By Clive Bernath: Whilst premier boxing broadcaster HBO have closely monitored the progress of undefeated heavyweight prospect Roman Greenberg over the last 18 months, the young 23 year-old Russian born boxer has pretty much slipped through the net unnoticed amongst your average boxing fan in the US. But that could all be about to change as the 20-0-(14), London based talent has targeted the top contenders on his crusade towards the heavyweight championship of the world.
So far the talented young pretender (who was once described by one high profile promoter as 'potentially the first ever billion dollar boxer) has been matched like any other serious contender-learning his trade against good solid journeyman types. But now Greenberg's promoters Fight Academy is preparing to dispense with the stabilizers and move on to the second phase of his career, a prospect the young Jewish fighter is very much relishing. "I am really looking forward to the next stage of my career," said an excited Greenberg, who out-pointed 6ft 6, 18st Mamadou Sacko in Monte Carlo, Monaco on July 20.
The Frenchman proved to be much better than his 5-3 record suggested and proved the perfect test as he prepares to step up in class. "It was quite a tough assignment," began Greenberg. "I thought and many other people thought that he (Sacko) was much better than his record. I mean I'm always prepared for the worst and he did prove to be much better than his record. I knew he was a big guy-heavy-even before I saw him so it was nothing surprising
"Yes he was my most difficult fight so far," admitted Greenberg. "Sacko was supposed to be my last fight before I step up in class so I was very pleased, it was, maybe not a good test as such because I was winning every round but he was causing me some problems and he was making me think about what I was doing. But it was the perfect fight for me to take into the next phase of my career; it gave me a lot more confidence.
Prior to the Sacko fight Greenberg was heavily criticised by some sections of the boxing media, especially in the US, for his somewhat below par performances against Belarusian Vitaly Shkraba and American Marcus Magee in New York earlier this year. Greenberg himself, though, is not concerned about the negative press at this stage of his career.
"I really don't worry about negative reports," insists Greenberg. "The Shkraba fight, I don't really care I didn't stop him which was what people wanted to see but I do what I want. If that's not what I need then I won't do it. We needed good experienced rounds which I had not got in the previous twelve months. He (Shkraba) fought a decent boxer before me called Dennis Baktov and he gave Baktov a really tough fight but I handled him very easy, like a baby.
"It was the same in New York against Marcus Magee, he has just lost a close eight decision to Michael Grant over eight rounds but I stopped him. It's not the opponent you have to look at its how you handle them. Magee was a really awkward opponent. It seemed like he did not want to fight, he was holding on all the time and leaning on."
The very personable and extremely likeable Greenberg, together with his good looks and the fact that he is a white Jew, make him a marketing mans dream.
Possessing all of the aforementioned is of course of no use if you cannot fight but Greenberg has been blessed with an extraordinary talent for boxing. This reporter has followed the 23 year-old's career closely since first seeing him spar with seasoned pros as a raw 17 year-old and one thing that has always impressed is the ease in which he handles opponents in the ring. Greenberg is one of those rare boxers that has the ability to glide in and out of range without his opponent being able to lay a glove on him. To date it is fair to assess that he has lost no more than three or four rounds of the 83 he has completed so far. So how does Greenberg explain this rare gift?
"I'm thinking, I'm thinking all the time," insists Greenberg. "We (team) sit down before a fight look at the fighter we are boxing and work out our strategy. Half the fight is being mapped out in my head while I'm watching the tape of the fight. And even if I don't see a tape of the boxer then I work things out in my head of what to do.
"You know I don't like to get hit, that's why I get out of the way. That way it gives my opponents less chance to hit me or do anything. Also, me being able to move my feet the way I do gives me a big advantage over a lot of heavyweights."
Greenberg is arguably the most agile and talented of the young undefeated prospects around at the moment and certainly possesses excellent foot and hand speed as well as all round ability but he considers his boxing brain to be the hub of his talents.
"I think my brain is one of my greatest assets when I'm boxing," said Greenberg. "It is a combination of everything really but if you can't think, it doesn't matter what good legs you've got or how strong you are, if you can't think about what your doing then someone will come along and out-think you.
"Take Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson. Tyson, he was strong and very good but Lewis was very intelligent and that's what made the difference them. Lewis was not concerned how he looked in the ring he fought his way and got results. If you want to go forward as a boxer you have to do what you have to do, you can't always worry about pleasing everybody."
Promotional and management team Robert Waterman and Jim Evans of Fight Academy had always insisted that as soon as their heavyweight prospect reached 20 and 0 that he would be stepped up in class and let loose on the other up and coming heavyweight pretenders. With this in mind what does Greenberg think of the current crop of heavyweight hopes?
"They are all good boxers," reasoned Greenberg. "Samuel Peter is a very hard puncher, I think more puncher than boxer and they all deserve the rating they get. Calvin Brock, I think he's good boxer but not as harder puncher as Peter or many others, but he has got a good workrate. But you know I'm not worried about anyone really, for the right money whether it's for the title or not I'll fight anybody. I'm always looking through the ratings and there is no one there that worries me."
One thing quickly realized about the 6ft 3, 230lbs Greenberg is that he is a very humble and respectful human being, so when the question was posed as to when he feels ready to challenge the elite of the division such as undisputed champion Vitali Klitschko (WBC), Chris Byrd (IBF) and John Ruiz (WBA), he thought very carefully before confidently answering the question.
"Lets see," pondered Greenberg. "I reckon about a year, year and half. Well I hope so. Yeah I think so about a year, year and half I'll be ready. Considering my young age, everybody says, 'you know your still a baby you have years in front of you' but how much longer can you wait? I really do not want to wait too much longer."
So far it has been difficult to find fault with the young pretender, certainly in the ring, but could his impatience of wanting to fast forward into genuine championship class prove to be a fundamental weakness? "Yes, maybe I am thinking too far ahead," admitted Greenberg. "I'd like to go for the European title now though I think I'm ready and I don't think my team disagree with that."
Promoter Robert Waterman readily agreed: "I think Roman is ready to challenge European champion Paolo Vidoz right now and win. Roman will have some time off now then myself Jim Evans and the rest of the team will sit down and see what route we will take for the second phase of his career. One thing is for sure we have no fears about putting Roman in with any of the other young heavyweight prospects."
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July 29, 2005