Monday, August 26, 2013

Dennis Andries…The Journeyman Who Became a Three-Time World Champion

By Peter Silkov

Boxing is one of the toughest of all physical sports, one where the participants need to be endowed with a range of physical attributes and talents. It is often overlooked how important mental strength is within boxing and how mental and spiritual determination can overcome physical shortcomings. The history of boxing is littered with the broken dreams of men who had the physical talents, but not the crucial mental and spiritual strength to succeed in the hardest of sports. Often in boxing, it is the strongest of mind, rather than simply the strongest of body, which ultimately triumphs.                                

Dennis Andries was one such fighter, whose mental strength was the foundation of his tremendous success, in an extraordinary career, which saw him rise from a domestic journeyman who struggled to get fights, to a three-time World light-heavyweight champion. Despite the success and overcoming more than his fair share of setbacks and rough times during his career, Andries was to find that he would never gain the kind of recognition and affection with the fans that some other fighters, who had achieved far less, managed to gain.

Andries was born in Guyana, on November 5, 1953, and had a tough childhood, when his parents relocated to Britain and then split up; he later described himself as being a ‘wild kid.’ Like many wild kids before and after him, Andries found himself drawn into boxing, but at a later age than most; Andries was already 25 years old when he turned professional in 1978, after a rudimentary amateur career.

Fighting at light heavyweight, Andries’ career was tough from the start, operating in a traditionally unfashionable division, Dennis soon found that his brawling style made him an unfashionable fighter, both with the fans, and with possible opponents.

There were no easy fights and no padding of the record. With no big-time promoter or managerial connections, Andries was thrown into the deep end from early on, often made to take fights at short notice against opponents who were higher ranked and had much more experience.    

In just his ninth professional fight, Andries came in at short notice to face Bunny Johnson, who was the ex-heavyweight and current light-heavyweight British champion, in an over the weight non-title match. Andries lost on points after 10 grueling rounds, but despite losing, had showed his toughness by giving the reigning British champion an awkward night.

After a run of four wins, Andries met Johnson again on the February 27, 1980, this time for Johnson’s British light-heavyweight title, at the ironically named Adult Ballroom, in Staffordshire. Unfortunately, the spectators witnessed a fight that was a long way from a majestic dance, as Andries’ dogged, yet, clumsy brawling, and Johnson’s defensive counter-punching; combined to produce that most-dreaded of all things; for both boxing fans and fighters alike…the stinker. Some scribes of the time called it the worst title fight in living memory. They openly ridiculed the clumsy efforts of the challenger Andries, delighting in recalling how on several times he almost threw himself down to the canvas when missing one of his wild punches. What the scribes mostly neglected to mention or totally overlooked, was that, despite the rawness of his title challenge, Andries had lost by a mere point.

Undaunted by the defeat or the criticism, Andries plugged on with an attitude that made him a throwback to the early days of boxing.  He learned from defeats and victories alike

Thirteen months after his defeat by Johnson, Andries finally got his hand onto his first title, when he out-pointed Shaun Chalcraft, over ten rounds, for the Southern Area Light-heavyweight title. This was a title that is generally considered a gateway for receiving a shot at the higher domestic titles, such as the British, and Commonwealth championships.

Andries had repositioned himself in line for another British title shot, at the same time, his reputation as a relentlessly stubborn hard hitter, albeit, clumsy and raw, was already scaring away many prospective opponents. Managers tried their best to steer their fighters away from the wild-swinging man, now known as the “Hackney Rock.” Even at this unglamorous stage of his career, Dennis’ toughness was not in dispute.

So, Andries found himself struggling for fights, even with the Southern area title as bait.

It was during this time in late 1981, when opponents were hard to come by, that Andries took on the future British heavyweight champion David Pearce, and giving away a stone, found himself stopped in the 7th round. This was the first stoppage defeat of Andries’ career, and he would not be stopped again until he met Thomas Hearn’s, some six years, and a whole career turnaround later.

As would be the case though out his career, Andries just dusted himself off after the Pearce defeat, and got back into the gym.

On March 15, 1982, Andries got his second crack at the British title, this time facing Tom Collins for the now vacant title. Andries had already fought Collins twice previously, winning both, the first via a decision, the second on a 6th round knockout.
However, if these two victories were supposed to make things easier for Andries, it didn’t quite turn out that way. After making the busier start, against a constantly retreating Collins, Andries began to tire after the first 6 rounds, punching himself out with his wild swings that sometimes missed by embarrassing margins. After hardly throwing a punch for the first six stanzas, Collins got his jab going, proceeded to outbox the tiring Andries over the rest of the fight, and flooring him in each of the last two rounds.

Again, as in his previous attempt at the British championship, the boxing press was scathing of the performances of both men and marked the fight out as a clear indicator of the paucity of talent within the domestic light-heavyweight division.

Andries had now failed in two attempts at winning the British championship; not many fighters get a third attempt. Although he still held the Southern Area title, the Hackney Rock found himself struggling for opponents willing to risk their often clean, but padded records against him. At this point in his career, it would have been easy for Andries to go the same way of many boxers whom fail to win titles after one or two attempts. They tend to either slowly fade away, or else settle for being a journeyman, for younger and still ambitious fighters. But, ‘The Hackney Rock’ was made of sterner stuff.

