The 'White Wolf' is not extinct!
Story by David Finger
It will probably go down as the golden age of boxing for Eastern Europe.
In the last decade it seemed every noteworthy heavyweight (and for much of the decade every champion) hailed from a former Soviet republic.
The Slavic overload might have caused a backlash from American boxing fans who seem to have difficulty sorting many of these Eastern European fighters apart from one another. Although there were many losers from this somewhat ethnocentric view of the heavyweight division, none was more noteworthy that the former WBO heavyweight champion Siarhei "The White Wolf" Liakhovich.
After all, he is everything American’s want in a fighter. He is articulate, giving an interview almost comparable to the eloquent Michael Moorer. And although he is respectful, he still doesn’t shy away from talking openly about past and future opponents. And perhaps most importantly, when push comes to shove, he can fight like an American fighter.
When he was dropped by Lamon Brewster in April 2006 in the seventh round many Americans wondered if he would fold. After all, that was the misconception about Eastern European fighters, that they lacked the toughness of their American counterparts.
But Siarhei got up and toughed it out to win the fight by unanimous decision and capture the WBO title.
In the final round of a close fight with Shannon Briggs later that year many wondered if Liakhovich would take his chances with the judges and play it safe. But he decided to try and fight it out in the final round which cost him his title, and although he came up short in the fight, he earned some respect from boxing fans for making a fight of it.
But it seemed like nobody wanted to give the Belarusian much credit.
A nearly two year layoff followed before he took on Russian Nicolay Valuev in February of last year. It proved to be the low point of his career. Fighting through injuries, Liakhovich came up short in a lopsided decision.
Although he has remained inactive since then, rehabilitating his injured shoulder, Liakhovich has indicated to boxing world that he is ready to step back into the ring and make another run for a world title.
It is hardly inconceivable to see Liakhovich emerge as a contender in a relatively short period of time. After all, he bounced back from his first loss (in his sixteenth fight) to Maurice Harris to win a world title in four years even though he was a virtual unknown. Also, as a free agent looking for a promotional team, Liakhovich is in a somewhat enviable position.
It is certainly going to be an uphill battle for the former champion, but deep down, even his most ardent critics recognize that with the right team and a few solid performances, Siarhei Liakhovich might just be fighting for a world title once more.
Liakhovich recently took some time to speak with FightNews about his free agency and his plans for a comeback.
How are you doing Siarhei?
I’m doing good, everything is going well. I’m training right now. I’m 100% healthy.
What have you been doing since your last fight in February of 2008?
Actually I took time off since I did my rehab. I worked on my strength and many things, many new things including a strength workout. So many changes right now. I am a promotional free agent, and basically I am not with my ex-manager Ivalo Gotzev and right now I am looking for a promoter.
So you are a free agent?
I’m a free agent. Not only from my promoter, I’m not longer with my ex-manager. Lot’s of changes.
How is your relationship with Gotzev now? Was it a “bad break up”?
I think this was a good break up. No hard feelings, you know. Life goes on. I’m looking forward and I moved forward, you know.
Any leads as to who might be interested in signing you or who you are in talks with?
Actually, I don’t want to throw any names, but we spoke with a few different promoters.
How has the training been going these last few months? You mentioned some “new things.” Could you elaborate?
Right now, I’m completely a different fighter. All my injuries in the past…I don’t want to go into details. I want people to see what I can do into the ring.
What is your game plan right now for your comeback?
Right now my plan is…First of all I would like to show people what I can do when I am healthy. I will fight anybody right now. I don’t want to name any names, but eventually I’d like to fight the Klitschko brothers. I don’t know how many fights that will take to happen, but I know what it takes to be a world champion. I want to fight the best and actually those two guys are the best. But before that I need, I don’t know how many fights before that, but I’m ready. I know how to fight them. I have both schools. The European school and the American school. If you will fight someone in what there doing good, well everyone knows what they are doing good. It is what they are doing badly, that is the question. If you have an answer to that question, it is up to you how you will use it when you get into the ring.
What do the Klitschko brothers do “badly?”
I don’t want to talk right now; I would love to show everyone what I can do. Talk is talk, but walk is walk. I don’t want to talk about it, I want to show.
Where do you see your career twelve months from now?
I’m very positive. I want to see myself fighting again for a world title.
Everyone was surprised at how badly you were defeated by Nicolay Valuev in that fight. For the record, what happened?
Many people don’t understand, but I’m not looking for any excuses. I did what I did. Two and a half weeks before the fight I injured myself in sparring. It was my shoulder. (At that point) I was ready to fight, but when I saw the doctor he said, ‘If you give yourself a rest, this injury is not a big deal, maybe the tendon will heal. But if you risk it, if you fight, you may tear it and you’ll never fight again.’ I had so many chances in that fight to quit in the corner, but I didn’t. I don’t want to take anything away from Valuev. I knew him in the amateurs and he is a very simple fighter. And he went twelve rounds with me. I don’t know what happened, if he didn’t realize what happened in the first round. He went twelve rounds with a guy out of shape with one arm. He has a pretty decent jab and that is it. I don’t see anything special with this guy except that he is tall and that is it. I want to show what I can do without injuries.
You had quite a long layoff coming into that fight, sitting on the sidelines since 2006. Why the layoff in 2007?
Too many problems, too much politics. I don’t want to throw any names, but we had some problems at that time.
Let’s talk about the fight with Shannon Briggs fight in 2006, the fight in which you lost the WBO Heavyweight title. What happened in that twelfth round?
You know, this is one of those things. Up to the fight with Brewster, my old injuries came back. I fought Briggs with bad tendonitis in both my shoulders and not only that I fought him with two broken ribs. In the twelfth round I knew I was a bit ahead in the judges corner, but when I came into the corner my former trainer said “I don’t know, you may not be ahead” and he pushed me to do some crazy stuff which is why I came in the last round and stood flat foot and fought crazy. And I got caught.
You were the first Belarusian champion of the world, how did it feel to hold such a distinction?
Oh man, that was great. After (winning the title) I went to the capital of my country a few times. People recognized me on the street, and after that fight I received a letter from the president of my country. It was very nice, and it was very big for me.
What would you like to tell all these boxing promoters and boxing fans in regards to your career right now?
Forget about all this bullshit and all the politics. Everyone is tired about all these guys just talking. I’m not this kind of guy. I want to go into the ring and show what I can do. I’m not a big talker. You need just to go into the ring and show what you can do. The biggest judge in you career will be this ring.
. . . .
Liakhovich stated to FightNews that he hopes to make an announcement soon about his return to the ring.