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Q & A with Siarhei Liakhovich

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Arizona Boxing News & Notes With Don Smith

Don Smith

Boxing Fans,
On April 1, 2006 Sergei Liakhovich, in Cleveland Ohio, scored a unanimous victory over Lamont Brewster to capture the WBO Heavyweight Championship. It was a dream that came true. However; dreams never last forever. He would lose the title 7 months later in Phoenix, Arizona at Chase Field to Shannon Briggs in a dramatic slugfest that saw Briggs knock Liakhovich out of the ring ending any chance of Sergei retaining his title.

Officially, it was declared a TKO victory for Briggs with one second remaining in the 12th and final round. Sergei was prevented from returning to the ring by handlers who felt he was finished for the night. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted a more intriguing ending. Sergei isn’t bitter over the decision;he understands ring etiquette and knows the decision was correct even though it was a sad night for the Liakhovich family.

Sergei turns 38 in May of this year, but doesn’t think his age will prevent him from becoming a contender, once again. Remember, Jersey Joe Walcott fought Rocky Marciano, a second time for the Heavyweight title in Chicago when he was 39 and the venerable Archie Moore waged ring battles until he was 47. Heavyweights, with power, can normally sustain their careers a bit longer, i.e. Moore, Walcott and perhaps Sergei Liakhovich. Time will tell.

The native born Belarusian turned professional a year after winning a Bronze medal in the World Champion ship in 1997. He represented Belarus in the 1996 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. After receiving a first round bye, Sergei lost to Silver Medalist Paea Wolfgramm (Tonga), 10-9. Wolfgramm turned professional after the Olympics, but found little success.

Since turning professional, Sergei has compiled a record of 25-6 with 16 knockouts. After migrating from Belarus, he settled in Scottsdale Arizona where he resides with his wife and 2 daughters.

The former WBO Champ returns to ring action in a scheduled 8 round contest on 2/22 on the Iron Boy X1 Card at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix, Arizona. His opponent is Phoenix heavyweight Chad Davis trained by Tom Garcia. Sergei’s trainer of record is Tony Equera who helped me attain a Q&A session with Sergei via email.

I prefer face to face questioning, but for various reasons I was unable to travel to his workout sessions at Grant Park Boxing Gym, South 3rd Avenue in Phoenix, so we agreed to accomplish our goal through the email process.

It was unfortunate that I wasn’t able to watch Sergei sparwith young Jashir Villa, a former Golden Gloves competitor also trained by Tony. Villa was highly touted until he stepped away from the sport for about a year. He is one of the few boxers to beat Red Nation Warriors boxer Albert Alvarez (Sells Arizona) and that was in 2012 before Albert changed coaches. A rematch would be very interesting.

Ironically, Tom Garcia (Davis Trainer) used to manage the Grant Park Boxing Gym before accepting managerial duties at the Central United facility in Central Phoenix, 17th Avenue & VanBuren. I wasn’t able to identify sparring partners for Davis. I was told, he is in the best shape of his career and a Garcia thinks a win over Liakhovich is possible. Every coach should be confident.

There were no agreed upon ground rules set for our interview and the only editing administered was the correcting of spelling and grammatical errors; I hope we were successful. I began our session with a personal question.

ABNN:Who are the four most important people in your life, past and present?
SL: My Family in Belarus, my first trainer Anatoly Kolchin who passed away last year and of course, my wife Irina and our 2 children, Nazar and Katerina.

ABNN: You migrated to Scottsdale, Arizona from Belarus. Any similarities when comparing Arizona and Belarus and can you talk about the adjustment?
SL: No similarities, it was a big adjustment. I had to learn English, so conversing with American Trainer provided hilarious and painful moments. It was a great adventure overall and I am so glad I had the opportunity to come to America and build upon my boxing career and life. I consider the United States the Mecca of boxing.