With a grim resourcefulness, Andries came up with the idea of going missing from the gym for weeks at a time, to give the impression that this hardest of workers was beginning to shirk on his training, and was ready for the taking. What people didn’t know…Andries was training in secret in an amateur gym, whose members were sworn to secrecy.

Eventually, Andries’ stubbornness gained him a third crack at the British title, on January 26, 1984. Andries made it third-time lucky, when he became British Light-heavyweight champion, by this time, out-hustling the defending champion, Tom Collins, over 12 grueling rounds. Three months later, Andres successfully defended the title against Collins, in what was the pair’s 5th and final fight against each other.  Again, Andries won a close and grueling fight on points. The boxing scribes were now calling Andries an overachiever and a ’Cinderella man’ for becoming British champion at over thirty years of age.           

Finally becoming a champion had an effect upon Andries, he was still wild and liable to lose his balance sometimes when throwing a punch, but there was an added confidence and belief in his ring work now. If the doubters had thought that Andries would be happy to be British champion for a while, before either passing on the title to some rising young gun, or else riding off into the sunset of his own violation, they were wrong! The Hackney based Guyana had a lot more ambition than people would have believed.

Before December 1985, Andries ran up a number of solid wins, including three victories in America. He challenged the skilful Frenchman Alex Blanchard, for the European Light-heavyweight title. Before the fight, Andries was given little chance of victory, by the scribes, who considered him to have outdone himself by winning the British title. The general consensus was that the European championship was just a little out of Andries’ league, and he was the decided underdog against the beanpole 6-foot plus champion, who could both box and punch.

Again, the scribes were wrong. Although Andries failed to win the title after he was held to a controversial draw, he left no doubt that he belonged in this class by giving the highly rated Blanchard all he could handle in a stirring fight, which saw both boxers hit the deck.

This fight proved to be the breakthrough for Andries, he was now world-rated, but seen as a tough, but limited, opponent by the division’s top men. Perhaps this is why American J.B Williamson was persuaded to come over and defend his WBC world light-heavyweight title against Andries in London. Although Andries was the hometown man, he once again found little encouragement in the boxing press. He found himself being branded a heavy underdog, amid predictions that his direct and basic style would lead to him being outclassed. Some questioned whether he deserved to be fighting for the world championship at all.

Not for the last time, Andries turned the negative predictions of his critics back upon them, when on April 30, 1986, he beat J.B Williamson at the Picketts Lock Stadium, London, on a split-decision, to become world champion at thirty-two years of age.

Even as world champion, Andries would remain an underdog. When it was announced that his first title defense would be an all-British clash, with the very popular and highly thought of, Commonwealth Middleweight champion, Tony Sibson, the champion was once more viewed by the majority as the underdog. Andries bristled at the assumption that he could be beaten by a middleweight, and gave Sibson a one-sided beating, flooring “Sibbo” three times, before the fight was stopped in the 10th round.

However, Andries world title reign would come down with a thud, when six months later, he faced the already legendary Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns in Hearns’ hometown of Detroit. Hearns was coming back from his classic three rounds of mayhem with Marvin Hagler and looking for his third world championship. It was a painful experience for Andries, as he found himself outclassed by The Hitman’s speed, skill and power, and was down six times, four times in the 6th, once in the 9th, and once in the 10th round, after which, the referee finally stopped the fight.

Although he lost his title, Andries gave an astonishing display of heart and toughness by getting up from the knockdowns and continuing to literally throw himself into attacks on Hearns. Ironically, the end finally came in the 10th round, after an Andries’ hook seemed to have momentarily floored Hearns, only for Andries to tumble down again to the canvas, more from exhaustion than a punch. Although he once again regained his feet, the referee decided he had seen enough. Despite this, there were those who believed that Hearns had punched himself out and were at the point of exhaustion.

 After losing his world championship in such a punishing manner, most people thought that this was the end of the line for Andries, or that at most, he would return to the domestic scene to see out the reminder of his career. Instead, Andries wrong-footed everyone…yet again. In a brave and audacious move, Andries relocated to America, and joined Thomas Hearns’ famed Kronk gym, persuading trainer Emanuel Steward to take him under his wing. Andries won the respect of his fellow Kronk fighters. Many set out to teach the limey a lesson in sparring, and send him home to England, only to find that Andries could take it, as well as dish it out, but he usually dished out far more than he took.

Emanuel Steward would later say, regarding Andries, in reference to the belief that ‘you can’t teach old dog new tricks,’ that Andries, when he joined the Kronk gym, didn’t know any tricks.

After seven months out of the ring following the Hearns loss, Andries came back, with the same dogged determination, but also with some new tricks, and new belief.  Andries was now a smoother, more polished fighter, with a larger range of shots. The hard rounds of sparring in the Kronk gym boosted his natural strength and fitness. Far from being over, Andries’ career was about to hit its peak.

After running up a string of victories, including a 10 round point’s victory over former IBF world light-heavyweight champion Bobby Czyz, Andries found himself back in title contention. On February 21, 1989, at the Convention Center in Tucson, Arizona, he took on the unbeaten and highly touted Tony Willis, for the vacant WBC world light-heavyweight championship. Andries won on a 5th round stoppage and yet again, his disbelievers were proven wrong!

