he was no stranger to adversity and understood the intimate connection between success and hard work.

Ironically, Petrosyan’s first foray into kickboxing was discouraging – his first trainer turned him away, telling him he was too small and the sport would not retain his interest. Shortly after, the young Giorgio found his way in to the Satori Gladiatorium Nemesis gym at the tender age of fourteen.

“I have been a fan of fighting since I was a child, and growing up I wanted to try it.”

He entered his first fight at sixteen years of age and, predictably, came away with the win. He turned professional shortly after and for the first five years of his fighting career, predominantly conducted under Muay Thai rules, continued to win in the same fashion. Petrosyan began to develop a reputation as not only a sophisticated technician, but as an ace counter-fighter.

“Most of my usual workout is dedicated to this feature. My defense stems from specific training that I have always done with my Master Alfio Romanut.”

Understandably, sparring is difficult for Giorgio to come by.

“The sparring is very important in my training and I can count on the help of my brother Armen for this. When I’m sparring with my brother, it becomes a great job because the technical and competitive level is really high.”

It might be great for Girogio, but one can only wonder how Armen feels about it.

Giorgio captured the MTA European Muay Thai Championship title from Fabio Pinca in 2004, and successfully defended it in 2005 against Shemsi Beqiri. To this he added the WMC Intercontinental Welterweight Championship, courtesy of Oliver Tchetche. He won that fight by technical knockout in the second round in a contest defined by surgical precision deployed from within an airtight defence, which was swiftly becoming the most recognisable feature of his seamless style.

In mid-2006, Giorgio obtained the then-vacant Kombat League World Muay Thai Championship at sixty-six kilograms with a first-round knockout by way of head kick. He successfully defended this title three times before the end of the year with two knockout wins and a decision; any fighter that bought Petro to a decision could define himself as a welterweight of the highest standing. He rounded out the year with a string of sterling performances at the Janus Fight Night in December, beating three opponents in an eight-man tournament, the last of whom was Marco Pique.

In January of 2007, Giorgio was handed his first – and only – loss when he met Nonthanan Por Pramuk at Lumpinee Stadium in Thailand. Petrosyan says that he has only been angry on three occasions – one of which concerns that loss.

“[The promoters] gave me something to drink which made me unable to fight.”

Petrosyan had been training in Thailand and was offered a bout, which he accepted with his usual unflappable calm. He weighed in at seventy kilograms, two kilograms under the agreed weight, and was required to drink another two litres of water to reach the agreed limit. As a result, he came down with stomach cramps that made it extremely difficult to fight. He went through with it, however, and lost on points. His opponent retired immediately after, scuttling the possibility of a rematch.

“A scandalous fight; the only loss on my record,” he says.

He quickly redeemed himself from that decision loss with wins over Sadio Cissoko and Arslan Magomedov.

Later that year, Petrosyan ran into the second-most significant difficulty of his career. He was slated to fight Buakaw for his WMC World Super-Welterweight Title as part of the card for the K-1 Scandinavia in Stockholm, Sweden. After five rounds, the fight was ruled a draw and consequently, Buakaw retained his title. Petrosyan says now that, if he could fight anyone at all, he would want to rematch Buakaw, even if he had to do so under full Thai rules.

“I would like to fight against Buakaw. It would be my dream fight.”

Girogio saw the year out with a string of prestigious performances, climaxing with three fights as part of an eight-man tournament at the Janus Fight Night in 2007. He defeated Marco Pique once more in the finals, having beaten him the year previous.

Giorgio tore through 2008, defeating a slew of opponents, the most significant of which were Naruepol Fairtex and then Warren Stevelmans on an It’s Showtime promotion in Eindhoven, in The Netherlands. Giorgio was making waves, defeating all comers. Naturally, such success began to attract real attention. His already significant accomplishments could not be ignored by the world’s number-one organisation.

On April 21, 2009, Giorgio met Dzhabar Askerov at the K-1 Max World Tournament Final 16 held in Fukuoka, Japan. He wowed Japanese audiences with the patient, technical style he had become known for, dispatching Dzhabar in the third round, courtesy of a knee to the mid-section. That performance won him acclaim, along with a berth in the final eight for the K-1 Max Final of that year.

He entered the competition after another win over Faldir Chabari at It’s Showtime Amsterdam. Giorgio defeated his first two opponents by knockout before meeting Andy Souwer in the finals. Petrosyan dominated the fight, winning all three rounds and dropping Souwer with a knee to the body in the second round. He had entered the tournament an outsider, but went home K-1 Max champion. Given his early start – and success – as a Muay Thai fighter, Petrosyan says that he still prefers fighting under K-1 rules.

“Surely K-1 is my preferred style, even if I like the Muay Thai.”

In 2010 Giorgio proved to the world this was the case by defeating his three opponents and taking home the title for the second year in a row.

The last few years since have seen considerable upheaval in the world of fightsports, with both K-1 and It’s Showtime folding up and giving way to the emergence of the Glory World Series. In 2011, due to financial difficulties, the K-1 Max was not organised, and Giorgio was slated to appear on the It’s Showtime 70Kg Max tournament, but a broken hand prevented him from competing. In January of 2012, he terminated his contract with It’s Showtime, due to the fact they could not recover the winnings owed to him by the now-defunct K-1 organisation. The official statement issued by his management said,

“I think I have shown enough patience. I have been repeatedly guaranteed the compensation due. Twelve months have passed without anything, following a number of promises to pay. I remain willing to fight for anyone interested in giving me his gala tournaments, with no limits or proprietary.”

This was the limit of his public expression of his consternation. When asked during our interview to talk about his experiences with the two organisations, he deftly avoids negative comments.

Glory is… very well-organized and destined to be a great success. On K-1 and It’s Showtime I can only say that I have good memories about the matches that I fought for these famous companies.”

By May, Petro was back to his winning ways. He defeated Fabio Pinca at the inaugural Glory World Series event in Stockholm and won a place in the Glory Final 16 in Rome at the end of the year. He defeated Ky Hollenbeck in the first round by TKO after Hollenbeck’s knee collapsed and he was unable to continue. He then beat Davit Kiria by unanimous decision in the semis and took home the championship in front of a home crowd when he defeated Robin van Roosmalen by unanimous decision, nullifying the Dutchman’s power-punching with his characteristic technical finesse.

2013 has seen a number of contests resolved with little difficulty. Petrosyan is on top of the world and already being touted as one of the greatest fighters to ever step into the squared circle. He has even attracted sponsorship from a mainstream Italian fashion label, Stone Island. His fight purses have grown to the point where this former Armenian refugee is confronted with the question of which Italian supercar to drive.

“Lamborgini or Ferrari? They are beautiful both!

Regardless, Petrosyan gives little away, just as he successfully keeps his emotions a mystery in the ring.

He speaks well of the growth of kickboxing in Europe and particularly his home country of Italy, however.

“In Europe there are many top-level fighters like Kraus, Van Roosmalen, Groenhart and Kiria. In Italy there is a movement on the rise; several very promising fighters as Campagna, Gallo, Alex Rossi and others that will surely be successful.”

Working off Petrosyan’s example would make a solid template, but getting inside that man’s method would be as difficult as reading his demeanour inside the ring. Watching Petrosyan is not about wondering if he will be able to defeat any fighter on the world stage today. It’s more a question of wondering if any of the lower ranks are carrying a fighter with the same gifts who can match, and possibly exceed him.

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