07 mai

Serhii Lapin: «Usyk Inspires Everyone Who Works with Him»

Not just fans but even the management of the Ukrainian champion's rivals openly express admiration for the quality of Oleksandr Usyk's sports team. Serhii Lapin, who leads this team, is not only the head but also Usyk's childhood friend. He accompanied Usyk from his early days in the Simferopol gym to competing for the absolute heavyweight championship. Moreover, Serhii manages the Ready To Fight project, an online platform initiated by friends to spearhead a technological revolution in boxing. Learn more about this and the secrets to building an effective team and preparing for the fight with Tyson Fury in an exclusive interview with Ready To Fight.

«Every Team Member Must Feel Valued»

– Tell us, how did you get into boxing? Was it your own choice or perhaps your parents' decision? How did your amateur career start?

My father was a coach, so I was introduced to boxing at a very young age. I initially spent a lot of time in the gym just watching. By the age of 11, I realized I wanted to try it. That's when my journey began.

– What did you enjoy, and what did you dislike about training?

Few people enjoy getting punched in the face. However, that changes when you start punching back. Eventually, I became utterly engrossed in the sport.

– What is the most memorable event in your career?

I won my first gold medal at the Ukrainian Children's Championship, which was a significant milestone for me.

– Could you have imagined 20 years ago that you would lead the team of one of the best boxers in history? And how do you view it now?

Twenty years ago, we were beginning our training together, and it was evident from the start that we were a cohesive unit. Back then, it wasn't easy to foresee that Usyk would become one of the world's top boxers. However, he exemplifies how much a person can achieve through sheer character and discipline.

Sasha and I have always been big dreamers. But dreaming is common. The challenge lies in working towards making those dreams a reality.

Sadly, I barely have time to reflect now. Managing a champion's team, especially before a title fight, is challenging and carries great responsibility, yet it is also very motivating.

– This is especially true given that Usyk's fight against Fury has been postponed several times. According to Oleksandr, he continued training throughout, and before February 17, he went through nearly a full training camp. How does this affect an athlete's physical and psychological condition?

Indeed, this is our third camp: we initially prepared for December 23, then for February 17, and now for May 18.

However, if anyone thought postponing the fight would negatively impact Oleksandr's or the team's form or spirit, they were greatly mistaken. Usyk has been gearing up for this fight since he moved up to the heavyweight division, both physically and psychologically, right from the start of his professional career. That's why he can face Fury any day, any time, and always be in peak condition.

– How does Oleksandr Usyk in camp differ from Oleksandr Usyk in everyday life?

There's almost no difference. He might be a bit more focused and composed. However, he also maintains a disciplined approach to training, even when training between camps.

– You seem to have always been part of Oleksandr Usyk's team, essentially built around you two. Last year, there was a lot of praise for Team Usyk's efforts, and many named it the best team of 2023. What's the secret to building an effective team in boxing?

Firstly, recognizing the team's importance is critical. When members feel valued and see themselves as part of the collective success, not just as support staff, and when their contributions are appropriately acknowledged and rewarded, it dramatically enhances everyone's performance. In our case, Oleksandr Usyk's particular regard for those he works with plays a significant role. It's very motivating.

The second factor is having a clear division of roles and responsibilities. In 2018, our team comprised 3-4 people; now it's more than ten. Each person is ideally suited to their role.

– Describe your team in a few words that would characterize it as clearly as possible.

Efficient and self-disciplined. Usyk is an example for us, and the team is following his top-level.

– What challenges did you encounter while building the team?

The main challenge was finding individuals who shared our values and work ethic. Over time, we've encountered people who did not live up to what they purported to be.

– Are these challenges still relevant today, even for novice boxers?

They're relevant not just for beginners but also for champions. Until we launched Ready To Fight, there weren't any professional recruitment or collaboration platforms in the boxing industry where you could search for people, review their portfolios, or check recommendations.

«The Digital Transformation of Boxing Is Long Overdue»

– How did you develop the idea for Ready To Fight, and how did it all start?

The concept emerged from the recurring shortage of sports specialists and sparring partners. During a training camp, we faced repeated no-shows and letdowns. I found myself constantly on the phone, trying to line up replacements. That's when it struck me: why is it that you can order food, rent an apartment, or do virtually anything else with a few taps on your smartphone, but you can't find a sparring partner, coach, or cutman the same way?

This idea eventually evolved into a broader vision for a comprehensive boxing ecosystem where users could find and collaborate with other boxers or managers, engage with fans, and develop and monetize personal brands.

– Why, in your opinion, is this idea timely?