Andries’ second reign as world champion was brief. Four months later, on June 24,1989, he would meet Australian Jeff Harding for the first of a trilogy of fights between the two; fights that were all out and out barnstormers, which rank with the best ever seen in the division.

In their first fight, Andries started fast, and throughout the wild fight unloaded his punches almost at will upon the iron chinned Australian, but then slowly tired, as Harding’s wicked body punching began to take their toll. In an epic 11th round, Andries put everything he had left into a savage attack upon Harding, only for the battered challenger to come back with a vicious attack of his own, and have the champion hurt at the end of the round. Going into the 12th and final round, Andries was ahead on points, but had nothing left in his legs. Harding, covered in blood from severe eye cuts, came forward with a brutal attack, to floor Andries twice, and then have him hanging helplessly upon the ropes, provoking the referee to end the fight. Ironically, Andries had gone into this fight the favourite, after Harding came in as a late replacement for Donny Lalonde.

The critics were lining up now to bury Andries’ boxing career. At almost 36, there couldn’t be any more comebacks, could there be?

Following two solid wins over fringe contenders, Andries faced Jeff Harding for the second time, this time as a clear underdog against his eleven years younger opponent.

On July 28, 1990, at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, and Dennis Andries became World light-heavyweight champion for the third time, when he regained the WBC title by knocking out Harding in the 7th round.  In a replay of their first fight, both boxers had gone toe-to- toe from the start, with Andries out-punching the champion early on, but beginning to tire in the 5th round, as Harding started to come on. After a frenetic 6th round, Andries came out blazing in the 7th round, like a man who wouldn’t be denied, forcing Harding to the ropes, he landed a huge uppercut, and one of his patented looping right hands to floor the iron Aussie. Although Harding got to his knee by the count of nine, he could not beat the count, and Andries was world champion for a third time at the age of thirty-six.

Andries became only the second man to win the World light heavyweight titles three times, the other being Marvin Johnson.

In this his third reign, Andries remained busy, successfully defending the title against Sergio Daniel Merani, who he stopped in the 4th round in London, and then going to Australia to defend against Guy Waters, who he beat comfortably on points.

Then on September 11, 1991, Andries defended his title against Harding again, in the pair’s third and final bout, fighting in the unusual setting of the Hammersmith Odeon, Cinema in London. The two men fought out 12 rounds of the hardest, and most unforgiving of wars, which made the fight scenes of the Rocky films positively boring by comparison. Again, Andries made the stronger start, with the iron Aussie seemingly getting stronger as the fight wore on, but with many of the rounds hard to split between Andries’ wilder, more powerful punches, and Harding straighter, more precise shots. Andries’ punches that seemed to do more damage in the course of the fight, with Harding again bloodied and battered by the end. Harding made the stronger finish, with the almost thirty-eight year old Dennis Andries visibly wilting in the final two rounds.

In the end, Harding was adjudged a contentious winner on points, by a majority decision, with one judge seeing the fight a draw. Dennis Andries had lost his world title for the third and last time.

This was still not quite the end for The Hackney Rock, although at 38 years of age, and after the wars with Harding, his career slipped into a lower gear.  Perhaps in a final bow to age, Andries now stepped up to the cruiserweight division and for the remaining five years of his career would fight in England and Europe.

Now, Andries was taking on men both younger and bigger than him, but still able to handle most of them. In early 1992, he lost a debatable decision to the very useful Akim Tafer for the European Cruiserweight championship in France. Andries never had much luck with European titles it seems.

After his final fight with Jeff Harding, Andries went 10(6kos)-5 in his final 15 fights, and included in his victories was a 4th round stoppage win over Crawford Ashley, who was the holder of Andries’ old British light-heavyweight title.

On January 21, 1995 Andries became the oldest man ever to win a British championship when he out-pointed Denzil Browne for the British Cruiserweight title in Glasgow Scotland.  Andries held onto the British title for four months, until being out-pointed by Terry Dunstan, who had been twelve years old when Andries had first fought for the British light-heavyweight championship.

The fighting spirit was still strong, but the body was slowing down now, and Andries lost a rematch to Dunstan in February 1996, although still competitive, Andries was no longer able to fight at the high tempo of his peak.

In December 1996, a month past his forty third birthday, fighting again for the British Cruiserweight title (which Dunstan had vacated) Andries was stopped in the 7th round by Johnny Nelson, in front of Nelson’s home fans in Sheffield. Nelson would later win the WBO world cruierweight title.

This was finally the end of the road for the Hackney Rock.  After a career spanning 18 years, Andries had compiled a record of 49(30kos)-14-2 with 10 of his defeats coming either in the first three years or the last five years of his career.

Dennis Andries is a prime example of what determination and dedication can achieve in the face of criticism and defeat. Told more than once by critics that he couldn’t box correctly, he proved he could fight and fight with the best. Almost seventeen years since his last contest, Andries is still generally overlooked often in favour of fighters who had easier, but more high profile careers, yet, did not achieve half as much as he did. But, those who appreciate the genuine warriors of boxing know that Andries was one of Britain’s toughest, and that he carved out a permanent mark in boxing history.

