BY PHILIP H. ANSELMO
This coming weekend (Saturday August 27th), there’s a heavyweight double-header that is absolutely relevant, so here’s my picks.
As the card goes, first up, undefeated Robert “The Nordic Nightmare” Helenius will try and extend his unbeaten credentials when he takes on former WBO strap-holder Sergei Liakhovich.
Helenius (15-0, 10 KO’s) is on a dambuster roll. He defeated former WBO titlist Lamon Brewster (TKO 8 ) in January of 2010, and in his last fight he systematically destroyed former WBC girdle-sporter Sam Peter (KO 9). But to be fair, both fallen foes were quite ripe for the taking. That’s not Helenius fault though. Brewster was the vastly more experienced fighter when “The Nordic Nightmare” beat him into palookaville, as was Peter. In the Peter fight, Helenius got off to a slow, methodical start before blasting the Nigerian out cold. Liakhovich will be the third former “World” titlist Helenius will have met in the last 2-years come Saturday. A victory for Robert will only cement his status as one of today’s most hopeful young prospects.
Liakhovich (25-3, 16 KO’s) is a tough cat to gauge. His career started off well enough till he was stopped by perennial-loser-come-darkhorse Mo Harris in 2002. He rebounded and in 2006 fought a 12-round war with Lamon Brewster, winning the WBO title in the process. This fight was a very entertaining back-and-forth brawl. But it was the type of battle that takes a lot out of a boxer, and in Sergei’s first defense vs. Shannon Briggs, a KO loss in 12, he looked like a different fighter. He was overweight and thoroughly beaten, although Briggs looked dead on his feet for most of the bout himself. Liakhovich dropped a lop-sided 12-round decision to former WBA gargantuan Nikolay Valuev after that, in a fight where his conditioning was questioned but again. His last two fights were winning efforts, stopping journeyman Jeremy Bates (TKO 1) in 2009 and then Evans Quinn (KO 9) in May of 2010. A victory over Helenius would be a huge accomplishment for Sergei, and it would propel him to bigger and better things.
How I see it:
Liakhovich’s conditioning and inactivity has to come under severe scrutiny. Helenius is a big, young, hungry fighter. Word has it that Sergei is in great condition for this meeting, but once again, Helenius has been the far more active fighter. And in my opinion, this will be the telling factor. Some could say Sergei may benefit from the time spent off, but I say NOPE.
-Robert Helenius TKO 10 Sergei Liakhovich, in a fight where Liakhovich may start out with a façade of renewed spirit, but he’ll be neutralized and discouraged by Helenius’ controlling jab and powerful right-hand bombs come round-4.
In the main event former WBA champ Ruslan “White Tyson” Chagaev (27-1-1, 17 KO’s) will face undefeated, Teddy Atlas-trained Alexander Povetkin (21-0, 15 KO’s).
Chagaev and his southpaw style bedeviled several 2nd-and-3rd tier opponents throughout his career without much hoopla. Vladimir Virches, Michael Sprott, John Ruiz, Nikolay Valuev (for the WBA belt), Matt Skelton and Carl Davis Drummond all were smugly out-boxed before Chagaev ran into his first pro loss (TKO by 10/or technically RTD by 9) in 2009. That loss was to now-heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko in an “ALMOST” unification bout. It was a step-up type fight competition-wise for the “White Tyson”, and he was out-boxed and out-classed completely, but there is no shame in losing to Wladimir. Chagaev bounced back in 2010 with decision victories over tough-but-limited Kali Meehan and just-plain-limited Travis Walker. A victory vs. Povetkin will surely send him soaring back to the top of the WBA’s ratings, where he has already spent over half of his career.
On the flipside, Alexander Povetkin looked like the real deal a handful of years ago. In 2007 he beat the hell out of the shell of former IBF title-holder Chris Byrd, stopping the American in 11-scrappy rounds. He followed that performance up with a boring 12-round decision over Eddie Chambers. But that victory looked like a case of what Chambers DIDN’T DO compared to what Povetkin DID DO. Simply put, Eddie quit fighting after the 2nd round and Povetkin threw more punches. Since then, Alexander’s career has been stunted. Instead of stepping-up his level of competition, Povetkin has fought 4th-and-5th tier fighters. Alexander was even ranked #1 contender in the IBF and offered a fight with champ Wlad Klitschko, but his trainer Teddy Atlas pulled him out of the fight because he was “not ready” to face such a massive boost in competition. So instead of facing the champ, Povetkin has fought at a lower level, beating the likes of Taurus Sykes, Jason Estrada, Leo Nolan, Javier Mora, Teke Oruh and Nicolai Firtha respectively. A win for Povetkin here would be big. It would mark his first victory over a legit contender in several years, and gain him the much-needed experience Teddy A. yearns for.
How I see it:
In my book, Chagaev has fought the better competition by a slight margin. If you take out the name “Klitschko” and look at both Chagaev and Povetkin’s records you’ll see what I mean. Both guys like to fight inside, but Chagaev has shown that he can box from the outside as well. Does Ruslan still have the stamina to keep Alexander at the end of his jab all night? Probably not. Can Povetkin cope with Chagaev’s southpaw style? We shall see. I like Povetkin’s chances on the inside, but Chagaev is a tough guy and a decent counter puncher. I can see this fight being semi-sloppy, brawling affair after a few feeling-out rounds, with both guys landing their share of telling shots throughout. But this is a fight where the referee could make a huge difference. Will the ref allow Povetkin to work inside, or will he break them constantly? Chagaev is a grappler and will attempt to tie-up Povetkin as soon as he gets past the jab. It is to Povetkin’s benefit to stage the fight chest-to-chest. Does Chagaev have the grit to keep the energetic Povetkin off him and box for 12-rounds? I’m not too sure… so…
-Alexander Povetkin D12 Ruslan Chagaev, in a fight where the ref could play a major role. In truth, I can see Povetkin pulling out a decision here, but honestly it’s the level of competition between both men that has me somewhat stumped. This is the type fight that will define the future of either guy. The winner will see better paydays ahead, while the loser will become damn-near obsolete at any “true” competitive level. And finally, what kinda antics should we expect outta Teddy A.? Good lord…!!!?
We will find out!
Have a good weekend-
Philip H. Anselmo is a musician, vocalist, songwriter for such groups as Pantera, Down, Super Joint Ritual and Arson Anthem. You can keep up with Phil’s latest music production and going-ons, including his video interview with former New Orleans Saints star Jeremy Shockey at www.thehousecorerecords.com