By Clive Bernath
In an era where it is commonplace for promoters to overhype average fighters, it is refreshing when the genuine article does eventually arrive. The ‘genuine article’ in question, for me anyway, arrived last Thursday (November 22) when he made his professional debut under the banner of Evans/Waterman Promotions, stopping fellow first-timer Dave Clarke in five rounds. Remember his name…Roman Greenburg.
I went along to the Hilton Metropole Hotel in London, expecting to see a half decent fighter, but what I found was a genuine, potential world beater. To be honest, I saw him spar with good quality men such as Jacklord Jacobs and Wayne Llewellyn about a year ago so I knew what I was in for.
Greenburg is indeed a special talent, not just because he is a white heavyweight who can fight. He is a rarity in this day and age when hype is everything and pure boxing skills count for less. His footwork is excellent; he has incredible hand speed, great mobility and all at the tender age of just 19. But what really makes the kid from Haifa, in northern Israel via Tel Aviv, stand out is that, even at this young age, he has an aura of a champion, something present in only the very best of fighters.
At the age of 19, 6ft 2ins and a solid 15 stone frame, Greenburg has years to learn his trade and fill out into the perfect package, capable of going all the way to a major title. Quite honestly, he is the best young heavyweight prospect I have seen in 20 years of attending British shows and I don’t say that lightly.
Don’t get me wrong, Clarke was certainly not a formidable test for the young World Junior silver medallist from the 2000 championships in Budapest, Hungary. Blackpool-based Clarke was having his first fight in five years, but the way in which Greenburg calculatingly took his man apart at will with crisp accurate shots was impressive to say the least.
One also got the impression he could have taken Clarke out whenever the mood took him. His performance also prompted one Boxing Board of Control official to suggest that Greenburg was the best heavyweight he had seen since Muhammad Ali, but that is going a touch too far at this stage.
He is a rare talent, that’s for sure. Don’t take my word for it. Two years ago when Greenburg was 17, he fought an amateur fight in Las Vegas and Robert Waterman, who has Greenburg contracted to him, was reportedly offered a very substantial amount of money for his contract by a major American promoter.
“That is true I was offered a serious amount of money for his contract, even then,” said London-based Waterman. “But there was never any question of me accepting it. To be honest, money isn’t everything. This particular promoter also said that Roman is potentially the first billion dollar fighter.
“I will do what I think is right for Roman Greenburg and no one else. He is very young and has all the time in the world to learn his trade. I really think he has everything. Good footwork, fast hands and he’s very intelligent as well.
“I’ve had a lot of people ringing me up about Roman since he beat Clarke, all asking me about his performance. Of course, it’s too early to tell just how good he is, but I have a feeling he could just be the real deal. He has the ability to become as big as the Roman Empire itself and that’s what I aim to do.“
Talking of heavyweights, I was baffled to say the least when Johnny Nelson weighed in at 14st 10lbs for his vacant WBU title fight with Russian Alexander Vasiliev at the weekend.
The Sheffield fighter was to have defended his WBO cruiserweight crown, a limit of 13st 8lbs, against Napoleon Tagoe, but the Ghanaian failed an eye test on Thursday afternoon and was ruled out. So how did Nelson put on 16lbs, in 24 hours? Very baffling, indeed.