Copyright © 2013 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved.
Peter Silkov contributes to and
Some exciting videos of Andries fights...check them out!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sergey Kovalev On Top Of The World After Crushing Cleverly

By Peter Silkov

Sergey Kovalev (22-0-1, 20 KOs) had arrived in Cardiff Wales with the quiet aura of a gunslinger who comes into town determined to prove himself a faster gun than the local hero.
 ( Photo from
There were those who doubted Kovalev’s reputation and pointed to the lack of many genuine world class names on his resume. Also, a lack of experience, due to miniscule amount of rounds he had built up over the course of twenty-two professional fights.
During the build up to his fight with Nathan Cleverly (26-1, 12 KOs), the Russian challenger said little in reply to the doubters, except to tell them to watch him at work in the ring before they make their minds up about him. Last night, after four rounds at the Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, Wales, about 6000 spectators, and millions of TV viewers’ world wide, were left in no doubt about Kovalev’s credentials, and how his alias of ‘Krusher’ is so well fitting.
During the short fight, Kovalev produced a performance against Cleverly, which was chilling in its skilful brutality. The Russian also showed that his powerful attacks are built upon the foundation of strong technique, including an excellent jab.
Kovalev showed that even at the highest level, opponents are going to have trouble lasting more than a handful of rounds with him, let alone defeating him.
With the roar of his home fans following him to the ring, Cleverly looked hyped up, as he climbed through the ropes and encouraged the crowd, by pumping his right fist in the air. This was a huge occasion for Cleverly, who described himself as having trained for this fight as if he were the challenger rather than Kovalev, and with hindsight, it might have been better for Cleverly to have entered the ring with a cooler head. The support of a home crowd can be an invaluable advantage, but it can also be an added pressure, especially on occasions when a clear head is needed most of all.
Kovalev was impassive during the ring announcements, the Russian seemed oblivious to the crowd, all of whom were behind the defending champion, except for his own entourage, and a smattering of about two dozen Russians, amongst the spectators.
The action began at a fast pace, and if we didn’t know already, Kovalev displayed clearly, from the start, that he is not a one-dimensional slugger, but has a good jab and a smooth relaxed style. Both men spent the first round trying to take control of the centre of the ring, and using their jabs. Cleverly, surprisingly, was electing to stand right in front of the Russian and attempted to force him back with his jab, while keeping a high guard against Kovalev’s own punches. The Russian largely stood his ground, however, and was the busier fighter, using his jabs to probe the Cleverly defense, and landing some early right hands to the body.
In the 2nd round, Cleverly continued to stay in front of Kovalev, rather than offer lateral movement or attempt to get on the inside, and force Kovalev back that way. The challenger stayed busy with his jab, while bringing in more of his patented right hands, with some good shots landing to the body. All Kovalev’s punches seem to carry weight, but in addition to this, they are also surprisingly swift and accurate.
Although Cleverly kept his guard high during the 2nd, there were already signs that he would need more than this too contain the man in front of him, and that the tactic to try and force Kovalev back so early was premature at best.
Cleverly did find some success in the 2nd with the jab, as midway through the round Kovalev was cut over his right eye, and for a brief moment the Russian seemed slightly disturbed by the sight of his own blood as he pawed at the eye with his right glove. However, this would prove to be a false dawn for Cleverly, as the challenger regained his composure, and continued his impressive work.
The 3rd round began with the same pattern as the first two, but with the Russian challenger now introducing more right hands into his work and inexorably increasing his already high work rate. When the end came, it was dramatic and brutal.
Kovalev’s, switching from head to body, was making chinks in Cleverly’s defense. He was hurt first by a left hand, and then driven momentarily into the ropes by a right-left combination, before finally being dropped by two right hands to the head.
Cleverly got up almost immediately, which was a mistake, but did not look overly hurt at this point, as he took what seemed like a rather long mandatory eight count from referee Terry O’Connor. Kovalev was fully unleashed now, as Cleverly tried to use the ring to escape his tormentor, he was clipped by a left, then more solidly, by a right, and went down again, slumping first to his knees, then onto his face.
Again, Cleverly showed his innate toughness, by regaining his feet almost immediately, but this time, he was out on his feet and on wobbly legs as the referee again gave him the standing eight count. As the action resumed, it became obvious that Cleverly had nothing left, as he struggled to stay on his feel, and tried to grab hold of Kovalev, as the Russian came in for the finish. Cleverly started to wilt, as soon as Kovalev landed with some more punches to the head and body, and at this point, referee O’Connor forced himself between the two fighters, grabbed hold of Cleverly, and waved his arms as if he was stopping the fight. With the action paused, and the fight seemingly over, the sound of the bell ended the round. At this point, the referee’s actions descended into farce, as he literally carried the dazed Cleverly to his corner, and deposited him onto his stool. He sat head bowed and seemingly oblivious to what was going on. By now, there was a general confusion over whether referee O’Connor had actually stopped the fight or not. Unfortunately, even the referee himself seemed to be confused. After some hurried seconds, it seemed to be decided that the fight was still on and that Cleverly would come out for the 4th round. Whether it was wise to allow Cleverly out for the 4th has to be balanced between the importance of the fight and the safety of the fighter’s health.
