ZHANAT ZHAKIYANOV was mobbed by his adoring fans when he arrived back in his home town of Petropavl, Kazakhstan.
Around 200 people braved temperatures as low as -20°c to see the 32-year-old arrive by train a week on from his WBA interim bantamweight title victory over Yonfrez Parejo.
The result made Zhakiyanov the fourth Kazakh to hold a world title after Gennady Golovkin, Beibut Shumenov and Vassiliy Jirov, and has turned him into something of a national hero.
“I could not believe it,” Zhanat said. “I expected a few friends and family to greet me, but when the train doors opened there seemed to be people everywhere chanting ‘ZZ Champion!’
“I am very proud to represent the people of my country. They showed me a lot of love when I won the European title last year and their appreciation spurred me on to win this WBA belt for them.
“I want to win as many belts as possible and follow in the footsteps of my hero Vasilliy Jirov. He was like a king in Kazakhstan and if I can go onto achieve what he did, then I will be very happy.
“The next step for me is the full WBA championship and I am ready for either Jamie McDonnell or Juan Carlos Payano.”