South African Virgil Kalakoda reflects on his 17-year boxing and K1 career
Livefight interview: Virgil ďVictoriousĒ Kalakoda
By Michael J Jones
A long-time contender on the South African boxing scene is junior middleweight star Virgil Kalakoda. Now residing in Australia, Virgil turned pro way back in 1996 and is currently 24-8-3 (16). Now 34-years-old, Kalakoda has forged a solid pro career fighting all over the world and contesting many titles along the way. In his prime a skilful fighter with a great left hook, Virgil has also in recent years found success in K1, competing in several tournaments in Japan with much acclaim.
Last year, come-backing Kalakoda returned to boxing and gave world-ranked Aussie contender Daniel Dawson two tough fights in Perth. The experienced South African appeared unlucky not to come away with more than a draw and a majority decision loss to the former world title challenger.
Currently training in Human resources as his fighting career nears an end, nice-guy Virgil had the following to say.
LF: Ok Virgil can we start by asking how you first came to start boxing, how old were you and what were some of your amateur highlights?
VK: Truth be told I always hated the sport and just went with it as my dad coerced me to box. He was an amateur fighter not able to go pro due to apartheid in South Africa at the time making it difficult for black males to go pro. As a result he turned his focus to becoming a trainer.
My dad had a gym and trained mainly pros so my sparring was done with pro fighters. As a result, I never had a long amateur career that included being the runner up in the S.A. championships in 1995 and totalling all of ten fights.
I went pro the following year at 18-years-of age, won the IBC light middle in 2000 and the IBF Inter-continental title before turning to kickboxing in Japan in 2005. I did this due to political issues in boxing. I was stripped of the IBC title without defending it and became frustrated with the sport resulting in me turning to kickboxing.
LF: In the early stages of your pro career you raced to 9-1-1 and scored some good early knockouts. I noticed you boxed in the UK a couple of times against Paul Miles and Robert Wright. You won both fights impressively. What was the story with how you came to box in the UK?
VK: After four fights Harold Volbrecht (trainer of Corrie Sanders, Brian Mitchell and Phillip Holiday), came to our gym to view some heavyweight fighters but, according to him, I caught his attention. Afterwards I signed a promotional deal with Rodney Berman and, one month before, arranged fights that would see me head to Johannesburg for training and sparring with Phillip Holiday who at the time was IBF lightweight champion. This is how I ended up having a few fights in the UK.
LF: Your first big fight was against Joseph Makaringe for the South African title in 2000. What can you tell me about that fight in which he stopped you late on?
VK: My fight with Joseph was my hardest match to date as he had unbelievable fitness and threw an average of a 100 punches per round, coupled with the fact that he was a hard puncher as well. The first six rounds were even and fast paced and, as a result, I started to tire from the eighth resulting in a late stoppage defeat at the end of the tenth.
I must mention also that we lodged a protest that came to nothing as my trainer noticed his gloves were skinned (padding pulled back). Throughout the fight I could feel his knuckles and my head had swollen to the size of a soccer ball (laughs).
LF: You came back very well to win fights in Florida and Bulgaria and win the titles you mentioned, but one thing I have noticed is, you have fought in many different countries such as; Britain, USA, Bulgaria, Romania and Australia. Was it always your intention to fight all over the world as a pro?
VK: After the Makaringe loss, I parted ways with (manager) Rodney Berman and Harold as trainer and signed with American JC Courreges (who handled Henry Akinwande and Byron Mitchell). This is where I fought in Romania, Bulgaria and Florida. I also had a stint training for six weeks at Universum in Germany with the Klitschko's. I sparred with world title challenger Koren Gevor, WBO Champ Bert Schenk and alongside Felix Sturm before he became a world champion.
It was not my intention to travel the world and the down side to that was that a lot of those trips with my American promoter I travelled alone. I was often met up by random coaches to work my corner for me. I had to look after myself on these trips and train myself and, if I'm honest, I believe I could have gone much further in my career if the time was put in to nurture me.
I have no regrets however as it moulded me into the man I've become, landed me in Australia and where Iíve met Tony Delvechio whom I train with. I consider Tony a future top trainer to be reckoned with as well as close friend as I really do believe he is a world class trainer
LF: You seemed on a good run of form when you suffered a split defeat to tricky William Gare over ten rounds. After one more fight you disappeared for over five years. Firstly did you leave boxing because of that defeat, and secondly can you give an overview of your very fine K1 career?
VK: After the Gare fight I was offered to fight in K1 in Japan and just basically took the offer as the money offered was good and they kept me busy with fights. I was always training and though my boxing record reads inactivity during that period I was still fighting and itís where I made a friend from Australia who was instrumental in helping me build the base I now have here with my family.
I had done Karate as a youngster so kicking wasn't new to me and I rather enjoyed the challenge of being a boxer fighting kickboxers in Muay Thai. Verno Phillips in fact fought in the same organisation as me in a one-fight deal and got stopped easily inside two rounds.
LF: After five years out you jumped straight into a title fight to be edged by King Davidson. Eighteen months later you decided to come back again. After a loss and a draw you had those two very close bouts with world-rated Daniel Dawson. You drew the first and only lost by majority in the second. Considering your boxing inactivity and form those were great performances from you?
VK: As mentioned, I was fighting kickboxing though I was inactive in boxing as my record reads I was still training and fighting. I met a friend from Australia in Japan who put me in touch with a trainer Tony Delvechio and I booked a flight and lived in Sydney for one year in 2009. I was offered the King fight and took it. I have no qualms with the decision given to King in our fight as I feel he won clearly. He was a very slick fighter and I had a difficult time landing blows on him as he constantly moved after unloading on me.
The fight with Dawson however I felt I had done enough to get the decision in the first fight and even more so in the second as I had him visibly hurt and back-pedalling. This is what is the normí in boxing when you fight a boxer in his hometown as well as the fact that I am a foreigner.
LF: What part of Australia do you live in?
VK: I currently live in Sydney with my wife Victoria. Weíve been married for ten years and have two sons. We are hoping to gain permanent residence in this country as, to be honest, I have regrets in my career and believe I could have gone much further. The one thing (boxing) has given me though is allowing me to see the world and bringing me to Australia. I believe that is the greatest thing it's given, not just me, but my family.
LF: You last fought in February and are now 34-years-old; what are your immediate plans for the future, will you carry on boxing or go back to K1?
VK: I love training so Iím taking it one day at a time. Iím nearing the end of my career, I've been a pro for almost seventeen years but Iím still in the gym every day. I spar Lenny (Leonardo) Zappavigna now-and-again. He lost in Las Vegas a little while ago for the IBF lightweight title (to reigning champion Miguel Vazquez). I think heís an awesome talent and the next big lightweight champion for sure.
Note: Zappavigna is 27-2 (18) and also lives in Sydney.
I'm studying Human resources at the moment as well. Iíd like to give the corporate sector a run and am also currently a qualified personal trainer. I figure my years of fighting will bode well in handling work conflict hence studying HR and, if all else fails; I can revert to boxing and bash unhappy workers if they don't heed my advice (laughs).