Although Cleverly had regained enough of his senses to respond to his corner, he was very much still in a fog, and this became apparent as soon as he literally staggered out for the 4th round. Kovalev unloaded both hands on Cleverly, as the Welshman blindly tried to elude him on rubber legs, and although bravely standing up under the barrage, Cleverly was driven defenseless into the ropes, and was about to go down to the canvas once again, before the referee mercifully stepped in and finally stopped the fight, as he should have done a round earlier.
Kovalev had shown just why he is called the ‘Krusher’ as he had promised in the build up to the fight. There can be few fighters with a more apt nickname.
In his post fight interview, the new champion dedicated his victory to his friends and fans, in a victory speech, which indicated he is a classy operator outside of the ring, as well as within it.
It might seem strange to compliment a fighter, who has won all but four, of his twenty-two victories in the first three rounds on his patience, but Kovalev has an impressive coolness about him in the ring. He is never rushed or messy, especially when he has an opponent hurt, and it is this composure, which makes him even more formidable.
There have already been comparisons drawn between Kovalev and WBA middleweight Champion and TV favourite, Gennady Golovkin. Both have similarly destructive fighting styles, but Kovalev if anything, seems to be the more destructive by far. In fact, he may well now be the most destructive puncher, pound for pound, in the world, and like his fellow eastern block sensation Golovkin, the ’Krusher’ looks set for big things in the future.
For Cleverly, it will be a long way back, but at twenty-six years old, he has the time to learn from this defeat and rebuild his career. While, almost inevitably, Cleverly is now being criticised as having been overprotected during his career, up until this point, its worth remembering that Kovalev himself had hardly mixed at world level himself, aside from his wins over-faded Gabriel Campillo, and the largely unproven Cornelius White.
Had Cleverly beaten Kovalev, its likely the Russian would have been branded as overprotected fighter with a padded record, who was never as good as his reputation, much like Lucian Bute is now regarded since his loss to Carl Froch.
However, after Saturday night, it is no exaggeration to say that not only is Sergey Kovalev as good as his reputation, he is if anything better.
There was good action in the two other title fights on the Motorpoint Arena bill…
Enzo Maccarinelli (37-6, 29kos)-6 won the Commonwealth Light-heavyweight championship from Orvill Mckenzie (21-12, 10kos), with a brutal left uppercut in the 11th round, which left Mckenzie out on his feet on the ropes, with his head bowed down. It was a dramatic end to what had been a grueling contest, which had ebbed and flowed, throughout, right up to the end. This was a rematch between the two men, after their first meeting for Mckenzie’s title in November last year ended on a controversial second round stoppage in favour of Mckenzie.
For Maccarinelli, the victory breathed new life into a career, which had come off the rails, after he lost his WBO world cruiserweight title to David Haye in 2008, by a second round stoppage. Further, inside the distance defeats, following the loss to Haye had provoked many in the boxing fraternity to advise Maccarinelli to retire. Enzo’s subsequent move down to the light heavyweight division seemed to have reached an ignominious end last November, after his controversial defeat by Mckenzie, but the rematch turned out to be Maccarinelli’s redemption.
With a title once more to his name, Maccarinelli may now look towards ending his career with one more big fight. In the past, there has been talk of a clash with fellow Welshman Nathan Cleverly, and while up until Saturday night, this would have looked to be a mismatch for Cleverly, it may now be a fight that would make sense, and stir interest, especially in Wales.
At super-featherweight, Stephen Smith (17-1, 10 KOs) produced a perfect left hook to knockout Cardiff favourite Gary Buckland (27-3, 9kos), and win the British super-featherweight championship. Stephen Smith is the brother of Paul Smith, who holds the British super-middleweight championship. Smith had spent the fight up until then, on the back foot, looking to counter rushes of the aggressive Buckland. For the first three rounds, the defending champion looked to be in control, as Smith showed good movement, but was mostly on the defensive. However, in the 4th round, a left hand counter from Smith seemed to momentarily shake Buckland, and Smith opened up for a bit, before going back onto the counter. In the 5th round, Buckland seemed recovered from the previous round, and was bustling forward, and pressuring the retreating Smith, when he was caught by a beautiful left hook, which saw him fall flat onto his face out cold, in a manner reminiscent of Manny Pacquiao’s defeat to Juan Manuel Marquez.

