|Birth name||Doncho Kolеv Danev|
27 December 1892|
Sennik, Sevlievo, Bulgaria
|Died||26 March 1940
Sennik, Sevlievo, Bulgaria
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Dan Kolman
|Billed height||5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)|
|Billed weight||231 lb (105 kg)|
|Trained by||Zbyszko Cyganiewicz|
Doncho Kolеv Danev (Bulgarian: Дончо Колев Данев) (27 December 1892 – 26 March 1940), better known by the ring name Dan Kolov (Bulgarian: Дан Колов), was a Bulgarian wrestler and mixed martial artist born in Sennik, Bulgaria who was the first European freestyle wrestling champion from Bulgaria.
Doncho Kolev Danev was born on 27 December 1892 in the village of Sennik, Sevlievo municipality. He was seven years old when his father died. This tragic event forced him to become a shepherd in order to survive. He left Bulgaria in 1905 and went to then Austro-Hungarian Empire, where he worked as a gardener in Budapest. In 1909, he met with another Bulgarian wrestler, Nikola Petrov, who convinced him to emigrate to the United States.
Wrestling and martial arts career
Kolov left Bulgaria and moved to the United States at the age of 17. He worked various jobs until he found work as a railroad construction worker. He impressed people with his physical power and became famous for his ability to twist metal rails around his neck. He even fought a bear while hunting. Legend has it that he fought the beast for an hour with his bare hands until he got a chance to kill the animal with his rifle later. Apparently, witnesses[who?] saw the marks of Kolov's hands on the neck of the bear. He was subsequently hired as a wrestler with "Victoria Circus". At the beginning of the last century, wrestling was represented in freestyle wrestling bout in which punches and kicks were allowed. It was a dangerous sport with extremely serious and severe injuries. Catch as Catch Can (CACC) or catch wrestling could be considered the father of today's mixed martial arts (MMA).
Before being discovered and trained to be a professional wrestler by Zbyszko Cyganiewicz, Kolov was self-taught. Kolov was the first wrestler who captured professional world heavyweight wrestling championship's "Diamond Belt" twice. His most famous victories are: in New York vs. Rudy Dusek (1919), in Tokyo vs. Jiki Higen "The Strangler" (1921) and in Paris vs. Henri Deglane (1933). He was also three times European Heavyweight Champion (1934, 1937, 1937). In 1937, Kolov defeated then European Heavyweight Champion, American Al Pereira, only for Pereira to win the title back and for Kolov to reclaim it, before losing it in turn to Joe Savoldi.
He started his career as a wrestler by taking part in the organised wrestling matches between the workers. He later won the tournament in the circus "Victoria" in 1914, when the director of the circus invited people from the public to compete and check their physical power with the star Jeff Lawrence "The Cyclope". Kolov accepted the challenge and he succeeded in overpowering the 233 pound wrestler. He won against many famous MMA fighters from that time such as Jeff Lawrence, Stanislaus Zbyszko, Jack Shirey (also called "The Lightning Man"), Rudy Dusek, Jo Stecker, Ed "Strangler" Lewis and Jim Browning. He was invited in Japan, where he claimed victory against Djiki Hegen "The Strangler" – idol in Japan's wrestling, who never lost to anyone before as a professional. After this win, the public tried to kill Kolov. Similar incident also happened before the match, when through the window of his hotel room it flew a dagger that Kolov successfully avoided. In the MMA tournament in Paris, Kolov won all of his matches against all of his opponents, including the final against Henri Deglane.
Kolov had between 1,500 and 2,000 fights, and won almost all of them. His wins include:
- 2 times Diamond Belt World Heavyweight Champion (1927, 1933)
- 3 times European Heavyweight Champion (1934, 1937, 1937/1938)
- 1 time tournament winner in Japan (1924)
- 1 time tournament winner in Brazil (1927)
- multiple winner of tournaments in the United States (1914/1927)
Kolov has 3 registered losses in official matches.
Return to Bulgaria
After 30 years in a foreign country, he came back to Bulgaria and was greeted as a national hero. Throughout his whole career, he was asked many times to change his citizenship to American. He refused it with the words: "Dan Kolov is Bulgarian". Kolov remained proud Bulgarian until his death and was famous for his words: "I feel strong, because I am Bulgarian". For him, his motherland was the most holy and sacred thing. He is remembered for helping many Bulgarian people in the country and abroad. He gave all of his money to charities. The first Bulgarian airplane for the National Bulgarian Post was donated by him.
Having returned home, he spent most of his time establishing wrestling clubs by training young people, but continued to compete professionally until the last years of his life. He also arranged many wrestling matches in Sofia and donated all the profits. He is also famous with another saying, upon his return to Bulgaria, he was asked if he wanted someone to take him home by carriage, to which he replied: "I left home walking, I will go home walking!".
In 1999, it was produced the movie about his life Dan Koloff - The King of Wrestling.
Kolov died in Bulgaria on 26 March 1940 from tuberculous. His coffin was carried by officers of the Ninth Artillery Corps from the town of Sevlievo also escorted by an honorary company of cavalry. He was buried with the specific request of facing the Balkan ("Balkan against Balkan"), as Balkan in Bulgarian means "mountain" thus the meaning is "mountain against mountain".
Rumors around his death
One of the versions for his condition is that he did not get infected naturally, but that he was purposely infected by French doctors. It is known that there were a lot of attempts to get Kolov disgraced and disqualified from tournaments.
- "The Bulgarian Lion"
- "King Kong"
- "The King of Wrestling"
- "The Steel Hands"
Championship and accomplishments
- Diamond Belt World Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- European Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
- Tournament in Brazil (1927)
- Tournament in Japan (1924)
- Tournaments in the United States (1914/1927)
- "Dan Koloff". wrestlingdata.com. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
- "Dan Kolov". onlineworldofwrestling.com. Online World of Wrestling. 28 April 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
- "European Heavyweight Title". wrestling-titles.com. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
- "Champions and Championships". wrestlingdata.com. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
- "Dan Kolov & Nikola Petrov 2015". unitedworldwrestling.org. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
- "Dan Kolov - tzaryat na kecha". imdb.com. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 8 November 2015.