Paris Olympics: Filip Akilov, the Ukrainian boxer who fights for Hungary

“We started a new life here two years ago. I would like to live here, my family lives here, and I feel Hungarian.” Filip Akilov, born in Soledar, Ukraine, begins our conversation in Hodmezovasarhely (southern Hungary). On his Hungarian passport his name is Akilov Pylyp. And at this year’s qualifying tournament in Italy, he won his place at the Paris Olympics.

Akilov originally weighed 75 kilos. But as his category does not appear in the Olympic Games, he had to move up a level. He cannot eat what he wants, although he quickly acquired a taste for halaszle (Hungarian fish soup) and porkolt (stew), while the solyanka (Russian village soup) remains one of his favorite dishes. However, he does not have to watch his weight every day and there is still room for a few kilos of muscle. Filip roughly knows the competition but doesn’t look in detail at who his opponents might be. He focuses first on himself and his ambition is clear: to win the title at the Olympic Games.

“I didn’t become a boxer because I was the type of kid who liked to fight. I see boxing as an art. Boxing is like life, a never-ending struggle,” says Filip. “I won a championship in Ukraine when I was 12 and my last title was a university championship. Then the war broke out and everything suddenly changed,” he said.

From Mariupol to the Magyar South

Akilov was in Mariupol when the Russian tanks rushed towards kyiv. His parents lived in Bakhmut. They barely heard from each other for three and a half weeks. When the Russians opened a corridor towards Belgorod, the athlete took the opportunity to enter Russia and then Belarus. During that time, through a comrade, he came into contact with Csaba Cserenyi, a coach from Hodmezovasarhely. Filip sent him a video of himself in action and explained that he wanted to become an Olympic champion. The Eiffel Tower is superb, but the gold medal interests him more and he wants to give everything to get it.

Impressed by his abilities, his character, his faith, his charisma and his attitude, Cserenyi went looking for him. They arranged to meet in Poland. Akilov crossed the Polish border at Brest and continued into Slovakia. From the Polish border town of Bialka Tatrzanska, he sent a photo of himself to Cserenyi before his phone ran out of power, then waited for the coach.

“I saw a tobacco called Zhasbka in the photo. I thought there was only one with that name, but there were ten in the city. It took me two hours to find it. It was heartbreaking to see this young man with a gym bag standing in the

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