WARNING: this story contains strong language that might be offensive to some.
When Paula and Marcel Driessen travelled to St Petersburg, Russia, to adopt twin boys from one of the city's Soviet-era orphanages, they had little idea they would be returning with "Hercules, the conqueror, a legend".
Some 12 years later, when the 14-year-old Andrei had been drinking alcohol for three years and smoking Kronic (synthetic cannabis) and weed to alleviate the boredom of West Auckland suburban life, the Driessens were probably still unaware that a "legend" slept beneath the roof they had provided.
He was not an easy kid.
"F*** no. I was ruthless. I still am ruthless," says the baby-faced Andrei Mikhailovich, a "stage name" he adopted to spare his high-profile rescue paramedic father the embarrassment of some of the stuff he said and did.
"I was a shithead and I got into a lot of trouble with drinking and drugs, shit like that in my spare time. I was like 11, 12, I was a baby man. I would go to the alcohol cabinet, grab a bottle, open it, drink that, get tipsy, like the feeling, keep doing it, fill the bottle before my parents came home.
"I smoked Kronic, weed, but drinking was my biggest problem because it was so easy to get.
"A lot of it was curiosity, boredom, bad influences. From 11 to 14 I had no drive, no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Bored. That's when I found boxing and found a drive because I thought boxing was the best thing since Jesus Christ."
Even at this early juncture in his story you might be able to tell that when Mikhailovich gets on a roll he's hard to stop. If he has a filter, it's set somewhere between not working and off.
"He's as mad as a snake," says promoter Liam Lonergan, "but in a good way".
At the Henderson Valley bespoke gym of his trainer Isaac Peach, Mikhailovich is dishing up chapter and verse, streams of consciousness mixed with snappy soundbites. He's rolling, much like he hopes ("knows") his 15-0 professional boxing career will continue to do when he faces the biggest test of his nascent career next month.
Mikhailovich has been named to the undercard of the Paul Gallen-Justis Huni blockbuster on June 16 in Australia. He will be matched with unbeaten local Alex Hanan in a clash that will be touted as one of the highlights of the night.
Mikhailovich, a natural middleweight, is confident, as is his camp, who believe they can have their fighter ranked in the top 15 of the world by year's end.
His boxing story might have just started, but there was an awful lot that went on before that.
For whatever reason, Andrei and his twin brother Nikolai spent the first 18 months or so of their lives unwanted. It doesn't matter much to Andrei how or why they came to be in an orphanage in Russia's second-largest city and old imperial capital.
"My mum and dad couldn't have kids so they went looking and we cropped up."
Mikhailovich knows nothing about his natural parents. Nor does he want to. As far as he is concerned their role in his upbringing was one of procreation only.
"A parent is somebody who raises you and is there for you. It doesn't matter who [gave birth to you]."
His love and respect for his adopted parents shimmers, though he could have made life easier for Paula and Marcel, mum and dad.
"A lot of what people mean when they say I was not an easy kid comes down to boredom. I was not good at school. I was not academic. Even today I cannot spell that good. I use auto-correct; auto-correct is my best friend.
"I'm not like an idiot. I'm not dumb. I just got so bored at school and I've got the attention span of a goldfish. If you give me something to do here and I see something interesting happening there I'm off just like that.
"If I was doing something I wasn't passionate about I really give a f*** about it."
Andrei's brother Nikolai, who lives with him now, has learning difficulties and they grew up with an adopted sister with high needs. Of the three kids, he was the most equipped to deal with the vagaries of life but instead seemed intent on wasting it.
His parents must have despaired?
"Yeah, they did. My parents had to put a lot of attention into [his brother and sister] and I had a free reign. I did what I wanted to do."
What he thought he wanted to do was get drunk and forget about life for a while. There was no future in that. What he needed was something to devote his boundless energy to.
He found two things, both, in different ways, forced upon him.
Mikhailovich's relationship with boxing started with one of those badly-written-script scenes that you've seen in a dozen fight movies. It starts with an, "Oh man…" and a sheepish look.
For a guy who has an intravenous connection to bags of confidence, he is uncharacteristically embarrassed.
"It sounds corny, but it actually happened," he says.
"I went to Liston College and between that and St Dominic's [College] there is a walkway. I was walking down there and this bully, this dude, this tall guy from Waitakere College bumped me off. I looked at him and felt so defenceless.
