"I felt nothing special at the beginning. I raised my hands and went to the cloakroom. In fifteen minutes I went back again – as is the rule. At the entrance, I could see my folks. There were 20-25 men standing and nearly all of them were crying. Suddenly, an idea crept into my mind:  have the judges changed their decision and deprived me of the victory or something like that… I couldn’t  understand what was going on, why were they crying? I went up to the ring. "The world champion!" was announced and I was decorated. Slowly, I understood… The happiness was immense and so was the pride…"

In 1997, Giorgi Kandelaki became the world’s first Georgian champion in boxing. At the end of the year Giorgi Akhvlediani wrote in the "Sarbieli" pre-Christmas edition: "This is a gift we have never had before. God willing, may we obtain similar rewards in the future. An image of the Variani giant, a man who has returned and won – for me this is the most impressive picture of the past year. But regardless of Giorgi’s future activities in the ring and his broad boxing career prospects, the event is immortal. It is the first and most outstanding paragraph in our boxing future…"

Information for professional boxing fans:

Giorgi Kandelaki:
Age - 27, height – 192 cm, weight – 100 kg.
In 1991, graduated from the Variani secondary school and Gori State University Economics Department thereafter.
Participant in 112 tournaments, lost only two.
Took part in 18 combats in the professional ring and was victorious in all eighteen, 14 – by a knockout.

Information for everyone:

Can you imagine that in his childhood Giorgi Kandelaki was not fond of sports at all? His dream was to become a fisherman or a hunter. In his village of Variani there was a strange custom among adults. They used to sit in the field and make little boys fight. By the evening, Giorgi would fight in five or six combats of this kind. Later, his father Tarash Kandelaki took him to Gori to train for boxing, and on the second floor of their house arranged a gym in which the boy could exercise. If during the week he would do the exercises that pleased his father, then on Sunday he would take Giorgi fishing or hunting. For the sake of that day Giorgi spared no effort. It was his luck that his first coach turned out to be a professional,  and a good one too. And so, very soon, Giorgi had a dream…

"I was eleven years old at that time and my dream was to become the champion of Georgia. I could no longer imagine living without boxing.  A keen interest was aroused in me.

I recall how, at the Soviet Union championship, I lost twice with the same boxer. I was a child then. For me this was the most memorable fight. I remember my father telling me that he would write that guy’s last name at the entrance of our house. The third time we met, it was I who beat him, and I haven’t lost since. We fought three or four times after that.

In 1990, I became the champion of the Soviet Union, and in two years – the world champion among youngsters. The next year, I almost forced my coach to send me to the world championship. It was the contest of the grown-ups and my age was inappropriate. ‘An adult will beat you up’, they kept telling me. ‘If it happens that I  fight with an adult, remove me from the contest’, I replied. Ultimately, I was allowed to go. It turned out that I won all the fights till the finals and I won second place. After that I moved to the older age group and in 1993 I became the champion of Europe. And then…"

And then a long break followed. Or perhaps it was an attempt to give up boxing… There was a war in Georgia, people endured hardships, and nobody had time for sports. Giorgi Kandelaki devoted himself to other things. However, he was unable to quit sports once and for all. Together with his friends he opened a boxing gym in the village "Club" and trained little boys. During this period some important events happened in his private life as well…

"I always begin telling this story differently. Now I’m going to tell you exactly how it happened. When I became a champion, a table was laid at my house to celebrate the event. It was absolutely by chance that my sponsor met Vakhtang Kanchaveli, now my father-in-law, in the street and invited him to my house. Vakhtang didn’t want to come. My sponsor told him that he was heading for a nice place and sat in Vakhtang’s car. When they came to my place, Vakhtang didn’t want to come in. His daughter and her friend were with him in the car and they were going somewhere. Finally, he decided to drop in for five minutes to greet me and go back. They came in and those five minutes lasted five hours. When I saw him off, Vakhtang remembered that his daughter and her friend were waiting for him in the car. "Oh, dear!…" he exclaimed, "My daughter…". That is how I got acquainted with Nino. And that was the beginning of our friendship. In 1996, we got married.

In 1997 I decided to return to professional boxing. I started exercising three months prior to the world championship. I wasn’t prepared well enough. My hope was to win third place. I kept saying I wouldn’t lose anyway. But as it happened, I was in the lead and was transferred to the professional level.."

In the world of sports there is a saying that boxing is for courageous men. As Giorgi has noted, a good boxer needs a brain, conscientiousness and a strong heart… And also luck… Giorgi has the luck. Once, he went to Moscow without being properly prepared. If he wasn’t withdrawn from the first round, he would get tired and would lose the contest. Everybody was aware of that. He went up to the ring and won the first round. As soon as the second round began, the ring collapsed. The boxers relaxed. The fight was continued, and again, something went wrong. During the third round, the ropes broke. Thus, resting from time to time, he won the victory. Such things don’t happen normally. Luck is at your side, he was told.

