By John J. Raspanti
Sladjan Janjarin began his boxing career with little more than hope and a dream. He was born in Tavnik, a small town in central Bosnia-Herzegovina. Money was scarce. His parents worked long hours for little pay. Janjarin and his two older brothers helped any way they could.
The one constant was watching boxing on their small television. His oldest brother, Drazan, took up the sport. Janjarin, who grew up admiring Oscar De La Hoya and Roy Jones Jr., followed him to the gym one day. He loved it. He knew he must learn to box.
Janjarin’s amateur career began at 11. He won 45 of 50 amateur fights before turning professional six years ago. He worked odd jobs to help his family and support his boxing dream. Now it was time to see what he could do as a pro.
Although fights were hard to come by in Bosia, he knocked out his first five opponents. He stopped Selemani Zugo, winner of nine of ten bouts, in three rounds.
"This was my chance and I had to do my best,” Janjanin told this writer last year via email. “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.”
Janjarin won two more fights before traveling to Canada to face hot prospect Steven Butler. Training for the fight had been a problem, but Janjarin had to fight.
For three rounds, Butler hit Janjarin with everything but the kitchen sink. A wicked body shot floored Janjarin for the first time in his career. He got up and fought back. The referee eventually stopped the contest. His first loss didn’t bother Janjarin for long. Two weeks later, he was back in the ring, winning by stoppage.
He won his next eight matches before facing super middleweight Yusef Kanguel in Germany two months ago. Janjarin’s fighting weight is usually between 147 and 154 pounds. Kanguel fights in the 168-pound division. With a pregnant wife at home, and badly in need of money, Janjarin took the fight.
The end result was predictable. Pushed around and mauled by the much heavier Kanguel, Janjanin was stopped in five rounds. Angry for a few days, Janjarin took full responsibility for his second career loss.
“The defeat was my fault,” said Janjarin. “My weight is super welterweight, not super middleweight. I was compelled to fight, but now it’s different. I’m determined to win.”
Janjarin will be returning to Canada next week to face once-beaten Sebastian Bouchard on the undercard of the world light heavyweight championship fight between Adonis Stevenson and Badou Jack.
No matter what happens in Canada, Janjarin deserves respect. He’s fought in Bosnia, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and Turkey, but his dream is to box in the United States.
He’s a true fighter who has battled his way out of the poor streets of Bosnia to a respectable boxing career.
That’s not easy.