Wolves are hunters; It’s in their DNA. So persistent they are in their hunts that if an attack fails, wolves will continue to hunt until they are successful. It is a matter of survival.
Similarly, The Chechen Wolf, Arthur Biyarslanov (7-0, 6 KO), exhibits dogged determination inside the ring. Except instead of hunting bison, his quarry is the lightweight world championship.
An adopted Canadian, Biyarslanov came from hardscrabble beginnings. He was born in 1995 in Makhachkala, Dagestan, Russia, during the middle of the First Chechen War. When he was four, his family fled the violence in their homeland and settled in Azerbaijan. What Biyarslanov remembers most about those years is his affinity for sports, soccer in particular. “I was always outside playing soccer until night-time when my mother would force me to come home to eat.”
Thankfully, having sports as an outlet enabled him to make new friends and adapt to his new surroundings. He would have to do so once more at the age of ten when his family moved to Toronto. Biyarslanov gained an important characteristic by moving frequently from an early age, another one that he shares with the wolf. He learned how to be adaptable and to thrive in a variety of habitats. “I didn’t know any English nor have any friends and was not familiar with places, people, and culture,” he said. “However, I learned English and made friends quickly because I was good at soccer and everyone wanted me on their team.”
Biyarslanov didn’t just excel at soccer. He played a host of other sports, including basketball, track and field, cross country, and volleyball. But soccer was always his favorite and the one he stuck with the longest. He only started boxing at age 12 at the insistence of his brother Rustam to learn to defend himself. He got his start at the Cabbagetown Boxing Gym, and he fell in love with the sweet science after winning his first amateur fight. From then on, it was no longer his brother that was the driving force behind his visits to the gym. “The joy I got from the win made me want to do it again, so I was highly motivated to get back in the ring and again experience that positive feeling that comes from winning.”
Biyarslanov balanced soccer and boxing for five years. Until he made the Canadian youth national team at 17. He knew then that he had to pick between boxing and soccer, his favorite sport since he was four years old. That decision wasn’t an easy one, which he explained on the Pugilistically Inclined podcast.
“It was a really hard choice that I had to make. I took some time, spoke with my family, and I chose boxing because it’s a one-man sport. When you’re in the ring, you have no one to blame but yourself. If you didn’t train hard enough, you have to answer for that in the ring. Whereas when you’re on a soccer team, it doesn’t matter how good you are; if you’re not on a good team, you can’t do much because there are so many players. So I never wanted to leave it in the hands of anyone. I chose boxing and stuck with it.”
As in any athletic pursuit, you get out what you put in. And after choosing to dedicate himself fully to boxing, Biyarslanov would reap the benefits that came from his steadfast commitment.
As an amateur, Biyarslanov went 85-13, culminating in a birth on the Canadian team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, winning the gold medal at the 2015 Pan-American Games in Toronto stands out most to him.
“It was a beautiful experience. Being in my hometown and with so much support, I felt unstoppable!” he said. “I was very confident in myself because I had an excellent training camp, sleeping in the gym and training 2-3 times a day. It was the highlight of my career, and I am sure the highlight for Canadian amateur boxing as I brought back the Gold medal after 45 years.”
In the gold-medal match, Biyarslanov conquered Yasniel Toledo of Cuba, a former Olympic bronze medalist. “I knew it was going to be a tough fight, and a lot of people didn’t believe in me and thought I would settle for silver. But I am glad I proved them all wrong and showed them what I was capable of at just 20 years old.”
Naturally, Biyarslanov had high hopes heading into Rio, but his dreams were dashed in the round of 16 when he lost a decision to Artem Harutyunyan of Germany. “After being out of the tournament, I had no interest to do anything because it was a dream I had been working for so long, and I was disappointed,” he admitted. “But the positive support I received from friends and fans improved my mood and motivated me for the future.”
Biyarslanov still has fond memories of his Olympic experience despite the disappointing outcome. “Overall, it was a great experience,” he said. “All the world’s best athletes were in the same village, so it was amazing to be around the best in the world. The Olympics are a dream for many people to get to and only the best of the best get that chance to experience it.”
Initially, the Chechen Wolf had his eyes locked in on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo with redemption on his mind. However, he later decided to turn pro in 2018, a decision for which he has no regrets given the Tokyo Games’ postponement due to the coronavirus.
After winning his first two fights in the first round, Biyarslanov signed with powerful promoter Eddie Hearn and joined the Matchroom stable. He is pleased with that decision because he feels that he is always well cared for by the British promoter. Since signing, he has won five fights and gotten some well-deserved exposure in major American markets.
“I am happy with the way my career is going so far,” he said. “My last four fights have been on the undercard of world championships, and I have been televised multiple times. I think it’s fair to say that any pro boxer would have loved to be on those cards. My team’s got some big plans for 2021; I hope to get at least three fights and reach the top-20 in my division.”
Although it is still early on in his career, The Chechen Wolf always keeps his goals at the forefront of his mind. He is hunting the unified world championship, and like his namesake, he will not rest until he does. It’s a matter of survival.