"I was like, 'What the f*** do I do in this situation?' The thing is I had heaps of fights at school but I didn't know what to do. This guy just full-on chucks a cigarette into my chest. I just felt so helpless. I was like, 'This can't be right; I can't feel like this'.
"I asked my parents where the nearest boxing gym was and started going there. That was that. When I got into boxing all that shit just stopped – all that mucking around, playing around. I just wanted to be a fighter."
The other thing that happened shortly after that incident was he was asked to leave school. As an unqualified 16-year-old with a low attention span, statistically his prospects were not bright but Mikhailovich is the poster-child for how humans have a capacity for change.
"I did an engineering apprenticeship. I was still a boy but I had to learn how to become a man. I had to learn how to pay bills. I had to pay for my own food. I had to figure shit out. I had to grow up really, really quickly."
For some time, the engineering looked a more realistic career pathway than the ring work. His amateur career was decent, but there was nothing there that screamed "legend".
"There were a lot of things about the amateurs I didn't necessarily like. One, there were not enough rounds; two, I always wanted to be a professional boxer. I had no interest in being an amateur boxer. I never wanted to be an Olympian. I didn't want to go to the Commonwealth Games. I just wanted to be a professional boxer with my top off, my gloves and a mouthguard. That's all.
"When I turned pro, that's when I really excelled. I put that on Isaac as well. When I met him, that's when I really started to believe. He'd say, 'You've got the skills, you've just got to back yourself'. That's when I became Andrei."
Isaac Peach, the self-styled boxing Westie plumber, has become a huge presence in Mikhailovich's life after the two met in inauspicious circumstances at an amateur event.
"I always knew about Isaac but I was scared shitless of him. He's intimidating. He's f***ing scary," Mikhailovich says. "I heard he needed some sparring for one of his pros. I asked him if I could come to his gym to do some sparring.
"I must have done okay because he told me to stay. He told me I had a home there if I wanted it. Our relationship is funny. I love Isaac, he's my brother, he's my everything. He loves me too but the relationship we have is that when I'm in the gym, everything he says goes. I don't question him, I don't backchat him. I respect him so much but there's still that fear; I'm still scared of him.
"That's what I needed. I needed a dominating figure in my life; someone to put fear into me. Growing up I was never scared of anything. To have someone like that was really important to me."
Mikhailovich credits Peach with winning a fight for him that he thought was slipping away.
When they made the decision to drop from middleweight to super-welterweight to fight for the vacant New Zealand title, it was the first time Mikhailovich had undergone a dramatic weight cut. He had been working out at 79kg but needed to drop 10kg to face Marcus Heywood for the belt.
"I fought that fight with nothing. I was so tired after three rounds. I've never been that tired before.
"All I was thinking was, 'Keep your composure, listen to Isaac.' That's all I did and I won. In the changing rooms afterwards I was literally lying on the ground thinking I was going to die. You get through it and you learn your lessons but f*** me, that was pretty scary."
There are three more people who have made a massive impact on the fighter's life.
Mikhailovich met Ursula at a party the night of his fifth professional fight. He beat Jessie Nikora with a third-round KO but not before he'd had his nose relocated.
"This is a good one, he says, embracing this part of his life story.
"The doctor comes into the dressing rooms and says, 'Do you want to get that straightened?' I knew I was seeing Ursula that night so I was like, 'Man, you have got to straighten this nose.'
"He gets this towel over my face and there was this…"
Mikhailovich draws a noise from the back of his throat that sound a little bit like the noise a truck might make when the clutch slips as you're changing from second to third.
"All night I had blood pouring down my face but I had to go and see her at this party. By that stage I don't drink or smoke or anything like that but I turned up with a T-shirt covered in blood. That's how she met me."
He calls her his wife even though they are yet to marry because, well, it's just easier.
"We got together and found out we were having a baby fairly soon into our relationship. I was at a point where I was still like a child. I was a baby myself. I was quite immature. When I found out I was having a child I grew up in a matter of months," he says clicking his fingers for effect. "I went from being a youthful, full on, little prick to a young man with responsibilities.
"It focused me and pushed me to get my apprenticeship done. Having my kids is the biggest blessing for me. They've given me so much structure and discipline because I have to provide for them. I'm the only breadwinner in the house. If I don't go to work and go to training, we're going to be in a cardboard box.
"I've got to work, man."
