The death this week of acclaimed German trainer Fritz Sdunek, who worked with numerous world champions during his career, hit many of his fighters and former fighters hard, but perhaps none harder than Ruslan Chagaev.
"I just cannot believe it and cannot find words to express my grief,” said Chagaev, who claimed a secondary heavyweight title with Sdunek in his corner on July 6 in Russia. "We have been in the gym together just a few days ago. Fritz was not only the best boxing coach Germany has ever seen but also and foremost a great and unique human being, and a role model in all aspects of life.
“I am proud to have known him and to have worked with him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. It is a very, very sad day for boxing."
Sdunek died on Monday at age 67 after suffering a heart attack.
Chagaev’s promoter Timur Dugazaev, also a fighter who was trained by Sdunek, expressed sadness over his passing.
"Fritz was part of our family. I admired and respected him and had lots of fun with him at the same time," said Dugazaev, adding that he and Sdunek had spoken two days before his death. "I spoke to him when he was in the hospital. He told me he was feeling well and that he was looking forward to being released within the next days. He was in a good mood. I still can't understand that he is not with us anymore."
Sdunek began training Chagaev earlier this year and was planning his training camp to get him ready for his first defense in early 2015 when he died.
"Of course, this is a major setback for our whole team. Fritz can never be replaced. Not as a trainer but even more important as the great man that he was,” Dugazaev said. "He was such a gentleman, truly one of a kind."
Sdunek also trained former heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko for his entire career, worked for many years with heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and also trained fighters such as light heavyweight Dariusz Michalczewski, cruiserweight Juan Carlos Gomez, middleweight Felix Sturm, lightweight Artur Grigorian, light heavyweight Zsolt Erdei, cruiserweight Ralf Rocchigiani and featherweight Istvan “Koko” Kovacs.