Sladjan Janjanin wanted to prove something to himself a few weeks ago when he fought Martin Murray. He did it.
By John J. Raspanti
It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream nobody sees but you.
Million Dollar Baby
When Sladjan Janjanin faced four-time title challenger Martin Murray at the Liverpool Olympia in Liverpool, England a few weeks ago, the chances of him winning were slim.
But that was only part of the story.
Murray has come about as close as one can to winning a world title. His draw against Felix Strum eight years ago was heatbreaking. Most at ringside thought he had done enough to deserve the verdict.
Two years later, Murray traveled to Argentina to face hometown hero, and champion, Sergio Martinez. Murray floored Martinez twice (the referee didn’t see the second knockdown) but still “lost” the fight by dubious decision. Murray was legitimately defeated by Gennady Golovkin four years ago, and lost another split decision to Arthur Abraham seven months later.
Murray wants another shot at a title. A few months ago, he was looking for an opponent to fight in Liverpool. Enter Sladjan Janjanin of Bosnia - who didn’t blink when offered the opportunity to fight the bigger Murray.
The chance to box Murray, whom Janjanin has idolized for years, was akin to hitting the lotto.
When Janjanin began his boxing career 20 years ago in Tavnik, a small town in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the chances of achieving any success seemed close to nil. Money was scarce. His parents worked around the clock to make ends meet. Janjanin and his two older brothers helped the best they could.
The one constant in the Janjanin household was boxing. The family loved the sport. After following his older brother to the gym one day, Janjanin knew he had found his calling. His amateur career commenced soon after. He won 45 of 50 fights before turning professional at 17.
His career got off to promising start. Opponents were scarce, but when able to fight, Janjanin scored five straight knockouts. His biggest victory was a three-round blowout of Selemen Zugo in Nairobi, Kenya.
Road-warrior Janjanin, undefeated in 14 fights, next traveled to Canada to face rising prospect Steven Butler. Training had been difficult in his native Bosnia, but Janjanin made the best of it. He had to fight.
Butler dominated from the get-go, but Janjanin wouldn’t quit. Floored for the first time in his career, Janjanin got up and fired punches. It was something he had done all his life --- when down, fight back. The bout was eventually stopped. Janjanin returned to the ring two weeks later, winning by knockout.
Janjanin is a natural super welterweight but to get fights he had to move up to higher weight divisions. He went up 15 pounds to box Yusef Kanguel last year in Germany. Money was tight and his wife was pregnant. Janjanin took the fight. Kanguel abused the much smaller Janjanin, stopping him in five rounds.
Frustrated, Janjanin went back into training. He wanted fights with guys his own size, but wanting and getting are two different things. He soldiered on, accepting matches in Canada and Albania. A shot at a title would be nice.
That materialized last year when he fought veteran Siarhei Huliakevich for the vacant Universal Boxing Federation European super welterweight title in Croatia. Janjanin, now a father, produced one of the best performances of his career, stopping Huliakevich in four rounds.
Another victory led to his fight with Murray.
Janjanin trained hard. Monetary support came from three sponsors.
“He is one of the best middleweight boxers,” Janjanin said a week before the bout in an article posted on www.atvbi.com. “I will make the most of it.”
Murray wasn’t about to underestimate Janjanin.
“I know he can punch,” Murray told Elliot Foster of www.liverpoolecho.com.uk after the fight was announced. "He’s got a lot of knockouts so he can’t be overlooked."
Hurt at various times by Murray punches, Janjanin refused to give up. He’d eat a hard shot and immediately fight back. He lost the fight by decision but earned the respect of Murray who said after the fight that Janjanin was a solid and strong fighter.
Murray is right. Janjanin is a real fighter who started with nothing but a desire to make something of himself. He battled his way out of the poor streets of Bosnia to winning an international boxing title, and facing a four-time world challenger.
It’s not always about winning--Sladjan Janjanin went the distance.