By John J. Raspanti
Many fighters start with nothing more than hope. Money is non-existent; food can be a luxury. A dream is all they have.
Sladjan Janjanin was born in Tavnik, a small town in central Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was four years old when the Bosnian War ended in 1995 taking a toll on his family. His parents lost two homes. His father was reduced to working odd jobs around town, while his mother held down minimum wage positions.
Janjanin and his two brothers did what they could to help. His older brother, Drazan, took up boxing after the family had discovered the sport on TV. Whenever his father was home, they watched.
“My favorite fighters were Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones Jr., and Felix Sturm,” Janjanin told this writer via Facebook a few weeks ago.
He went to the gym were his brother was working out. He, too, took to the sport and his amateur boxing career began when he was 11. Fighting was in his blood.
He won 45 of 50 fights as an amateur before turning professional in 2012. At the same time, he worked at various times at a sawmill, a car wash, and as a waiter, always returning to the ring.
“With all this, I continued to work and train, “said Janjanin. "It’s a tough life in Bosnia, but all I do is work harder.”
Janjanin, knocked out his first five opponents. Competition was hard to come by.
In 2015, he traveled to Kenya to face Selemani Zugo, a winner of nine of ten contests.
“This was my chance and I had to do my best,” said the 26-year-old Janjanin. “I had to agree to everything. He had a good jab. I was in some pain, but I found a way to win. That was a great victory.”
Janjanin stopped Zugo in round three. After defeating Zugo, the African boxing fans called Janjanin the “African King.” Janjarin ended the year with two more victories.
His next fight would be against Steven Butler in Montreal, Canada for the vacant IBF Youth super welterweight title. Training was a problem, but a fight with Butler was an opportunity that Janjarin couldn’t let pas.
Butler pounded on Janjarin for three rounds. He strafed him with hooks, and wicked shots to the body. Knocked down for the first time in his career, Janjarin got back up and tried to fight back. The referee finally stopped the contest in the third round.
A disappointed Janjain was back in the ring two weeks later. Since the loss, he’s won seven matches in succession.
He’s fought in Bosnia, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and Turkey, but his dream is to box in the United States.
“I really like American style of boxing,” said Janjarin. “I want to fight there.”
Sladjan Janjanin started his career with nothing more than a dream.
He’s still chasing it.