 Copyright © 2013 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved.
Peter Silkov contributes to and

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nathan Cleverly Needs To Box Clever Against Big Punching Kovalev

By Peter Silkov

When Nathan Cleverly 26-0 (12kos) enters the ring this Saturday night at the Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, Wales, for the 6th defense of his WBO world light heavyweight title, he will be facing his toughest challenger yet, in unbeaten Russian Sergey Kovalev 21-0-1 (19kos).nathan-cleverly-

Cleverly is going into this fight, in the unusual position of being a slight betting underdog against his challenger, such is the reputation, which the Florida based Russian, brings with him. Kovalev is known as ‘Krusher’ because of his explosive punching power, which has seen him score 19 koes in his 21 victories, with only three of his contests going past the 3rd round. Kovalev is a well-schooled, boxer-puncher, who carries a heavy dig in both hands, but especially in the right.

Although it is still early days for Kovalev, he does bare some similarities with WBA Middleweight Champion Gennady Golovkin. Like the Kazakhstan born Golovkin, the ‘Krusher’ is an extremely aggressive boxer, who can back up his big punch with sound technical skills. Kovalev is an excellent punch-picker, and despite his aggressive style, does not waste many shots. He likes to break down his opponents by switching from body to head and back again, using jabs, hooks and straight rights, and when he has his opponent hurt, he has shown himself to be a quick and merciless finisher. Kovalev’s technical acumen has been helped hugely by his trainer, ex-world light-middleweight champion John David Jackson, who was one of the most technically astute boxers of the 80s.

For Cleverly, this is a fight, that could help him break through to the next level and gain the star status, and recognition that he craves. Cleverly’s idol, and the fighter whom he would like so much to emulate, is fellow Welshman, Joe Calzaghe, the former WBO world super-middleweight champion, who retired undefeated after 46 contests in 2008. However, Cleverly would like to avoid the more negative aspects of Calzaghes career, which saw Calzaghe often struggle for big fights during his lengthy title reign; an issue that has continued to dog Calzaghe since his retirement.
Unfortunately, for Calzaghe, his biggest fights only came at the tail end of his career, and his reputation and legacy, has suffered because of it. Cleverly wants to get the big fights earlier in his career and there are potential big fights out available, against the likes of Carl Froch, Bernard Hopkins, and Adonis Stevens. First, Cleverly has to negotiate his way past the dangerous Kovalev. This is a fight, which can open doors for Cleverly if he wins, especially if he wins impressively against a fighter with Kovalev’s destructive reputation.

The Florida based Russian has already built up a good reputation in America and many expect him to be too good and too powerful for the Welshman. Kovalev’s biggest victory so far is his impressive destruction of former WBA world light-heavyweight champion, Gabriel Campillo, whom he stopped in three rounds, flooring the usually, slippery and durable ex-champion, three times in the process. Kovalev has also shown the strength of character to continue his career, despite the tragic death of Roman Simakov, who passed away from injuries suffered in their fight in Dec 2011. After taking some time off to come to terms with the tragedy, Kovalev returned to the ring after six months and resumed his inexorable climb to the top. Now, only Nathan Cleverly stands in his way to becoming a world champion.

For Cleverly, this is a chance for him to show whether he can rise to the challenge of being the underdog in such a big fight, will this bring the best out of Cleverly or will he falter. Over the past few years, Cleverly has seen fellow Brit fighter WBA and IBF Super-middleweight champion, Carl Froch, gain plaudits from an impressive run of fights against the best in his division. Cleverly knows that, he too, needs to meet and beat the best in his own division, if he is to gain the kind of recognition that Froch has attained lately.

Looking at Cleverly and Kovalev together, both fighters are well matched in a number of ways, which is promising for the potential spectator. This match has all the hallmarks of a close and entertaining contest. Both men like to throw combinations, but while Kovalev has a definite edge in punching power, Cleverly has an edge in hand speed. Cleverly also has the edge in footwork, to the slower Russian. This is a fight that could be an excellent mixture of styles, but its result may well rest upon Cleverly’s choice of tactics. If Cleverly opts to slug it out with Kovalev, then the result, despite his good chin, may well be disastrous. Cleverly’s soundest option, tactically speaking, is to box through the early rounds, draw the fire of Kovalev, and then come on stronger and more aggressively in the later rounds. Although he is actually four years younger than his Russian challenger, Cleverly is much more seasoned in longer fights, having travelled the full 12 rounds five times so far during his career. This could well be a crucial edge in the Welshman’s favour, should the fight enter the late rounds on Saturday. For all his power and talent, Kovalev may find himself struggling if he is taken into the later rounds, which he is so unused too.

Some people have drawn comparisons between this match and Joe Calzaghe’s fight with Jeff lacy. In what was a unification fight for the IBF and WBO world super-middleweight titles, Calzaghe was the underdog, and was expected by many to be overwhelmed by the powerful, big punching, Lacy, who was regarded as one of the future stars of boxing. When both men got into the ring however, Calzaghe gave one of the best performances of his career, to out-box, and out-punch Lacy, so viciously and thoroughly, that the American was never the same fighter again.

Although Kovalev is not held in such high regard, as Lacy was prior to his fight with Calzaghe, he has been building a good following in America, and many believe that he is destined to become the new star of the 175 division, once he takes the WBO title from Cleverly.

Nathan Cleverly will be aiming to produce against Kovalev, something similar to what Calzaghe did against Lacy. Unlike Calzaghe, when he fought Lacy, Cleverly will be facing Kovalev in front of his own Welsh supporters in Cardiff.

It is no coincidence that Cleverly bares a resemblance to Calzaghe in his fighting style, as he was trained early in his career by Calzaghe’s father, and has adopted a similar busy, and fast handed, combination based, box-fighter style. Victory on Saturday night will go some way to placing Cleverly amongst the elite champions of today, and closer to emulating his idol Calzaghe himself.

