Alina Zagitova is stepping into the ring – although it won’t be what some had expected
Olympic figure skating champion Alina Zagitova will take part in an exhibition training session with Russian former boxing star Oleg Saitov in Moscow later this month, it has been confirmed. Zagitova recently teased a switch to boxing, prompting speculation that the 2018 gold medal queen could even take part in an exhibition bout.
“This is not a contest with Alina, but a master class. I was offered [the chance], and I gladly agreed to conduct a master class with our beautiful figure skater,” said two-time Olympic gold medalist Saitov.
“I’m very pleased that Alina has started boxing! Boxing is an interesting sport at any age.
“What will be in the program? The most important thing in boxing is defense, the ability to defend yourself, move around, strike.
“That is, there must be a set of skills. When a person only knows how to strike, he will miss out on defense, and this is bad.”
The ‘exhibition sparring’ is set to take place at Moscow’s Luzhniki sports complex on June 25 as part of the Russian capital’s Day of Sport.
Zagitova, 20, recently teased on her social media channels that she was “getting ready for something new,” sharing footage of herself wearing boxing gloves and doing padwork in the gym.
That sent the Russian press into overdrive, with matchmakers clamoring for an exhibition showdown with the likes of pop queen Olga Buzova and numerous other names from Russian showbusiness and beyond.
A showdown with Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion Albert Batyrgaziev was then reported, sparking fears of a dangerous mismatch, even in training terms.
Batyrgaziev confirmed to RIA Sport on Thursday that he had indeed been lined up for a training event with Zagitova, but was unable to appear as he is currently incapacitated.
“Unfortunately, due to an old injury that bothered me in the last fight, I won’t be able to participate in an open training session with Alina Zagitova which was supposed to take place as part of the Moscow Sports Day on June 25. The idea was great, but the injury does not allow me the opportunity participate,” said the star.
Despite initial speculation of an exhibition contest, Zagitova’s boxing dalliance appears to be more modest in the form of her training session with Saitov, 48, although it will likely still prove of interest to her legion of fans.
Olympic champion at the PyeongChang Games in 2018 and world champion the following year, Zagitova announced in December 2019 that she was taking a career hiatus.
While not officially announcing her retirement, the skating star has not competed officially since then, instead skating at exhibition shows and embarking on a presenting career on Russian TV.
Her boxing crossover marks the latest move by a Russian skating star into a different sport, after 2022 Olympic silver medalist Alexandra Trusova recently tried her hand at the long jump during an event promoting athletics in Moscow.