At last year’s Olympic Games, Germany’s Artem Harutyunyan delivered the performance of his life to reach the Light Welterweight (64kg) Semi-Finals, returning home from Rio with his country’s sole boxing medal. Now preparing for a World Championships on his home soil, the expectations to reach the final are greater than ever.
2017 sees the first AIBA World Championships in Germany for 20 years. How much of a boost does it give German boxing to host a tournament of this importance and scale?
The AIBA World championships are a huge event. We haven’t had a tournament this big for a long time so the anticipation grew and that’s why a lot of people in Germany are so on board. Boxing in Germany will become popular again.
You have been an elite boxer for several years now, tell us about the step up from Junior to Youth to Elite, the sacrifices you had to make and dedication it took.
At the age of 10 I started boxing and found my passion for it. At the beginning, I trained because it was fun, and only later on did I find success, it wasn’t always the easy way for me. My first success was in 2005, when I became German champion. In 2011, I left my hometown of Hamburg together with my brother Robert and moved to Schwerin to train at the Olympic Base Camp. At this time I didn’t have any work nor did I earn any money. Even though I was five-times German Champion, including two elite titles, I still had to be financed by the state, but I never gave up and always dreamed of competing at the Olympic Games. I trained hard to become APB World Champion which meant I qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. I made my dream come true and moreover I won the bronze medal. Now I am looking forward to the AIBA World Championship and my goal is to win the gold medal for my hometown and for Germany.
How has boxing shaped you as a person, in terms of that dedication to training but also respect for your opponents, sportsmanship and integrity?
Boxing has very much shaped my personality. Since I was a child, it has been a big part of my life. I gained self-awareness and realized my strengths and weaknesses. Even though you are alone in the boxing ring, a boxer is still part of a whole team. It is very important to respect one another in a team. Equally important it is to respect the other team, because all athletes share the same goal, namely to leave the boxing ring as a champion. In sport it doesn’t matter where you are from, your skin colour, sex or age. Your sporting performance is all that matters.
How have you seen boxing in Germany develop during that time, and is German boxing ready to produce its first World Champion since 2009?
The growth of boxing in Germany goes up and down. For a long time, boxing was highly regarded in Germany. The boxers were strong and there was a huge interest in the sport. In the past few years the interest decreased, but since the Olympic Games in Rio there was a change. The German boxers are highly motivated and want to show their good performance at the AIBA World Championship. Hamburg will revolutionise our boxing again.
Who are the idols of the new generation of young boxers coming through in Germany?
Every young boxer has his idol. Some like the Olympic boxers, others like to watch professional boxing. However, every boxer wants to become an idol himself and wants to make history. My goal is to animate as many people as possible for boxing and maybe one day become an idol myself for other young sportsmen.
This is the first World Championships of the new Olympic Cycle, tell us about your experience at Rio 2016, what it meant personally to be there and how it felt to win an Olympic medal.
At the moment I’m in my third Olympic Cycle and I have learned never to give up. I always dreamed of being part of the Olympic Games one day. And this dream came true in 2016. The Olympic Games is the biggest sporting event in the world and it was a great experience for me to compete with the best athletes worldwide. By winning the bronze medal, I’m now carrying a lot of responsibility. The media and press became more aware of me and a lot of young boxers look up to me.
And what would it mean to win a World title in front of your own fans in Germany?
I’m looking forward to the World Championships in Hamburg and can’t wait to fight in my hometown. My whole family, friends and fans will be there to support me. That’s where I get my motivation and strength from. I want to become world champion and make history.