With more than 22 million online followers as a social media influencer who dispenses medical and wellness advice, and a busy day job as a New York-based family medicine physician, Mikhail “Dr. Mike” Varshavski doesn’t have much free time at his disposal for personal interests.
Yet after catching the boxing bug 10 years ago while working out with a trainer as a way to cope with his mother’s death, Varshavski found a new passion he simply couldn’t shake, regardless of the dangers associated with such a violent sport.
Dr. Mike, 32, will take that passion and raise it to an all new level on Saturday when he makes his professional boxing debut in a four-round cruiserweight bout against former MMA fighter and Nick Diaz Army member Chris Avila on the pay-per-view undercard of Jake Paul vs. Anderson Silva in Glendale, Arizona ().
“I’m going to be suspending my oath to do no harm when I step into that boxing ring,” Varshavski told “Morning Kombat” last week. “I always said to my viewers, patients and family members that you have to live at the top of your potential. If I want to try to be an example for them, I need to do the same.”
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Varshavski saw his growing social media audience blow up in 2021 when his interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci went viral talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. He had also previously flirted with various levels of fame through moments like appearing on the TV game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” to him being named People magazine’s “Sexiest Doctor Alive” in 2015.
But Varshavski’s current pivot into boxing isn’t for the fame or potential cash that might come his way. In fact, he plans to donate his entire fighting purse to the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem as a way to give back to the same type of social programs he once benefitted from after emigrating from Russia as a child.
Somewhere along that journey, however, the boxing bug kept gnawing at him.
Training regularly with Steve Frank, Varshavski’s assistant boxing coach who once challenged Bernard Hopkins for the middleweight title in 1996, helped as Frank regularly encouraged Varshavski he had the skills to take things further. That led to a charity boxing appearance in May.
“We had a very successful fight, winning all five rounds on the judges’ scorecards. Now, moving on to face a combat veteran like Chris Avila, with 20-plus fights and has never been knocked down, this is going to be an exciting one,” Varshavski said. “Obviously, it’s a boyhood dream fighting on Showtime PPV but I really want to inspire people to get active because fitness, and all of the benefits that come along with that, if I were to put it into a pill, I swear I would be a billionaire.
“I may be a doctor and I may have a big following, but I’m just a human and Chris is a human so we are going to go toe to toe as humans and see who comes out on top.”
Asked if he’s nervous, Varshavski was quick to remind just how well he typically does with high-pressure situations.
“I probably avoid butterflies because when I’m in the hospital, I’m treating people and facing life and death moments all the time,” Varshavski said. “You have to learn to compose yourself in those moments. Stepping up and performing on stage, all of that is butterflies and controlling your adrenaline rush.”
The 6-foot-3 Varshavski will also have a severe size advantage in this 200-pound bout over Avila (8-9 in MMA, 1-1 in boxing) who is four inches shorter and fought professionally in MMA at 170 pounds. Avila, a UFC and Bellator MMA veteran, weighed in at 166 pounds for his last boxing match, a majority decision win over Anthony Taylor last December, and 148 pounds for his pro boxing debut in 2014.
“I think it makes the fight definitely more even because Chris has a huge experience and toughness advantage,” Varshavski said. “He trains with that NDA army out there and their conditioning is top notch. I’m curious to see how much he has worked in boxing since his last fight in December and I hope he brings it all because I want to be challenged.
“Honestly, having my first pro debut fight against someone of a senior stature like Chris Avila makes me more comfortable. Because my trainer of 10 years, who trusts me to take care of myself inside of a boxing ring, that makes me more comfortable. My trainer’s family are also my patients and he entrusts me with their lives so I’m entrusting him with my life in that ring. He says I’m ready so I’m looking forward to take that challenge.”
One thing Varshavski won’t do is put any expectations upon his performance or what comes next. While he admits he hopes to continue fighting should he be victorious over Avila, he isn’t willing just yet to enter his name into the Jake Paul sweepstakes and prefers to take matters one fight at at time.
“People might look at this and wonder why a doctor is fighting,” Varshavski said. “I’m hoping to surprise those people so the next time people say they can’t wait to buy the Showtime PPV because that Dr. Mike guy can bang.”
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