If Mikhailovich was prone on a leather couch in a shrink's office, it would not take them long to decipher whether it was the Id, the Ego or the Superego that was controlling his thought process at that moment. Mikhailovich is an open book.
When he talks of child-rearing responsibilities, there is a clear yet unspoken reference to the fact he and his brother were the product of people who had neither the tools nor the wherewithal to raise them.
His determination to provide a big room in his heart for his kids - whose names are a homage to pop culture and boxing - is writ large.
"One day I watched Pulp Fiction and was like, 'Damn, that's a good name – Tarantino', but I just changed the spelling of it a bit. We also have a three-month old called Arturo after the fighter Arturo Gatti. He's a beautiful baby.
"The oldest is 20 months and he's a little rocket."
They have a house.
Those four words carry a lot of meaning for Mikhailovich. It's in Sunnyvale, a West Auckland suburb locked in between the Oratia Stream and the Waikumete Cemetery.
"We have a nice warm house that has air-con, which I'm really proud of. It's the coolest thing ever; you turn it on and the whole house heats up. I'm really happy about that.
"I've got Google Chromecast – it's pretty gangster. The simple things, man. I did that."
He's going to drop his engineering work hours back a little to prepare for the Hanan fight. For once, he can afford to. The purse is good compared to what he has fought for in New Zealand.
"It's take a bit to pay off a mortgage and after a fight here you're good for a couple of weeks but that's it."
Despite having spent all but the first year-and-a-half of his life in New Zealand, Mikhailovich will more than once refer to his roots, particularly when it comes to aspects of his fighting style. The Driessen's nurture might be what he cherishes above all else, but the nature was forged in Russia's northwest.
"The Russian. I'm just the Russian. That's it. The Russian is an aggressive, strong, fast, articulate fighter. Laser sharp. I can do everything. I can't do everything well, but I can do everything. I can brawl, I can box, I can fight, I can counterpunch.
"You have to be so well rounded… you have to be the whole team. You have to be the opening batsman, opening bowler, the spin bowler. Everything. It's hard to see on the sidelines but I'm passive-aggressive. I'll force you to throw a punch then I'll f*** you up.
"If I had to say I fight like someone… even though I hate to say it, if you watch Arturo Gatti, you watch me, the styles are similar. But I don't get hit as much as Arturo Gatti."
Canadian Gatti was one of the most entertaining fighters in history, but died in suspicious circumstances in Brazil when just 37. Whether he was murdered or died from his own hand, it is indisputable that Gatti was hit too many times in the head during his 49-fight career.
Of the more recent fighters, he references Carl Froch and Prince Naseem Hamed, with a nod to the "intelligence" of Lennox Lewis.
"I'm nowhere near as good as them – but I will be one day."
This is as good a time as any to introduce you to Mikhailovich's goals. They are not modest.
"I could say world champion but everyone would say that. It's more than that. I want to be the conqueror of boxing. I want to fly higher and faster than anybody. I want to be the biggest thing ever. I want to be the best fighter ever.
"I don't want to cap anything. I just know I can go so far. I know I can be Hercules, a conqueror, a legend. That's all I want to do."
When you get to a certain age and just getting to Friday feels like a notable achievement, there is a part of you that wants to lead Mikhailovich to a quiet corner and counsel him on the value of perspective but at the same time there's an even bigger part of you that borrows from his vernacular and thinks, "F*** it, let the kid dream".
"Believing in yourself is the most important thing in the world," he says. "It seriously is. It's not even, 'I believe I can do this,' it's 'I know I can do this.' It's trust. I believed in myself, I knew I could do things.
"You know when you walk into a room and you can feel someone's presence and you haven't seen them yet. It's like that. Like when you walk into the room and know your wife's had a bad day. You just know because she's putting it out there.
"If I'm 100 per cent confident and 100 believe, people know. That's just the truth. If I was talking to you and I was like, 'I'm this and I'm that' and I didn't believe it, you'd sense it. You'd be like '[sniffs] Man, this kid smells like bullshit.' But if I believe it you're like, Maybe we've got something here."
Mikhailovich is still young. He might have a long, long way to go but then again, in many ways he's already there.
"I'm 23. I'm a fully qualified engineer. I've got my own place, I'm the New Zealand middleweight champ, the super welterweight champion, I've been signed by Dean Lonergan, I'm fighting in Australia.
"I'm adopted from Russia. I've done a lot in my life."