By Derek Bonnett: The country of Romania is located in Southeast Central Europe and borders countries such as Hungary, Serbia, and Ukraine. It is also famous for being the home of Vlad III the Impaler and Nadia Comaneci. The first was a ruthless ruler most remembered for his harsh punishments and as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The second earned her recognition at the age of fifteen as the first Olympic gymnast to ever score a “perfect ten” as a member of the 1976 Romanian team.
Combine the athleticism of Comaneci and the blood shed by the mythical Dracula and you might end up somewhere a little closer to the sport of boxing.
Romania’s boxing history is not a rich one. In fact, the last several years appear to be what one might call the most prominent in the nation’s history and the start of something positive between Romania and the sport of professional boxing. In 2002, a capable Romanian lightweight by the name of Leonard Dorin captured the WBA lightweight title from Raul Balbi and produced a modest reign. Prior to that, Michael Loewe was the only other Romanian born fighter to capture a world title belt. Loewe won the vacant WBO welterweight title in 1997.
The four men whom follow just might help the tiny blip on the boxing radar that is Romania to become a bit more recognizable. Here are four of Romania’s best.
4.) Viorel “Bombardierul” Simion represented his country in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games as a featherweight and won two bouts before losing narrowly to the South Korean representative. So far, Simion is still just a mere neophyte in the game of professional prizefighting. In two years as a professional, Simion has gone 8-0 (3). Although the opposition has been weak at best, Simion’s management is at least putting him in there with fighters who have far more bouts than him.
In his most recent outing (April 19), Simion captured something called the WBC Mediterranean featherweight title with a clear points win over Rudy Encarnacion, a veteran of nearly thirty bouts.
The future is as unclear as could be for Simion, but hopefully his amateur experience can carry him to more than previous generations of Romanian fighters have achieved. The right exposure could gain him as much recognition as contemporary prospects like Matt Remillard and Dat Nguyen if he continues to fight on the undercards of Adrian Diacanu.
3.) Ionut Dan Ion is not a name easily mistaken for any other. His fans know him as “Jo Jo Dan”, which makes things a bit easier. The twenty-six year old Ion holds a 21-0 (12) record and has been fighting as a professional since 2004. However, it wasn’t until late 2007 that Ion actually moved past eight round bouts. Nevertheless, he already holds a number thirteen ranking in the eyes of the WBA.
Ion captured the spurious NABA junior welterweight title with a 12th round stoppage of Paul Delgado, who had faced a number of world-class opponents. The biggest win of his career came against the aforementioned Raul Balbi, who lost his lightweight title to Ion’s countryman Leonard Dorin. Ion made much quicker work of Balbi than did Dorin, but he also faced a faded version. The third round KO victory notched the first defense of Ion’s NABA title.
Ion last fought on the same April 19 undercard of Diacanu-Henry. The win over Balbi was a move in the right direction and a bout with the well-traveled Emmanuel Augustus could be an appropriate next step.
2.) Adrian “The Shark” Diacanu is 25-0 (15) as a professional light heavyweight. His amateur credentials are also commendable as he bronzed and silvered in the 1997 and 1999 World Championships respectively. He also represented Romania in the 2000 Olympics, but lost his third bout to a Cuban fighter. Diacanu was matched tough earlier in his career against Kenny Bowman and Tiwon Taylor before he had a dozen fights. The greatest setback of his career was an injury that forced him out of a world championship bout with Chad Dawson this past fall.
Diacanu, 29, has made huge strides since 2007. He gained serious attention in a WBC title eliminator when he crushed the favored Rico Hoye in just three rounds. On April 19, he was awarded an interim WBC title by edging the undefeated Chris Henry in Romania.
As the WBC interim champion, Diacanu’s shot at Dawson for the actual crown is almost guaranteed. Dawson’s sights may be set on the more recognizable Tarver for the time being, but Diacanu’s time will come and he should be treated as a dangerous underdog.
1.) Lucian “Le Tombeur” Bute holds a perfect 22-0 (18) dossier and the IBF super middleweight championship. His opposition improved steadily throughout his career, beating name fighters like Dingaan Thobela and Kabary Salem before he had fifteen bouts under his belt. More importantly, if Joe Calzaghe decides to remain at light heavyweight, Bute is arguably the best fighter in the division.
Since 2006, Bute has been turning back the challenges of fellow contenders like James Obede Toney, Sergey Tatevosyan, Sakio Bika, and Alejandro Berrio. Though not recognized as the best fighter in the division, Berrio held the IBF title before Bute snatched it away to become Romania’s only official reigning champion.
Now that Bute has made a voluntary defense against the faded William Joppy in February, the road ahead should include bigger game. His number one contender is Librado Andrade and HBO would likely show interest in that match-up or a showdown with Mikkel Kessler of Denmark.
Romania proudly boasts one world champion and one prominent contender with two capable prospects coming up in the distance. Considering the nation’s shallow history in the sport of boxing, Romanians have something to be proud of and fight fans have some interesting development to look out for.
May 29, 2008