ABNN: You were a member of the Belarus Olympic team in 1996. What did you learn from that experience and what is your take on why U.S.A. boxers, in recent years, can’t attain Gold medals at the Olympics? Is it the scoring system?
SL: Participating in an Olympic game is the greatest experience for any athlete. Adjusting to a world stage is huge. I lost 10-9 to Paea Wolfgramm (Tonga) who would go on to win a Silver Medal. My people said I won the fight. Afterwards, I received invitation to the U.S. I didn’t like the Olympic boxing system, at all. It takes away so much from boxing. In my opinion, U.S. Men aren’t winning boxing Gold medals because it’s very hard to find an Olympic styled trainer and at the same time it is equally difficult tofind a boxer who wants to learn and work hard. Natural ability of U.S. Boxer is great, but the majority preparing for the Olympics lacks discipline and good coaching.

ABNN: Champ, you’re fighting fellow heavyweight Phoenix fighter Chad Davis on the Iron Boy Card at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix; what can attending fans or live stream viewers expect from you? And can you comment about Jashir Villa, one of your main sparring partners during your preparation for Davis?
SL: Boxing fans can expect a great fight. I am glad to be back in the ring in an effort to move my career forward. As for Jashir Villa, he is young and working hard to become a better boxer.

ABNN: According to BoxRec, you fought once in 2011, once in 2012 and once in 2013; unfortunately all 3 fights resulted in losses for you. Deontay Wilder stopped you in round 1,. Your bout with Bryan Jennings didn’t go the distance and your title bout with Robert Helenians ended with a 9th round TKO loss. You should be commended for facing tough legitimate contenders, but what impact do those losses have on the future of your career? In your defense, Wilder seemed to get away with a few rabbit punches to the back of your head. Would a loss to Davis end your long and successful boxing career that netted you the WBO Heavyweight Title in 2006?
SL: There is a lot more behind the scenes in boxing. Fights get scheduled and then rescheduled. The biggest problem in my career was inactivity for many different reasons. Sometimes people are too quick to judge, but they should not judge any fighter on his performance based on one round that ended like my last fight did. I am glad I have an opportunity to come back and make my back into the heavyweight division.

ABNN:Can you explain your nickname “White Wolf”?
SL: Often asked question. Belarus means White Russia. It has nothing to do with race. To me it’s more like Wolf from White Russia. It is an easy name to remember for fans. Legend has it that that the high production of linen and the popularity of wearing white linen, centuries ago, had something to do with the name. It’s just a myth.

ABNN: You manage yourself, what are the advantages and disadvantages of managing yourself?
SL: Managing yourself is the easiest way to get things done. No disadvantages at all!

ABNN:Are you superstitious? I hear some fighters refuse to fight on fight on Friday the 13th, etc. Are there days you would rather stay home than fight?
SL: Every fighter that I know is superstitious. For me, it’s not dates;it is other things that people find funny.

ABNN: Your 2006 title bout with Shannon Briggs at Chase Field in Phoenix had a rather bizarre ending; could Hollywood screen writers have scripted a more dramatic conclusion to a fight?
SL:Good Question. I feel my whole my whole life is a great script for a Hollywood movie. It would probably be relevant with so many fighters and other athletes coming to the U.S. looking for a better career and life.

ABNN: The traditional and obligatory “stare down” at press conferences, weigh-ins, and ring introductions…can a fighter use these obviously staged stare downs to his or her advantage or do you view them as a silly way to acquire a photo op to hype a fight?
SL: I like the stare down, I think you get a very good sense of your opponent. For example, when you’re that close to your opponent, he can’t hide his emotions, it’s that sixth sense that’s working and you have a better understanding of whom you’re dealing with.

ABNN: You’re a big fan of the late great Jersey Joe Walcott, Why? And you met Carmen Basilio a few years before his passing; what was the occasion?
SL: For me, old time fighters are a great inspiration. Jersey Joe Walcott is one of my heavies because he possessed great foot work. As for Carmen Basilio, we met at the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. In my opinion, he was verymuch underrated. It was an honor to meet him.

ABNN: As we end this interview is there any last thing you would like to say?
SL: I am lucky to have so many supporters, even when things don’t go my way. I think boxing, not unlike life, has its’ ups and downs and you have to be strong to keep fighting. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to answer great questions, so people can get to know me better. All the Best: Sergei!
ABNN: You’re welcome and thank you very much.

Result: Sergei Liakhovich beat Chad Davis by UD in round 8on 22 – 2 - 2014
Record of Liakhovich - won 26 (KO 16) + lost 6 (KO 5) + drawn 0 = 32