This is a fight, which promises to be perhaps something a little special, with both fighters penchant for punching in combinations, the chances of some good exchanges seem high. Although Cleverly would be best advised to use his speed and boxing ability for much of the fight, it is inevitable that, at some point, he will have to stand his ground, and trade with Kovalev. Indeed, it would be a good strategy for Cleverly to try and push Kovalev back, and see how effective the big punching Russian is on the backfoot. In a year, where we have seen a number of exciting clashes between top fighters, this is another title fight, which could show us just how good boxing can be when the top fighters are allowed to fight each other. At the end of it, the light heavyweights may well have a new star in their midst, a man who will be either a new champion, or else a champion who has finally broken out of the shadows.

Copyright © 2013 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved.
Peter Silkov contributes to and

Monday, August 12, 2013

Deontay Wilder Slaughters The White Wolf In Ugly Mismatch

By Peter Silkov

Deontay Wilder scored the seventeenth 1st round knockout of his career last night, when he demolished Siarhei Liakhovich in a frightening fashion, at the Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California. It was yet another quick notch upon Wilder’s fistic resume and has inevitably provoked debate over whether Wilder will be the man to lead American heavyweight boxing back to the promised land. The ‘fight’ if you could really call it that, was brief, but brutal, and had the smell of an execution about it.
After some perfunctory feeling out punches from each, including a few good jabs by Wilder, a jab followed by a hard right, drove Liakhovich into the ropes, where two huge right hands landed to the side of the Belarusian’s head. It’s probably fortunate that the second right only landed glancingly, as Liakhovich was already on his way down to the canvas at this point, tumbling upon his back like a Friday drunk. Boxing is a sport of beauty and brutality, and sometimes it is most exhilarating when two polar opposites mix together, but at other times, the brutality will rise up it’s head with no redeeming companion. There was certainly nothing beautiful or exhilarating seeing the way Liakhovich shook and failed his legs and arms in the air for a couple of awful seconds as he lay on the canvas, as if he had been tazered. The ’White Wolfs’ disturbing motion was only calmed after referee Tom Taylor took hold of his head and cradled it until the arrival of the doctor.

Knockouts are a part of boxing and often one of it’s most exciting aspects, but this was an ’ugly’ knockout of a fighter, whom most suspected, was being led in for the slaughter. While Wilder’s promoters, Golden Boy Promotions, hailed this match as his biggest challenge, yet, against a former world champion, known for his strength and grit, those in-the-know, looked past the promotional guff, and realised that Liakhovich had not fought in seventeen months, and has been ’shot’ for far longer than that. True, no other fighter has ever dismissed Liakhovich in such a manner as this, and yet at the same time, the Belarusian’s punishing defeats in his past two contests, allied with his age and inactivity made him a prime candidate for such destruction, at the fists of a fighter like Wilder. So, in many ways, ’The White Wolf’ was an ideal opponent for ’The Bronze Bomber’ at this stage of his career, another early rounds knockout, and against a former champion, albeit a faded one.
Aside for the good padding, this win will add to Wilder’s resume, and the highlight reel appeal to some of its ending, this match had told us little about how good ’The Bronze Bomber’ is beyond his punching power. The history of boxing, especially the heavyweight division, is littered with the tales of fighters who were knocking out handpicked opponents with ease, until one day they finally came up against someone who could take it and fight back, and then suddenly things turned awry.
Wilder need only look at the recent experiences of England’s David Price, to see an example of a fighter who was at one point riding high on a string of impressive knockouts, only to see everything fall to pieces when he was finally tested himself.

Of course Wilder has had problems of his own recently, albeit outside of the ring, rather than inside it, and in many ways this match was an exercise in getting the Deontay Wilder story back on track, and recent bad news and misunderstandings into the past.
The questions remain the same…how will Wilder, the fighter, react when he comes up against a fighter who can take his punches and punch him back, or even how would he react if he was hit first? Then there are issues about stamina and mental toughness. It takes far more than the ability to knock men out to reach the top in boxing, to be a significant success, a fighter needs to have far more depth, and he is unable to either show or develop such a depth when dismissing overmatched opposition in one or two rounds.

Despite the dearth of talent in the heavyweight division over the past decade, there are some promising shoots of growth within the division now, and certainly far better and more equal matches out there for Wilder to consider in the coming months, if he is really to become a serious contender for the Heavyweight crown. ’The Bronze Bomber’ can punch, but we already knew that, the question is can he fight? Unfortunately, this was a question that faded warrior Liakhovich was unable to ask.

Copyright © 2013 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved.
Peter Silkov contributes to and

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Deontay Wilder: Heavyweight Hope Or Heavyweight Hoax?

By Peter Silkov

This Friday Deontay Wilder will be looking to put his recent out-of-the-ring problems behind him, when he takes on former WBO World Heavyweight champion Siarhei Liakhovich at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.

