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From troubled orphan to national champ: Kiwi boxer defies odds in and out of the ring

As our top middleweight boxer, Andrei Mikhailovich knows where he's going - but it's knowing where he came from to get to this point that makes people see him as a real champion.

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Andrei Mikhailovich was drinking and doing drugs in his youth until he found a reason to fight. Source: 1 NEWS

Life wasn’t easy for the fighter early on but he’s defied the odds to become a fully-qualified engineer as well as a national champion in just two years.

That rough start was made a little bit easier back in 1999 when he and his twin brother, Nikolai, were adopted from a Russian orphanage when they were just 18 months old.

His dad, Marcel Driessen, is an intensive care paramedic who has worked with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter for decades. And while he’s saved countless lives, Mikhailovich said no words can describe how thankful he is for the two he rescued 21 years ago.

“It's pretty fascinating to [think of] these two little babies in this foreign country by themselves, man, with nobody,” Mikhailovich said.

“For someone to come over and just want to love these children is the most honourable thing ever and I owe my parents a lot for that.”

He's come a long way from that tough start in St Petersberg, but Mikhailovich admits it wasn’t without the odd hiccup.

“Not knowing who your parents are, not knowing if you have siblings, that's hard, man. And that's a hard reality to face when you're young as well, and you don't really think it's stuffing you up that bad until you get a bit older.”

Mikhailovich admitted he was already drinking when he was just 11 years old and also turned to drugs before his parents hoped counselling would help fill the void he was desperate to fill.

“I'm not really sure, like, how much that did for me but the one thing that did really put me on the right path was boxing.”

Enter coach Isaac Peach.

The pair met at an amateur show where Mikhailovich found a passion; something he could focus on.

Mikhailovich’s mum, Paula Driessen, said the rest was history.

“They truly took him under their wing, treated him like family,” she said.

“We could see the change in him. They're just an amazing team. Amazing group of people.”

Fast forward to the present and Mikhailovich is now undefeated after 12 professional fights. On Friday, he headlines an event at the Sky City Theatre, gunning for his second national title, this time at super welterweight.

The difference this time? He has extra motivation after recently becoming a father himself.

“Being a father is a big responsibility and it's a big thing, man, to raise your child, and like raise your children,” he said.

“I'm having another baby as well. It's the biggest gift of all, man, and I love it.”

And for anyone going through their own rough chapter, Mikhailovich had some words of wisdom he recently wrote in a letter to his younger self.

“Even if you're not the best at school, you're not the best looking, you're not the best singer, just don't stop believing.

“Just back yourself to the day you die, man, and that's it. Just believe in yourself 100 per cent.”

That belief is taking him further than many thought was possible as he proves it's not so much about how you start, but how you finish.