By Johnny Walker
Coming up on a weekend when boxing fans are supposed to be working themselves into a lather over what is likely to be a one-sided final installment of the trilogy between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, a perusal of Internet boxing forums instead reveals the hottest topic on tap to be … Charlie Zelenoff.
The Charlie Zelenoff phenomenon is something that could have only happened in the digital era. For the last few years, Zelenoff, 23, has been the star of his own YouTube reality show, “Charlie Zelenoff TV,” producing a series a clips filled with hip-hop flavored posturing and bragging based around the notion that he, Charlie Zelenoff, a Russian-American, is the greatest fighter on the planet. Zelenoff even made it onto Boxrec.com, where he is listed as officially 0-1, having been disqualified in his first pro bout at welterweight against one Andrew Hartley (2-21-0) in 2008.
Despite that seback, Zelenoff has never given up his dream of boxing supremacy, though he did take a detour into the world of Mixed Martial Arts for a short time. And of late, Zelenoff has been pumping up his Andy Kaufman-esque, “is he serious or is he joking?” YouTube adventures to a new level, parading around with a title belt (Zelenoff says he is the “UBF World Champion,” which sounds at least as plausible as James Toney’s claim to be the “IBA World Heavyweight Champion”) and posting videos of gym fights in which he inevitably triumphs over opponents with his “4500 PSI” power shots.
Charile Zelenoff TV scored a PR coup this week, however, when the fighter managed to get Floyd Mayweather Sr. into the ring with him in Las Vegas. In a video clip which has become a sensation around the boxing world, Zelenoff opens with a flurry of hard hooks that has Mayweather covering up and holding on, only to have the in-shape Floyd Sr. come back and hold his own quite well. Finally, after a corner flurry in which Zelenoff is forced out of the ring, the senior Mayweather turns away and Zelenoff runs up and appears to sucker punch him, although we don’t get to see what actually occurred, other than members of Mayweather’s posse jumping in and going after Zelenoff in a chaotic ending to the clip.
In a lovely bit of serendipity, Zelenoff has thus ended up making a video which brings to mind Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s recent “sucker punch” win over Victor Ortiz, and the subsequent admonition to “protect yourself at all times” in the ring. The Zelenoff fight clip has even prompted a concerned Fighthype.com to do a sycophantic interview with Floyd Sr. about the “23-year-old punk” who hit him (as if anyone forced Mayweather Sr. into the ring with Zelenoff in the first place).
Zelenoff, of course, has claimed total victory, and is now calling out both Mayweather Jr. and world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (apparently the UBF doesn’t have strict weight divisions), whose jaw he promises to reduce to jelly when they inevitably meet. And while Zelenoff has loads of online detractors, they are nevertheless all talking about him and watching his antics, giving “UBF champ” Charlie the last laugh.
Can a reality show for Charlie Zelenoff be far behind?
I think not.