On Saturday, Czech cruiserweight Vasil Ducar (7-0-1, 6 KO) will slip on a new pair of boxing gloves in South Africa, where he challenges Kevin Lerena for the 200-pound IBO championship. Just three months ago, he was wearing six ounce, fingerless gloves. Fighting not in a ring, but a cage at XFN 17, a mixed martial arts promotion. Ducar is a many of many hats (or gloves), complimenting his undefeated boxing career with a winning record in MMA and a stint in 2016 as a professional kickboxer. But it was a pair of frayed hockey mitts that kickstarted the slugger’s combat career.
“I still remember being 14 years old, and watching the movie Rocky,” Ducar told Round By Round Boxing. “That’s when I got my first punching bag. I began training in my garage with ice hockey gloves on. And now I’m going to fight for a world championship. I have been working really hard the past 15 years just for this moment.”
Ducar, 29, is more comfortable than most would be in his position, than those who may be called a novice for a BoxRec page with fewer than 10 pro bouts. Training out of a Muay Thai club in Brno, Czech Republic, he carved out a path to a title with a smile on his face each step of the way, routinely flashing it for his opponents. The kind of banger that relishes in the violence around him. Once, going so far as sitting on the corner post while the referee counted out one of his knockout victims. It’s a good time when you have a helluva punch to rely on.
Of Ducar’s eight contests, he registered half of them in 2018 alone. Going 3-0-1 on the year. That blemish, a split-decision draw, against countryman Vladimir Reznicek was a poor verdict. Reznicek completely gassed over the final four rounds. By the tenth, literally falling through the ropes before Ducar floored him at the bell.
Fortunately, Ducar’s performance did not go unnoticed. He next set off for France to upend the previously-undefeated homegrown puncher Samuel Kadje. Again making his power felt late into the fight, Ducar orchestrated a TKO in the tenth and final period. His opponent’s backyard never bothered him. He is on tap to do it again opposite Lerena at the storied Emperors Palace in Johannesburg, the “City of Gold.”
“Lerena is an amazing boxer and I am going to fight him as an outsider. But I was in the same position against Kadje and I won. In the prize ring, anything is possible. Sometimes even one nice punch can change everything. I can surprise him and the whole boxing world—I can do that.”
Lerena, world-ranked cruiser and defending IBO champion, has been nothing short of amazing the past few years. Defeating every man he’s met—taking two tries at Johnny Muller—defeating standouts Micki Nielsen, Youri Kalenga, Dmytri Kucher, and most recently completely undoing Artur Mann in what was supposed to be a pick ‘em fight. The South African southpaw bashed around the visiting German in the fourth round, scoring two knockdowns, until Mann turned his back in submission. All told, it is no surprise Ducar is a seven-to-one underdog (+700) headed into the weekend against Lerena, the heavy favorite (-800).
A win for Ducar would not just flip the division on its head but it could be a cultural moment for Czech boxing as a whole. The country has a spotty history in the grand arc of pugilism.
“Boxing history in the Czech Republic is currently not as popular as it used to be,” Ducar explained. “Most people here don’t even know my name or about my upcoming fight. But boxing is a really amazing sport and I believe winning this fight could change things and bring more interest to the Czech people. Even if we are a small nation, our people are very loyal. I will, as a proud Czech citizen, do everything I can to represent my country.”
Since its establishment in 1993, the Czech Republic (also known as Czechia) has sent four representatives to the Olympic Games but Ducar is one of only a handful of active boxers competing today.
Formerly a part of Czechoslovakia (before splitting into Czechia and Slovakia), the Eastern Bloc powerhouse produced three Olympic Gold Medalists. Through the 1930s, the nation also had a wonderful crop of middleweights, namely Vilda Jaks, who was born in Prague and died serving in World War II. In 1935, Jaks became the first Czechoslovakian to fight for a professional world title when he challenged Marcel Thil, who at the time was the premier middleweight on the planet.
Ducar’s own fighting history, as diverse as it is, is surprisingly still just recreation for him. He trains only part-time. A life in Czech law enforcement only allows as much.
“I am part of a special police force called URNA, which is a unit trained to deal with dangerous situations. It’s the same as the SWAT team in the United States. Boxing is actually more of a hobby, not my job.”
Believe it or not, there is a world outside of the corporate boundaries of boxing. It can get ugly and Ducar faces those threats everyday. It allows for a better appreciation of the sport itself. Slipping on those boxing gloves is what Ducar wants to do, not what he was left to do. It allows for perspective in the ring, making clear the principles that are steeped in the heart of fighter and behind every punch they throw, and of what really matters in life.
“I have rules and I don’t break them. I am the kind of person who makes goals and if something knocks me down on my way to reach them, I train to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And the most important part of my life is my girlfriend, Irena, who supports me in everything that I do.”
The couple travels hand in hand this weekend to a place where there is nowhere left go, the southernmost part of Africa, to Johannesburg, following roads paved with gold.
BoxNation will carry the cruiserweight championship fight on June 8 at 11 a.m. ET.