 (photo from
For so long, the dominating power in heavyweight boxing, America, has been crying out for a new heavyweight boxing star since the fistic demise of Tyson, Holyfield and Bowe, but with little success. Add to this the fact, that many non-American boxing fans acknowledge that boxing, as a sport, needs an outstanding American heavyweight in order to revitalize interest in the division and the sport itself. Respected as they are, the sad fact is, that the Klitschko brothers have presided over an era which has seen the heavyweight division fall into a state of obscurity with the general sporting public. The fault for this is not due so much to the Klitschko brothers, but rather a lack of talent within the division, especially in America, the depths of which has perhaps never been seen before within the sport. Could Deontay Wilder be the answer to the prayers of the American fight fans? It is still early days yet for Wilder, at a young twenty- seven years of age, and with little amateur experience, ‘The Bronze Bomber’ has been brought along slowly by his promoters ‘Golden Boy Promotions.’ So far, the biggest clue as to whether Wilder may be ‘the one’ is not so much that he has beaten everyone put in front of him, but the way he has dispatched them. 28 KOs in 28 fights, which indicates a heavyweight who can punch, is not a bad start for any fledging heavyweight contender.
However, Wilder has also shown a darker side more recently, one that perhaps his promoters, Golden Boy, would rather we didn’t dwell on for too long. In May, Wilder was arrested in a Las Vegas hotel and charged with domestic battery, after a woman (who was not his wife) needed treatment for facial injuries, which included swollen eyes, a cut lip and bruising around her neck. After the resulting furore, including further lurid accusations about Wilder’s actions and behaviour on the night in question, the latest word from Wilder’s camp is that the whole episode was a misunderstanding, (with Wilder mistakenly believing at the time that he had been robbed by the woman) and that both parties have now apologised to each other and are seeking an amicle resolution to the situation. Who said it’s not what you know but whom you know?
Having placed his little transgression into the background as much as they can, ‘Golden Boy’ are hastily trying to get his career back on track in the ring, with Liakovich being billed as being the biggest test yet for Wilder.
At first glance, this match looks to be Wilder’s big step up. Liakhovich is after all a former ’World’ champion, having won the WBO championship from Lamon Brewster in April 2006, after probably, the best heavyweight championship fight since the Bowe vs. Holyfield trilogy. However, for the Belarussian, victory came at a price, for neither he nor Brewster (who has now retired,) have looked the same fighters, since they produced a slugfest which seemed to be a violent mixture of Ali vs. Frazier and Foreman vs. Lyle.
Of the five fights that Brewster took part in, after losing his title to ‘The White Wolf,’ he won only two, and retired after suffering a severe eye injury in a punishing defeat by Robert Helenius, an injury which he first suffered in his fight with Liakhovich. Meanwhile, Liakhovich himself has fought only six times in the seven years since his savage victory over Brewster, losing four, including three stoppage defeats. Seven months after winning the WBO title, the ’White Wolf’ lost his championship in his first defense, after being stopped in the final round by Shannon Briggs. It has been all downhill since then for the ’White Wolf’ with his only victories coming against limited opposition.
Liakhovich is regarded by many in boxing to be a ‘shot’ fighter and has looked sluggish and easy to hit in recent fights. Never the fastest of boxers to begin with, since losing his title Liakhovinch has slowed considerably, and become an easy target for a young heavyweight with a bit of ambition and power.
Ironically, Wilder has had only two fights less than Liakhovich, but a look at their respective rounds stats, shows that while Wilder has gone just 48 rounds so far in his 28 fights, the Belarussian has gone a much further 179 rounds, many of these rounds being tough hard rounds. This, along with a 10-year age gap, shows why Wilder’s youth and freshness will be such an advantage against the considerably older and ring-worn Liakhovich. The Wilder fight will be the ‘White Wolf’s’ first contest in seventeen months, after a one-sided defeat to Bryant Jennings. Unfortunately, he is at the stage of his career where the lay off is unlikely to have done him any good.
For so long the great power in heavyweight boxing, America, has been crying out for new heavyweight stars, but with little success. Could Deontay Wilder be the answer to many a boxing expert’s heavyweight dream? The truth is that we are unlikely to see Wilder pushed too considerably by the faded Liakhovich.
‘The White Wolf’, has been beaten badly in his last two contests by Byrant Jennings and Robert Helenius, in both these fights, he has looked out of sorts, with his timing and reflexes off, and his speed nonexistent. Liakhovich still has his innate toughness, along with his heart, but these attributes are only likely to ensure that he takes a more prolonged beating at the hands of Wilder, than anything else. Indeed, with his still decent chin and heart, but not much else, this could turn out to be an ugly fight to watch.
While there may be questions about Wilder’s overall ability as a boxer, there seems to be little doubt that he can punch. The main criticism against Wilder, is that the standard of his opposition has been at times truly awful, in building his record to 28-0 with 28 KOs, Wilder has faced some fighters who have looked as if they shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a boxing ring, let alone the same ring as him. The fact that Wilder’s most recent victim, Audley Harrison, has been Wilder’s most prominent opponent to date, kind of sums up the fistic diet upon which he has been brought up on. With this in mind, Liakhovich is indeed the biggest ’name’ opponent that the ’Bronze Bomber’ has faced so far in his career. But, faded as he is now, and coming off another extended bout of inactivity, the ’White Wolf’ should be of no physical danger to Wilder. In fact, with his come-forward style, Liakhovich is made for a big puncher like Wilder, and will probably do well at this stage of his career to last past the 5th round, although an early exit will probably be the least physically damaging conclusion for Liakhovich personally.
This fight represents, just one of many steps, that Wilder needs to take if he wants to one day become the heavyweight division’s premier fighter. How far he will go in the end may depend as much upon his being able to avoid trouble outside the ring, as inside of it, and as past boxing history shows, with some people this is not so easily achieved

 Copyright © 2013 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved.
Peter Silkov contributes to and