Ready for Battle, Sergei Liakhovich Heads to Germany to Bruise Robert Helenius Later This Month

by Pavel Yakovlev: (August 1, 2011) - Sergei Liakhovich is making big moves in boxing again. On August 27th, he faces top contender Robert Helenius for the WBA and WBO Inter-Continental heavyweight title belts. In the event of a victory, Liakhovich will catapult to the top of the heavyweight rankings, returning close to the position he held several years ago when he reigned as the WBO world champion. Although Helenius will enjoy the advantage of fighting in his home arena in Germany, there are reasons he may be in for a surprise.

Currently 25-3 (16 KO’s) as a professional, Liakhovich is probably the best in-fighter that Helenius has ever met. If Liakhovich can get past his opponent’s long left jab and powerful left-hook, he stands an excellent chance of winning. Liakhovich is known for his punishing left-hook to the body, a blow he used to dominate Lamon Brewster to win the WBO world title in 2006. The towering Helenius (he’s 6’7”) likes to keep his opponents on the outside, and has yet to prove that he can hold his own in a grueling close quarters contest.

Recently, Liakhovich shared his views about his career, training, and Helenius in an interview.

What are your thoughts about your next opponent, Robert Helenius?
Liakhovich: He is a good fighter, but he has never been tested.

How do you expect this fight to play out in the ring? Obviously, Helenius has a height and reach advantage, and he can jab. I imagine a big part of your strategy involves slipping and getting past Helenius's jab?
Liakhovich: I will beat him in what he does not-so-well and take away what he does well

What are your impressions of Helenius's power? He is known to have a heavy left hook.
Liakhovich: He has good one-two and he has decent left hook. Of course, he will use it if you let him use it.

One criticism of Helenius, among some boxing people at least, is that he doesn't like to deal with pressure. Have you noticed anything like this in Helenius's films?
Liakhovich: We will see how he responds to what I bring in the ring; he never fought a guy with my skills.

In fight like this (Helenius) durability, stamina, and infighting ability will be important, obviously. To beat someone like Helenius, you will need to fight very much as you did against Lamon Brewster, and to dominate Helenius on the inside. Any comments?
Liakhovich: Helenius and Brewster are two different fighters. I have to prepare for Helenius differently. I will be ready for this fight 100%.

It will be helpful also, in this fight, to be able to stop Helenius with any single power punch, particularly if the fight turns into a brawl and it goes into the later rounds. What are your thoughts about your capacity to end a fight with a single, powerful punch, if necessary?
Liakhovich: I will be prepared for 12 hard rounds, but I will be ready to take him out any time.

Tell us about growing up in Vitebsk.
Liakhovich: First of all, it’s a beautiful city, on a big river, the West Dwina. Very nice, pretty city…immense woods around, and it’s pretty humid too. Sometimes, in the summer, it’s 95 percent humidity. I spent my entire life there when I was young.

How did you get into boxing?
Liakhovich: Before boxing, I was a wrestler for three years. One year Greco roman, and two years free style. My father and I watched boxing on television, in 1988 we watched the Olympics on television. The welterweight gold medal was won by Vyacheslav Yanovsky…he is from my city. That was the last Olympic gold medal won by the Soviet Union. After this, I became a boxer.

You were inactive for a long-time following the Valuev fight. Any comments?
Liakhovich: I waited for the Valuev fight for so damned long; the fight was scheduled and rescheduled, back and forth. Then what happened, when I fought him, two and a half weeks before the fight, I got an injury in my shoulder. This is not an excuse. I did what I did. At the same time, I was not the same Sergei Liakhovich who fought Brewster. For Valuev, I was just a shadow of that fighter. After the fight, I took a long time off to let the shoulder hell. The doctor told me that the injury required plenty of rest, and that I needed to take time off, and then go through strength therapy. I consulted several doctors. One said I needed surgery, and another said no surgery was needed. A third doctor said something else. I didn’t know, so I just took time off.

Who is training you now, and what are you working on in the gym?
Liakhovich: My trainer is Kenny Weldon. He was in my corner when I won the world title. I studied with Kenny for five or six years before I began working with Tommy Brooks. Kenny and I work on so many specific things…great leg movements. It’s looking better and better every day. I’m sparring with lots of different guys too.

Your best career performance was in 2006 against Lamon Brewster, whom you beat in an action packed slugfest. You won the WBO world heavyweight championship that night, and some of the industry’s leading analysts were sufficiently impressed that they speculated you might be the world’s best heavyweight at the time. What are your memories of this fight?
Liakhovich: Oh man (laughs)…so many guys are talking about this fight, and what a great fight it was. They say they want to see it again (laughs). Lamon, at the time, was the best guy out there. He fought everyone, overseas, too. He had a great weapon in his left hook. We beat him by taking his left hook away…that was our strategy. His left hook is different from everybody’s left hook, it is an inside punch. To neutralize this, we decided I would stay on my right leg and move to my right really fast. He would move forward throw the left hook, and I would move to my right and throw a body punch.

I find it amazing that you neutralized Brewster’s left hook by moving to your right. I would have thought that moving to your right would make you more vulnerable to the left hook.
Liakhovich: People would say “you are crazy to move to your right, into his left hook,” but you need to watch how he throws his left hook, and you will see how to neutralize it. We watched his fights before my fight. He caught Krasniqi with a great left hook and finished him; that was a great fight. We watched this fight many times and figured out how he did this.

An early important win for you was against Friday Ahunanya. Although Ahunanya is not rated, he is a very tough fringe contender, and beating him carries value. That win put your name on the map as an up-and-coming pro. Any comments?
Liakhovich: At that time, I sparred so many rounds with Friday, we knew each other so well. I made a lot of mistakes in that fight, but won anyway. At that time, I didn’t have much professional experience. I was pretty green at the time.

In 2004, you beat Dominick Guinn, who was world-rated at the time. That victory established you as a legitimate contender. What are you memories of this fight?
Liakhovich: Dominick is a good fighter, too. He has a pretty good left hook. We neutralized this punch, and had a pretty good strategy, too. We put everything into the fight and I thank god for the win.

Who is promoting you now?

Liakhovich: I’m with Main Events now, with Kathy Duva.

What are your strengths in the ring?

Liakhovich: Everything, the whole package. I can punch, I can box, and I can move, everything.

What are your weaknesses, especially flaws that you are fixing?

Liakhovich: Every fighter has weaknesses. I don’t know what to say about this (laughs)…we’re working on this.

Do you have any other comments for the fans?

Liakhovich: I appreciate everyone's support. I am very grateful to god for this opportunity and everything in my life. We are working on my new website , it will be up and running soon and I would like for everyone to visit it. I will have a lot great information on it and updates.

Article posted on 02.08.2011

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