Opponents, weighing up to 150 kilograms, were terribly afraid of him, so much so that no one wanted to enter the ring with him. In fact, no one wanted to be around him either. Because, those eyes, that cold, steely look … Everyone who would see them once had already lost the match. And part of the soul with him.
“No one likes to fly,” he said once, when asked about the fear that other wrestlers feel when they come face to face with him. “My opponents … They don’t understand. I’ve trained every day like they’ve never trained in my life.”
Alexander Karelin is the greatest champion in the history of wrestling. 192 centimeters tall, with 130 kg of clean muscles, agile like a panther and equally strong and ruthless, this Russian was three times Olympic champion, nine times world champion and 12 times European champion.
In 13 years of his international career, he had only one defeat, when he wrestled with a serious injury, in the final of the Olympic Games in Sydney. In total, he wrestled 889 times. He won 887 times, lost twice.One of those loses comes from the great Soviet champion, Igor Rastrutsky, in 1987, and the other from the American Rulon Gardner, in the mentioned final in 2000. Although today, most people from the world of wrestling agree in the assessment that Karelin should have won that match, which he lost by points.
“There’s one thing you need to know about Karelin,” said Mitch Hall, longtime director of the U.S. wrestling team, “his strength … It’s not human strength.”
He started training wrestling at the age of 13, in his native Novosibirsk, in the heart of Siberia. In one of the first competitions, he broke his femur, in half. His mother was so scared that she burned his wrestling leotard. Karelin’s answer: “Mom, I can’t leave the sport I gave it my leg now.”
During his wrestling career, Karelin participated, for the only time, in an MMA match, against Japanese fighter Akira Maede. It was shocking to watch the helplessness of the Japanese, otherwise a top master of martial arts, against the Karelin. The Russian threw him around the ring like a rag doll, he did what he wanted, all with a wide smile. If he had decided to fight in MMA, Karelin would have ruled alone, far above the others – Fedor Emelianenko, the greatest MMA fighter in history, once said.
Karelin withdrew from wrestling after the defeat at the 2000 Olympics. He dedicated himself to science, and in 2002 he received his doctorate from the Siberian Academy of Physical Culture. At the personal invitation of Vladimir Putin, he began his political career. He has been elected to the Duma several times, and today he is a member of the committee for international relations of the Russian parliament.