By David Finger
Photo: Ed Mulholland
It’s been called the theater of the absurd, and never has the title fit more aptly then in recent years. The Heavyweight division, the lifeblood of the sweet science, seemed to be sinking in quicksand. With every passing year it seemed like the major players in boxing’s most prestigious division were slipping further and further in obscurity in the eyes of casual sports fans. Suddenly, finding heavyweight fights on American TV became a rare occurrence, and often they profiled mismatches between young prospects on their way up. In fact, if you happened to have turned on the TV and watched a major heavyweight fight between a well established top rank contender and a dangerous former heavyweight champion, odds were you either had a great satellite package or you lived in Europe. But all that was suppose to change this week, when the highest rated American heavyweight, Eddie Chambers, was to face the dangerous former heavyweight champion Siarhei Liakhovich on January 21 in the inaugural main event of NBC Sports Network’s “Fight Night” card at the Asylum Arena in Philadelphia. It was a fight that promised more exposure with American fight fans as any in the last five years. But, as is often the case in heavyweight boxing, the worst case scenario was realized. With days before the fight was scheduled to occur, Eddie Chambers pulled out of the fight citing injured ribs. It was a move that infuriated the Belarussian, who saw his biggest opportunity to shine in front of American fight fans disappear in an instance.
“Eddie Chambers is trying to save his face in the press right now,” commented Liakhovich angrily, “it is not about injuries. I want to tell everyone what happened. He knew on January 6 that he had a broken rib, and he did not tell us until January 13. Instead he was going around talking to the press as to how easy he will beat me!”
Although Liakhovich is familiar with dealing with injuries, the former champion feels that Chambers handled the situation in an unprofessional manner.
“He lied to his fans first of all. And also he put my team and NBC sports network in a situation where we don’t have time to find a suitable replacement on six days’ notice. With two weeks we can find a replacement, but not with six days. He took away my opportunity to fight by not telling about the injury on the 6th. I think punks like him should be punished and every promoter and every network should know how Eddie Chambers operates.”
The normally polite and reserved Liakhovich pulled no punches as he continued to criticize the Philadelphia native.
“I want all TV Networks and Boxing Promoters and everybody in boxing to know how Chambers operates. He plays a good guy image in the press, but his good guy image is a fake. He didn’t have the simple decency to tell another athlete about him pulling out as soon as he knew, yet, he’s still going around and trying to play a good guy. I wasted 6 weeks of training and all the expense of a training camp and was not able to fight because of his actions. NBC, Main Events and everyone involved had to scramble together last minute, all a result of Chambers’ actions. You can’t hold everyone hostage. It’s bullshit! How could he think his broken ribs would heal in one week? I read about how he said this would be a great opportunity and how he would beat me and all this bullshit. Talk the talk and walk the walk. He doesn’t deserve a fight on any network right now. Who could trust him?”
Liakhovich took some time to speak with Fightnews about Eddie Chambers and where his career goes after the cancelation of this fight.
Fightnews: Thank you for taking time to speak with us Siarhei. Eddie Chambers withdrew from the fight due an injury to his ribs that he incurred approximately two weeks ago during his training. Do you think he made the right decision? Did you think it was a serious enough injury to warrant pulling out of the fight?
Siarhei Liakhovich: I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. But what he did was not right. What he did was take away this opportunity to fight on TV. And I spent so much money for this training camp. What he did was not right. I understand he has an injury. In my career I had injuries. But I told everyone right away what happened and never took away from anyone the opportunity to fight and make money. He didn’t have the decency to tell the truth.
Fightnews: Do you think he was trying to keep you off TV so that you wouldn’t steal the limelight?
Siarhei Liakhovich: I don’t want to speculate. But from my point of view he is just a fucking punk. He cannot do this to other athletes.
Fightnews: Would you have stayed in the fight if you had a similar injury? How would you have handled the situation?
Siarhei Liakhovich: It depends what kind of injury. In my case, I don’t know. It is hard to judge how serious it was. But the injury is not the point, the point is that he didn’t tell anyone until the last moment. I understand if he just found out recently, but not two weeks before that. In that case he needs to tell what happened and not hold everyone hostage.
Fightnews: This was a great opportunity for heavyweight boxing to explode back on the scene with a major network and promised to provide more exposure to the division then it had seen in years. With this cancellation do you think this hurts the sport and in particular the American heavyweight boxing scene?
Siarhei Liakhovich: I think it is a big problem. And all these networks need to know about Eddie Chambers and what kind of business he did. I understand if this happened on the last day, but not two weeks before it.
Fightnews: What do you feel about how Main Events handled the situation?
Siarhei Liakhovich: They handled it pretty good. The put a last minute main event and they did a pretty good job.
Fightnews: Do you still want to fight Eddie Chambers?
Siarhei Liakhovich: I don’t want to deal whit his bull crap anymore. I will tell you right now who I want to fight…I want to fight Chris Arreola. I think he is waiting for a payday with Klitschko taking journeyman after journeyman. He should take a real fight. I want to challenge him to take a fight with me. This would be the fight that people would watch.
Fightnews: What options did you have for a substitute opponent for January 21st?
Siarhei Liakhovich: Yeah, there were options, but at some point they actually disapproved a few guys and some guys fell out. It was a big mess.
Fightnews: Did your camp turn anyone down?
Siarhei Liakhovich: It is hard when you train for six weeks when you want a particular style and then at the last minute to fight a different guy. It is hard to fight a last minute suitable opponent.
Fightnews: Rumor had it that Maurice Harris’ name was being mentioned as a possible replacement.
Siarhei Liakhovich: Yeah, they mentioned him, but he pulled out.
Fightnews: You recently started working with Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. How has that been going?
Siarhei Liakhovich: I worked with him for the last six weeks. He is very good, knowledgeable boxing guy who made a few adjustments on things I did wrong.
Fightnews: Do you know what is next for you now that this fight is off?
Siarhei Liakhovich: Not yet. Because my team right now was pretty busy with this program. But I am in shape and we have not discussed yet what we will do next. But I want to fight Chris Arreola.
Fightnews: Would a win over Arreola put you in line for title fight?
Siarhei Liakhovich: Absolutely, no doubt.
Fightnews: Any final message to Eddie Chambers?
Siarhei Liakhovich: What he did, he is the kind of guy who needs to tell the truth. For his actions…he is just a punk.