Red Owl Boxing's Zsolt Daranyi on Having Lennox Lewis in His Corner: 'He's the Greatest Heavyweight'
Complex Canada sat down with Daranyi before this Saturday’s Boxfest IV in Brampton and on DAZN to discuss his ambitions and having Lennox Lewis in his corner.
Zsolt Daranyi of Red Owl Boxing
This Saturday in Brampton, Zsolt Daranyi of Red Owl Boxing takes on Mexico’s Alejandro Barrera for the WBO Global Welterweight Title. A victory for the 19-1 Daranyi comes with huge implications: a chance to jump up into the top 15 in his weight class, which comes with the possibility of fighting in Vegas in the future.
The Hungarian-Canadian has Red Owl Boxing—which is associated with the CEBL’s Scarborough Shooting Stars, and The Playground Global—in his corner, and also arguably the greatest Canadian boxer of all-time in Lennox Lewis. The retired heavyweight champ has taught Daranyi to not always go for the knockout, although the strategy has worked well so far, with all but one of his wins coming via KO.
Complex Canada sat down with Daranyi before this Saturday’s Boxfest IV in Brampton and on DAZN to discuss his ambitions, Lennox’s life advice, what’s in his headphones when he trains, and the state of Canadian boxing.
How did you get into boxing?
I’ve been through a lot of my own career. I started when I was nine years old, I started competing when I was 10 years old and I did very well. I was very good at such a young age. I became a four-time Canadian national champion and a two-time Hungarian national champion. They actually wanted me to go to the Olympics but I ended up just turning pro when I was 19 years old. But they wanted me to live in Hungary, they wanted to pay for my rent and pay for everything for me to live there and go to the Olympics with them. I decided to turn pro. I got a good deal with Top Rank and Cameron Duncan at the time. So I thought it was a perfect time for me to turn pro and now my record is 19 wins, one loss, 18 knockouts. And, I am the Canadian welterweight champion and I’ve also won the NABA, the North American title.
Are you always looking for the knockout when you fight?
Once you’re so used to it, it’s amazing. You’re just waiting for the knockout to happen. Once you have some 19 wins, 18 of them knockouts. Oh, and in my career, I had a point where I was looking for the knockout. And I have to really transition. That’s when Lennox Lewis came in and he really taught me the ropes and my career really changed after. I’m not looking for the knock out anymore. If the knockout comes, it comes, and obviously it feels amazing because everyone in the crowd goes crazy and everyone loves a knockout. I love to put on the show for the fans and to see a knockout is the best show you can put on.
You mentioned working with Lennox Lewis. What is your relationship like with him?
It’s been great working with Lennox. He’s taught me so much, great things and our relationship is great. I’ve actually known him since i was like 11, 12 years old. The first time I met him was in 2006. He was good friends with my coach at the time, and he came to the gym. He watched me spar, seemed impressed, and then came to one of my amateur fights when I was around 15. It was the first time I had someone like that watch me. He was telling my dad what to yell, and for my dad it was just amazing. He couldn’t believe it because he grew up watching Lennox. He used to watch his fights on TV. So, my dad is sitting there watching me fight and he has Lennox beside him telling him what to tell his son. Then after that, we just kept in touch. He came to one of my pro fights as well and another time I actually went to Jamaica for training camp, but I ended up being turned back around. I had a problem with my passport. So that was very disappointing. And then we kept in touch a little bit here and there. Two years ago after my loss, he saw all the mistakes that I’ve made. He really wanted to teach me, so that’s when we started training together.
He’s a great person, you know, he’s just he has a great heart, he’s a great man. I think he’s a great coach and he’s a great person. He’s very humble but also very confident, which is very important. So, I learned so much from him, not just inside the ring, everything he’s taught me, even, just the way he carries himself.
If I’m in there with an opponent, he’s trying to take my food, he’s trying to take my house. He’s trying to take the clothes off my children. He’s trying to steal from me. That’s why I train so hard. And I’m gonna do everything in my power to make sure that it doesn’t happen.
What has been the best piece of advice?
Being married at a young age, it wasn’t easy in the beginning, right? We love each other but we’ve had ups and downs. So even with that, certain couple comments that he and his wife sent to me were just great. I learned so much just from that alone.
What’s the significance of this week’s fight against Alejandro Barrera?
This is a big fight. The significance is huge because this is the WBO belt. It’s going to put me in the top 15 in the world, which is huge. The world’s going to really see me and they’re going to know who Zsolt Daranyi is and he’s a great opponent. I think that a victory here looking great is very important. Every fight for me is so hard. For me, it’s serious. If someone wants me to lose, if someone’s not on my team, they want another guy or if they don’t know me, they’re my enemy. You know, that’s the truth. It’s not something small. This is huge. This is my life. This is my career. This is my money. This is my legacy. This is glory to my god, this is glory to my family. So many things are in play. If I’m in there with an opponent, he’s trying to take my food, he’s trying to take my house. He’s trying to take the clothes off my children. He’s trying to steal from me. That’s why I train so hard. And I’m gonna do everything in my power to make sure that it doesn’t happen.
I have to put Lennox as my number one, he won the gold in the Olympics. He’s the greatest heavyweight of all time. I truly believe it.
How do you think the state of boxing is in Canada? Do you feel like there’s a strong infrastructure here? Do you feel like it’s growing?
I see a lot of young amateurs coming up and they’re great fighters. I have them on Instagram or they pop up, so I’m excited to see what they’re gonna do. The truth is right now in the pros, I don’t really see much happening even in my weight class or outside of my weight class. I think that we’re in a perfect position right now with these amateurs. The amateur shows that they put out are amazing. There is definitely a lot of talent in Canada. It just needs to be brought out by trainers and promotions and what Red Owl is doing is amazing. They’re putting on great shows for up and coming fighters. And I think it’s great. I think Canada is just starting to rise up now and I’m excited to see what Canada is going to do in the future.
What kind of music are you into?
All I listen to is worship music. That’s all I listen to. When I’m in the car by myself: worship music. I’m at home by myself: worship music. I’m training: worship music. When I hit the bag and stuff, and I’m in the gym, I don’t listen to music because I need to listen to my coaches.
Who would you say is the greatest Canadian boxer of all time?
I have to put Lennox as my number one, he won the gold in the Olympics. He’s the greatest heavyweight of all time. I truly believe it. He’s still the last undisputed heavyweight champion. And what he did was just very smart, everyone he lost to he would come back and beat, so that’s something great. You don’t really see that especially in the heavyweight division. Steve Molitor is great. I’ve watched him coming up, and I used to watch his kids at Casino Rama. I couldn’t go into the casino, I was too young, but I watched on TV with his kids while I used to babysit them.
You get crazy support from the Hungarian community too.
They love boxing. There’s such a fighting culture. They’ve always loved boxing. They’ve always loved fighting. And they’re so supportive of me. I live in Canada, but I’ve been in the biggest newspapers in Hungary in my last fight. They put me in the biggest newspapers and the biggest articles and I didn’t have to call anybody, no one even called me for an interview. They took other interviews. And I think that it’s a great thing and that’s why I’m proud to be Hungarian. I live in Canada, too. I’m proud to be here in Canada, as well.