Two ambitious, unbeaten and hungry light-heavyweights in the prime of their boxing careers will be stepping up their preparations this week for a make-or-break fight in Monte Carlo later this month.
One is a South African, 29-year-old Ryno Liebenberg. The other one is a 30-year-old Canada-based Colombian, Eleider Alvarez.
They are on a collision course that will bring them together on October 25, when one of them will lose for the first time and will leave the ring with a badly dented reputation.
Both have unblemished records, Alvarez after 15 professional bouts, including 8 shortcut wins, and Liebenberg after 16, including 11 wins inside the distance.
Liebenberg, who holds the WBC silver belt in the division, will have to produce the performance of his life to get past Alvarez, one of several highly rated light-heavyweights who fight out of Canada.
Promoter Rodney Berman realises he is taking a calculated risk by matching Liebenberg with someone as dangerous as Alvarez. “They are of a similar age and both need to step up. At this level there’s no hiding,” he says.
“I’m pleased that Alvarez took the fight. I expect the bookmakers will make him the favourite, based on his excellent skills, but Liebenberg will bring it on hard. I’m predicting another explosive fight.”
Alvarez was born in Colombia but has been based in Montreal since his professional debut in 2009. Nicknamed “Storm”, he is in the same stable as Artur Beterbiev, who recently knocked out American Tavoris Cloud.
WBC champion Adonis Stevenson and former champion Jean Pascal are in the same group promoted by Yvon Michel’s GYM group.
Alvarez may be the least known of the four, but he won’t lack confidence against Liebenberg.
He has been watching video material of some of the South African’s fights and has noticed that Liebenberg is an aggressive boxer. This, he feels, will make for a good fight, because “I’m a classic boxer with good speed and good technique”.
He had more than 200 amateur fights and won gold medals at the South American Games in 2006 and at the Pan American Games in Brazil a year later.
“My transition from Colombia to Canada went well,” he said recently, “but the toughest part is that I’m far away from my wife and daughter.”
Three years ago, in only his seventh professional fight, Alvarez knocked out Emiliano Cayetano in the first round to claim the vacant WBO NABO light-heavyweight title.
He also won against the likes of Shawn Hawk, fellow Colombian Edison Miranda and Alexander Johnson and is second on the WBA’s rankings list, third on the WBO’s and at no 12 on the WBC’s.
After four fights against opponents with a combined total of more than 80 professional bouts in the past 18 months, Alvarez is eager to emulate his hero, Antonio Cervantes, a former two-time world junior welterweight champion.
“I will show the world I’m ready for business,” he said of his trip to Monte Carlo.
He normally spars two or three times a week against “specific sparring partners with the style of Liebenberg,” he said, adding: “I will keep the names a secret.”
On the same bill, WBA and IBO strawweight champion Hekkie Budler will defend his belts against Xiong Zhao Zhong of China.
Martin Murray and Domenico Spada will clash for the WBC silver middleweight title and Briton Stuart Hall and American Randy Caballero meet in an IBF bantamweight title bout.