By Anson Wainwright
For the first time in his professional career, Ryno Liebenberg will fight outside South Africa when he faces fellow unbeaten Eleider Alvarez this Saturday in Monte Carlo.
Liebenberg (16-0, 11 knockouts) would appear to be taking a step up in class against the smooth boxing Colombian.
“I think it's going to be a great fight,” said Liebenberg last week when still in South Africa. “Boxer verses brawler, his skill versus my ruggedness and toughness.”
The 29-year old South African enters this fight on the back of an impressive August win over Denis Grachev. However he considers his one round demolition of Joey Vegas earlier this year to his career best win.
Those wins have put Liebenberg within striking distance of his dream of fighting for a world title. He is currently ranked WBC (No. 4), IBF (No. 8) and WBO (No. 15).
Here’s what Liebenberg had to say when BoxingScene.com caught up with him on a variety of subjects including his upcoming fight with Alvarez, his life away from boxing and the talent-laden light heavyweight division.
Anson Wainwright - What are your thoughts on fighting Alvarez?
Ryno Liebenberg - I think it's going to be a great fight, boxer versus brawler, his skill verses my ruggedness and toughness. This is boxing and anything can happen but one thing I'm certain of is that I am ready for anything. Man I can't wait.
BoxingScene.com - What are Alvarez strengths and weaknesses?
RL - He is a very good boxer with fast hands, a good boxing mind that sets traps and a good counter puncher, with a very good right straight and uppercut.
He is only comfortable if he controls the pace of the fight. And gets complacent and leaves himself open to big punches. Covers up when the going gets tough.
BoxingScene.com - The fight takes place in Monte Carlo, on a big promotion. What are your thoughts on that?
RL - It's a great opportunity on an International stage.
BoxingScene.com - This fight with Alvarez is a huge fight for you and gives you the opportunity to really make some noise at 175?
RL - I think it's a huge fight for both of us, as you say, basically an opportunity to show the world who we are.
BoxingScene.com - This will be the first time you have fought outside South Africa, obviously your team have a lot of confidence in your ability to match you against someone like Alvarez?
RL - You make him sound like the boogeyman. He is just another boxer, with a undefeated record, well so am I. There is nothing special about any boxer, we are all fighters. I don't care about name or records or anything, when we get in the ring it's me and him BAM! I have proven I am capable of fighting anyone.
BoxingScene.com - In your most recent fight you beat Denis Grachev, that was arguably your best win to date. Tell us about that fight?
RL - I think Joey Vegas was a better win. Grachev is a hard fighter, unfortunately I got cut and it bothered me more than I thought, especially since the ref didn't call a headbutt and I couldn't see after round three. I should have KO’d him, I had him in round three, but this is boxing and things don't always go according to plan. A win is a win, I guess.
BoxingScene.com - What are your thoughts on the light heavyweight division and the current champions WBC Adonis Stevenson, WBA and IBF Bernard Hopkins and WBO Sergey Kovalev?
RL - The division is "HOT", lots of good strong fighters. Kovalev is by far the most dangerous champion, he can box and punch and next month will be a unified champ.
Stevenson can bang but so can a lot of us. I see them all, except Hopkins as I think Kovalev is going to retire him, as future opponents, and like I say to my friends, against Kovalev you can't really do any worse than all his other opponents so that's whom I would like to fight most. Artur Beterbiev is another Russian to watch.
BoxingScene.com - What are your goals in boxing?
RL - Always just wanted a belt, now just to make some money so I can quit my day job, I work seven days a week in our paint shop and only get 4 weeks off to train, would love to be a full time fighter, but I have a family to look after. Maybe fight for a world title. I love fighting and do it because I love it.
BoxingScene.com - If we go back you're from Krugersdorp, Gauteng in South Africa, what were your younger days like? Were things tough for you growing up?
RL - Not at all. Had a good childhood, with a good upbringing with my family, nothing tough or hard, just the normal stuff. Lots of friends.
Always loved to fight, since I can remember, still do, just know I get paid for it and there are some rules (laughs).
I'm a middle child with 2 brothers but I'll kick both my brothers’ asses (laughs). I'm a fighter, and was born one, like my friends would say a warrior.
BoxingScene.com - How did you become involved and take up boxing?
RL - My father was a good amateur boxer and when I was in grade eight took me to his old boxing club and that's where I fought as an amateur, we still visit them.
BoxingScene.com - Who's your boxing hero and who do you enjoy watching today?
RL - Mike Tyson is my favorite, and a close second Arturo Gatti and Roberto Duran.
In today’s boxing GGG, he is a monster and the next boxing great. Go read what Abel (Sanchez) his trainer said when he sparred Kovalev, the light heavyweights divisions biggest puncher and he is a middleweight. But he is also entertaining, and that's important as a fighter. Look at (Andre) Ward, also great but his fights are as fun to watch as watching paint dry.
BoxingScene.com - In closing do you have a message for Alvarez?
RL - I'm your worst nightmare, and I'm ready, hope you are.