As I mentioned, there's a mobile app for nearly everything nowadays. Boxing shouldn't remain stuck in the 20th century; its digital transformation is not just due but long overdue. I and our friends as well as advisors, who are top professionals in the industry, share this sentiment.

We didn't reinvent the wheel; we were the first to fill a gaping niche that had yet to be addressed.

– What role does Oleksandr Usyk play at Ready To Fight, and how is he involved in the platform's development, given his «day job»?

Usyk is a tremendous source of ideas. While he can't be involved in the day-to-day operations due to his boxing career, he is integral at the strategic level. His deep understanding of the boxing world is invaluable. Most of Team Usyk is involved in the project; the platform also coordinates sparring sessions, so many discussions at the training camp naturally involve Ready To Fight.

For Usyk, RTF is not merely a business venture; it's his way of contributing to the future of boxing and part of his legacy in the sport.

– Have you and Usyk been friends since childhood? How feasible is it to work with friends and build a business with friends?

Yes, as I mentioned, a significant issue in our industry—and likely in others—is the prevalence of people who misrepresent themselves. So, who better to start a business with than a friend you've known for years, someone you've been through thick and thin with, from Crimea to Rome? I see only the positives in such cooperation.

– How many sparring partners could you secure for Usyk's camp through RTFight? What was the geographic scope of this search?

We managed to secure several dozen sparring partners from all around the world. It was challenging because our opponent had a unique size and boxing style. But we succeeded, and that's mainly due to the simplicity of the search process on our platform. I wouldn't have achieved the same results if I had still been using my phone as before.

Oleksandr completed about 250 rounds of sparring in each of the three camps. So, it's fair to say that RTF has become our secret weapon in fight preparation.

– How satisfied are you with the growth rate of the RTFight project?

I'm never fully satisfied; a sense of complacency would hinder further development. However, certain aspects are incredibly encouraging.

For instance, Mike Tyson recently joined us as a brand ambassador, showing his belief in our project. Also, the Saudi Boxing Federation, which will use us as a digital tool for finding and hiring specialists, is a significant endorsement—given Saudi Arabia's current prominence in the boxing world.

There are other major milestones I can't disclose publicly yet. I encourage everyone to subscribe to RTF, register, and stay tuned for upcoming announcements.

– Why did you choose web3 technologies as the foundation for building the platform?

We adopted Web3 technologies primarily for two reasons. The first is to facilitate the discovery of and collaboration between boxers, sparring partners, managers, and agents. We are also gradually expanding features for coaches, gyms, equipment suppliers, nutritionists, and sponsors.

The second reason is to engage fans and monetize personal brands and fighters' content. In this regard, RTF operates as a SocialFi platform, complete with our own RTF token, enhancing interaction and transaction capabilities within the community.

The use of blockchain and Web3 technologies allows us to ensure transparency in the relationships between athletes, partners, and fans, guarantee the fulfillment of agreements through smart contracts, and secure data.

Moreover, web3 technologies enable payments and transactions without depending on local currencies, giving our project a global scope right from the start.

– Where should boxers who are not very familiar with web3 technologies start?

It's a significant challenge to familiarize platform users with web3 technologies, as not all community members have the necessary knowledge or experience. We aim to make the platform accessible to everyone, regardless of background. We focus heavily on the digital education of the boxing community, ensuring the platform design is convenient and intuitive and promoting mutual support within the community.

When registering, users define their role on the Ready To Fight platform as a boxer, agent, or fan. For a novice boxer, creating a profile, specifying preferences, and uploading photos and videos showcasing their boxing skills is crucial. Our system uses artificial intelligence to connect such fighters with interested parties.

The most crucial advantage for beginners is the opportunity to get noticed, which could lead to invitations to spar or to collaborate with an agent who can help them build their careers. Therefore, it's essential not to overlook the platform's self-promotion opportunities.

– How did you convince traditional institutions like the WBC to accept your idea?

Being traditional doesn't mean being closed to innovation. The WBC is one of the most progressive organizations in the boxing world, and they do not stand still. WBC President Mauricio Suleiman clearly understands that the sport's further development is impossible without embracing technology, which is breaking down all barriers and borders today. We share this perspective.

– How do you think technological transformation can change the boxing industry?

It can and should make the industry transparent, democratic, and open to everyone, regardless of where they were born, their gender, how much money they have, or where they start their careers.

We aim to use technology to address communication and career development challenges, ensuring that anyone with talent and dedication has a chance to become a champion.

We want every member of the global boxing family to earn a living doing what they love.

Lastly, we aim to give boxing back to its fans, allowing them to have a voice and influence what happens in the industry.