The Greek warrior rising up the ranks in America to one day become world champ

Can Andreas Katzourakis become the first Greek world champ in over 80 years?

A new name on the US boxing scene is a Greek, Andreas Katzourakis.

Coming off a win in his TV debut on August 25, where he beat American Raphael Igbokwe via 8th-round stoppage, Katzourakis is now undefeated, sitting with an 11-0 record, nine of his wins coming from the way of KO.

In forcing the stoppage, the Greek achieved something even the number one contender of the Super Welterweight, Israil Madrimov, couldn’t do, and that got Igbokwe out of the ring.Announcer and former World Champion Chris Algieri described the 26-year-old as “the goods”.

His manager, Brendan Segalas, believes Katzourakis will not only become a world champion one day, the first since Anton Christoforidis in 1941, but also a prominent Greek athlete. Boxing was only sometimes his sport of choice as the Athens-born athlete started in kickboxing.Kickboxing was in his blood; his father was an amateur fighter, and his mother was a martial arts fan, so it wasn’t surprising that he took up the sport.

Surprisingly, he did it from as early as four years old.

Andreas Katzourakis connects with a strike on Raphael Igbokwe. Photo: Supplied/Andreas Katzourakis

Greeks have a history in the sport, with one of the most notable names being Michalis “Iron Mike” Zambidis, who competed in Australia over 20 times in his 181 fights.

Katzourakis tells Neos Kosmos that he looked up to the 18-time World Champion.

“Growing up, being a kickboxer, of course, I looked up to Mike Zambidis.

“I remember him because we were living nearby, and I remember seeing him on the street as a kid. Now and then, he would tell me he’s going to Australia to fight.”

At eight years old, he started to fight across Europe in tournaments, and by 14, he had decided he wanted to only use his fists, not his feet, to hit people, in a decision made with the mindset and wisdom beyond that of a typical teenager.

“I transitioned to boxing because I saw boxing through a different perspective, it was a more serious sport with better opportunities, more technical support, and a better ring IQ – I thought it was the whole package as a sport.”

Going professional provided the opportunity to relocate to the United States and its massive boxing scene.

His parents have always supported his ambitions, but they weren’t happy to find out he had to drop out of university, where he studied marketing, to pursue his dream. Katzourakis headed to one of the premier cities for boxing, Los Angeles, where he began training under Abel Sanchez.Sanchez retired after two and a half years, so it was time for a new gym.

His coach and management presented several names, but the Greek only had one word in mind – Ronnie Shields.Shields, one of the most well-known boxing trainers in the US, has trained legends like Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, and the only Mike Tyson.

Andreas Katzourakis relocated to Houston, Texas under the training tree of Ronnie Shields, who mentored icons like Mike Tyson. Photo: Supplied/Andreas Katzourakis

After two training sessions in Houston, Texas, Shields could see the talent and knew he wanted Katzourakis at his gym.

Moving to the other side of the world is difficult, and it was no different for the youngster.”It was tough at the beginning in terms of loneliness, leaving your family behind, and I had already had a very long relationship with my girlfriend, and it was extremely tough at a young age to leave your other half behind,” Katzourakis said.

However, they made it work he says. “We had some visits at the beginning of the first year; every three to four months, I would see someone of my own, mostly my girlfriend, to be honest,” he laughed. He says the last year has been much easier, with friends around and his team supporting him all through.

The Greek community in Katzourakis’ adoptive hometown of Houston has been central to his foundation of success as a fighter.Dimitris Fetokakis’, the owner of Houston Greek staple Niko Niko’s, welcomed Andreas to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church community and introduced him to many successful Greek business people.

The crowd at Andreas’ fights are vociferous in their support of the The Pride of Hellas with Greek flags in the air.

His most recent fight in August was no exception, with a significant constituent of Greeks there to support him.It surprised him to see how big a Greek community there is in Texas, especially after having no Greek connection in LA.

Greek fans watch on as Andreas Katzourakis makes his entrance. Photo: Supplied/Andreas Katzourakis

“I didn’t expect to be so welcome, to be honest. I didn’t expect them to like me.

“It’s been an amazing experience meeting all the Greek people and seeing how the Greek community support each other.”

It would have been remiss not to ask the boxer about Australia and the Greek community here, who would undoubtedly get behind him.

“I’ve seen how you guys get behind athletes, and I’ve seen how you support your own, and it’s amazing, and I would love to not only come to Australia to visit and meet the people but also to come to fight.”

He revealed he tried with management to organise a fight in Australia, but things didn’t work out.

But there is always the future, given he’s young and hungry for more.

And that more could be a world title one day, but that’s too big a picture for now. The fighter with Cretan blood in his veins is taking things one step at a time.