By Gary Purfield
Sergei Liakhovich reached the top of boxing’s glamour division in 2006 when he defeated Lamon Brewster to win the WBO heavyweight title. Following the career high point Liakhovich was unable to retain his title and stay on top. In his next fight Sergei would lose the title in the last second of the twelfth round to Shannon Briggs by TKO in a fight that he lead on all three scorecards. He would not fight for another fourteen months at which point he would lose a by decision to Nicolay Valuev.
Liakhovich would then have to deal with more inactivity fighting only twice in the next two years. Now with new promoters Main Events, a newborn son, and added trainer Tommy Brooks Sergei Liakhovich has taken his lessons from the past and is more focused than ever to reach the top again. I had the opportunity to speak with Sergei on several topics as he took a break from his current training camp in Los Angeles. He is preparing to fight Jonnie White as the co-feature to the Tomasz Adamek vs. Kevin McBride fight at the Prudential Center in Newark on April 9.
Liakhovich was pleased with his camp and preparation to this point. “Everything is going pretty well and training like usual.” “I am in great shape, I am ready to go, I can’t wait to get in the ring.”
Liakhovich has been trained for many years by well-known and respected Kenny Wheldon. Recently another well respected top trainer was added to the mix in Tommy Brooks. Brooks is well known for training many top boxers including heavyweights Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, and Michael Grant. Brooks has been brought in to be an added dimension and learning mentor to a heavyweight who already has a strong set of tools and experience. Sergei has been able to continue to learn from his regular trainer Wheldon while picking up new tools and motivation from the straight forward Brooks.
“Right now I have two great trainers who work with me. In the boxing world he (Brooks) is one the best fundamental guys, we are working right now on little bitty things. I learn from Kenny a lot and Tommy is a great trainer too, he motivates me and push me to the limit so I work with both these guys”.
When asked if one trainer had the lead Liakhovich made it clear that both are involved stating “both are equal.”
Another change is camp is in Los Angeles opposed to Arizona or Houston, Texas. The change does not seem to have an effect on the focused former champ.
“Training camp is training camp. Training usual routine”
Liakhovich will be taking on Jonnie White 22-4 (18 KO). Sergei did not have much to say about his opponent but is focused on what he will do in the ring.
“He is tough guy; we will see what he can do. I can use everything that I have and everybody will see what I capable to do in the ring”
I asked Liakhovich about using his footwork, reach, jab, and defensive skills that he is known for in the upcoming fight. He is well aware that lack of attention to footwork cost him in previous fights.
“Yes absolutely, everybody knows me with my footwork and this is what I didn’t use in my last fight but everything came back to me, my muscle memory, so I can do so many things with my feet”
“Last couple of fights my footwork wasn’t as good that is why I brought Kenny Wheldon here and we improve every training session.”
Along with a new dedication to fundamentals Liakhovich has a new promoter that is known for keeping fighters like Tomasz Adamek and Zab Judah active and getting them into position for a title shot. Adamek fights four times a year in front of large passionate crowds and has worked his way into a heavyweight title shot later this year against one of Klitschko brothers. Judah has fought three times already since returning to Main Events last year. This includes his most recent fight regaining a junior welterweight belt with a knockout of Kaizer Mabuza in front of a packed Amerihelth Pavilion.
“Tony Cardinale my attorney and advisor right now we decide to do this because I saw what she (Main Events CEO Kathy Duva) did with her fighters and they are on top right now and this is why we decided to sign with Main Events.”
Sergei stated he enjoys working with Main Events and when asked about where he envisions them taking his career he got straight to the point.
“Fight for the title again.”
His next fight on the road back to a title opportunity is less than two weeks away. As the fight nears training slows down in certain areas to be fully rested and prepared for fight night.
“Right now I take off my strength workout, working on speed and running, usually running in morning and afternoon boxing workout or sparring. Right now just boxing and roadwork, especially two weeks before the fight I take back all strength workouts”
Liakhovich began his journey to the sport at an early age and has learned many lessons along the way.
“I train my all my life, I start when I was twelve but before that I did three years in wrestling, one year Greco Roman two years freestyle. My father brought me to boxing, we watch Olympic Games in 1988 together and so I got interested in boxing.”
Like any veteran fighter who has seen the top and then had tougher times Liakhovich has learned many lessons. He points to one in particular that he has gained from experience.
“Helped me to really realize what not to do.”
Along with the years and lessons that have passed Sergei has one more new motivating factor on the form of a newborn son several months old now. The serious and focused fighter became much brighter and energetic when asked about being a father.
“The best thing that happened in my life. I am a happy father.”
When asked about a message to fans Sergei was again straight to the point. He is confident in what he will produce come fight night.
“Just come to see my fight on April 9 at Prudential Center”
In speaking with him and hearing the confidence he has in his abilities, his trainers, and his experience I don’t doubt that he will deliver.
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