"The most difficult contest among professionals was the one recently when I  met with an English boxer. He’s a friend of mine, we’re in the same club and during exercises we’ve seen each other at least two hundred times. The television had the evening-time purchased. After contests, they conducted interactive inquiries and the audience requested to broadcast our combat. The bad thing about it was that we knew each other’s trump cards very well. I won, but with difficulty. This guy didn’t deserve to have been beaten. It was just the moment that played the decisive role… The British are fervent fans. Near the ring, there was a place separated by the railings. I asked my manager to put chairs there where our guys could sit. There were some hundred people altogether. It is hard to imagine four-thousand fans supporting your adversary, and nearly nobody at your side to support you . It turned out that those hundred men with their flags and cries outscored the whole

There is a moment that is extremely important for me. Before I leave for a competition, my friends are always with me. One might think that there is a casino open in my house: all of them are sitting in groups playing joker. During the last few days prior to the contest, I feel they’re even more nervous than I am. When you feel something like this, you have nowhere to retreat."

The European championship was held in Turkey. The local Georgians kept going there every day. At the finals, the hall was packed with people. The contest was over, Giorgi "raised his hands" and went to the cloakroom where his fans had brought a box of champagne for him. Filled with joy, Giorgi inadvertently drank the bottle, having forgotten he was exhausted. In ten minutes he had to go out for the award and … he was unable to rise. In short, the European champion got so drunk from the champagne that he was almost left without a title.

"We were in Canada at the World Championship. At that time nobody knew us and nobody paid any attention to us. One or two days passed. I reached the finals. Then they realized I’d come to win the championship. They started moving about busily and told us to bring a flag and our anthem. We didn’t know what to do. We drew a picture of a flag, explained everything about it, and the flag was made. What about the national anthem – who was going to write an anthem or perform it for us? Some Georgian wrestlers living in Canada were with me. They told me they had a cassette of "Shalakho". There was no other way out and we decided to use it. Well, I became the champion. Can you imagine, seven thousand people standing on their feet and listening to "Shalakho"?…The Georgians and Russians were roaring with laughter."

Giorgi Kandelaki cannot imagine himself living elsewhere. From his childhood he had many tempting offers to go abroad and stay there. Several times he even intended to do so but… In Japan he was about to sign a contract, but at the last moment he changed his mind.

"I can’t stay anywhere else for a long time. I can bear staying away from my home for three weeks or a month, at most. Had I accepted the Japanese offer, I’d be a million times better off financially. My present manager wanted me to live in London. I refused. They made concessions, and it was decided that I’d stay there only for a week. Then they trickily persuaded me and now when I go to London, I stay there for a month…

One thing is that I cannot tolerate staying away from home, but the second thing is that there is so much to be done. In 1997, we started building a sports complex in Variani. It worked out very well. Today 450 kids go there to exercise. We also held the Georgian championship there. Twelve is the amateurs’ weight and the village team won first place. Currently, we’re starting construction of a boarding school. There are many kids who live in other regions and don’t have the opportunity to get trained. These kids need to be taken care of. They don’t lag behind any other team in the world in their age-group. Boxing is the type of sport where significant competitions are held in other countries, but due to financial constraints, we are unable to take part. These kids have strong potential…"

Giorgi follows a strict schedule. He believes, however, that a man can make time for everything – for training and for coaching kids, for spending time with the family and with friends… His relatives and close friends are already accustomed to his abscence at many family gatherings or parties. If Nino was worried before that he doesn’t have much time for their baby and herself, now she is even more concerned that people don’t take up his time. Gradually, she got used to fights as well, and when Giorgi became the champion, she cried bitterly…

"For me, family is crucial. I always find tranquility, love and support there. But I turned out to be very lucky. Even my boy understands me. When I come back home, tired, he asks me: " Daddy, where have you been?" When I reply "At the gym, training", he repeats thoughtfully: "At the gym", and comes to me to put his head on mine. Tarashi is two-and-a-half and is interested in nothing but boxing. When we watch him walking in the yard, he keeps repeating "bang, bang" – he’s boxing by himself. He accompanies me to my training sessions and sits in the gym for one or two hours like a grown-up man; he never gets bored…"

Lately, the contests conducted by Giorgi in the professional ring attracted and involved not only boxing fans, but also people without any particular interest in sports. Both adults and little ones keep track of his combats with amazing devotion.  It has been a long time since anyone in Georgia has had such a widespread assortment of fans…

In September, Giorgi Kandelaki is going to fight for the European Professional Championship. To have the right to participate in the World Championship, he must defend the European title three out of four times. And then… then the World Professional Championship among professionals will follow…

Those ‘in the know’ claim that Giorgi Kandelaki is the boxer of the 21st century.

What a wonderful picture to imagine: Giorgi Kandelaki with his hands raised high, and wearing the world champion’s belt.