One of the old adages of boxing is “boxing goes as the heavyweights goes.” This has been, more or less, been the way boxing has operated for 115 something years. At the turn of the century though there was a change in this status quo. The heavyweights were no longer the de facto marquee division of boxing. The fighters in the lower divisions had managed to maintain and/or raise their profile to the level where they were able to create bankable, crossover stars. In contrast, the heavyweight division went on a decline. The top HW fighters and contenders of the 80s and 90s were aging and the newer class of heavyweights did not necessarily have the spark or “it factor” to capture the public’s attention. Contrary to popular belief, there were definitely good to great heavyweight fights that occurred in the post Tyson/Holyfield/Lewis era. The fight I am highlighting in this article was IMO the best heavyweight fight post 2000. An all-time classic heavyweight title fight and slugfest to boot. The fight I am referring to is Lamon Brewster vs Siarhei Liakhovich.
“Relentless” Lamon Brewster debuted on the scene in 1996 and was considered somewhat of an underachieving prospect dropping fights to Clifford Etienne and Charles Shufford. Lamon would work his way back from those minor setbacks where he would score his biggest career victory to date: Stopping Wladimir Klitschko in 5 rounds to win the vacated WBO World Heavyweight Championship. This fight would put on full display the vulnerability factor that would come to epitomize him and his career. Dropped for the first (and only time) in his career in the 4th round by Wlad, Lamon managed to come back in the next round to hurt and drop Wlad, albeit after the bell. He would then go on to defend the title successfully 3 times in wildly exciting fights against the likes of Kali Meehan, Andrew Golota, and Luan Krasniqi.
“The White Wolf” Siarhei Liakhovich debuted in 1998, a couple of years after representing Belarus in the 1996 Olympics. A decent boxer-puncher but his chin was considered questionable after a KO loss to Maurice Harris. He did manage to work his way back from that defeat including getting a good win over fringe contender Dominick Guinn in December of 2004. However this was Siarhei’s last fight prior to getting a shot at Lamon Brewster, which was scheduled for April 1, 2006. So during this period of inactivity, Siarhei managed to maintain ranking of 13 with the WBO in order to justify this title shot.
Prior to his scheduled 4th title defense, Lamon started experiencing vision problems and underwent laser eye surgery unsuccessfully to correct it. Details on why the fight still went forward remain a little murky. In particular that Lamon had a state mandated eye examination 8 days before the fight and was given the ok to fight. There was also reportedly a desire to go on to fight by Lamon so he could fulfill his contractual obligations to Don King and move on to another promoter. This fight aired on Showtime as part of its free view weekend. I had grown to be a fan of Lamon Brewster during this period of his career because his fights as mentioned before were exciting, in contrast to the other HW champions like John Ruiz or Chris Byrd. I would be lying to you if I said I was anticipating this fights or did I think this fight would turn out the way it did. I think my opinion of this fight was definitely shared by the majority of boxing fans.
The fight, point blank, was 12 rounds of epic brutality and ebb and flow. The first 4-5 rounds shows Liakhovich outboxing Brewster with an educated jab and beautiful combination punching. Brewster being just a sad slower until the 5th round. Brewster then start living up to his nickname and started letting off savage combinations to the body and head. Liakhovich, to his trainer’s dismay, followed suit. The middle rounds were filled with violent back and forth action. Liakhovich came back nearly stopping Brewster in the 6th. Brewster then coming back getting the best of Liakhovich in the 7th round knocking him down in the last seconds of the round after both inflicted heavy punishment on each other. Liakhovich managed to regain his bearings in the 8th and in the 9th round wobbled Brewster an over hand right and left hook and came very close to KO’ing him. Referee Ernie Sharif would have done well to stop the fight at this point. How Lamon Brewster remained on his feet after that is beyond me but essentially that emptied his tank. He never was able to mount any real sustained offensive response nor was able to keep Liakhovich at bay until the final bell. Siarhei Liakhovich dethroned Lamon Brewster by unanimous decision (115-113, 115-112, 117-110) to be the new WBO Heavyweight Champion. I found myself agreeing with the post-fight comments of the Showtime broadcasting team. In particular with Karyn Bryant who mentioned to Steve Albert” that although the fight was free, she would have paid a heck of a lot of money to see this fight”.
You would think a fight like this would be mentioned over and over with its highlights being shown ad nauseam on Showtime in throwback montages. Surprisingly, that is not the case. It is only mentioned from time to time and usually by only hardcore boxing fans. To me it is the best heavyweight fight of the last decade and the last one I considered an ATG until Joshua vs Klitschko. Both men really put it on the line and unfortunately both ended ruining each other. For Lamon, he had suffered a detached retina in the first round. On top of his fighting style, this most likely played a part in the tremendous punishment he took. He would go 2-3 in his last 5 career fights. 2 of those losses ended in a KO. A shell of what he was during his reign. He would retire in 2010 with a left eye that, to date, has not fully healed.
As for Liakhovich he got his day in the sun but it would be brief. This was in a way a pyrrhic victory. He managed to win a war with one of boxing’s heaviest punchers, he also used up a career worth’s of punch resistance. He would go 4-6 in his next 10 fights never really being able to take a good shot from an opponent. He would lose his belt in his first title defense to a sluggish Shannon Briggs by KO in round 12, needing only to remain standing to win. He would also suffer some more brutal knockouts along the way at the hands of Robert Helenius, Bryant Jennings, and Deontay Wilder. Of course these are just my words and thoughts. Please watch the fight and most likely that you will also be in agreement as well.
Written by PatScorpio for Ringgangradio.com