Unbeaten Cromer crowd pleaser Liam Walsh will be required to negotiate the toughest 36 minutes of his 20 year fighting career if he is to realise his dream of finally contesting a world title.
The 30 year old they call ‘Destiny’ belts beaks with Russian iron man Andrey Klimov in a final eliminator for the right to face unbeaten champion Jose Pedraza of Puerto Rico.....but this semi-final at Harrow Leisure Centre on Saturday is certainly no ‘gimme’ for the pride of Norfolk.
While Komrade Klimov currently lauds it at his Beverly Hills residence in California, his fighting instincts can be traced to the austere cotton mill town of Klimovsk, 35 miles south of Moscow. It was there that he first began to rumble inside a boxing ring, aged of nine, and he has been honing both physique and technique ever since.
A graduate of the Soviet’s spartan amateur regime, he won the national amateur title and several international gongs during a 150 bout innings in the vested code.
Unlike Walsh, Klimov has met with defeat twice in 21 gigs since vaulting to the profession in February 2009. However, the grizzled 34 year old has conducted his affairs in altogether more taxing company and victories over such as Ty Bennett (one loss in 20), Matias Gomez (29-1), John Molina Jr (25-2), Francisco Contreras (22-4) and Gabina Cota (two losses in 20) eclipse the scalps listed on the Brit’s impeccable 20 fight slate.
His conquerors were both revered world champions. The aforementioned Pedraza outfoxed him over 12 for the vacant IBF belt 16 months back while serious P4P contender Terence Crawford relieved him of his unbeaten tag three years ago. No disgrace there. Walsh is yet to test himself against anything remotely close to that calibre.
Klimov’s 19-2 slate lists nine stoppage wins but predominantly he is a fundamentally sound – if naturally awkward – technician. An inch taller than Walsh at 5ft 8 ½, the Russian is yet to be dumped on his rump (amateur or pro), boasts inexhaustible stamina and a sturdy psyche. In the red column, he is neither the quickest nor most mobile. Skilsters Crawford and Pedraza both registered landslide decisions over him.
Words and smiles are few for this religious man who lists his favoured pastimes as reading and chess. Above all, paying fans and BoxNation subscribers can expect to witness a serious, battle hardened, fiercely competitive operator; in line with the Russian stereotype.
With eight starts on US soil under the management of LA based Union Boxing, he is unlikely to be unnerved by travelling to the UK, even if Walsh’s ‘Farmy Army’ is among the most vocal and vociferous on these isles.
Inactive for 16 months, time will tell if he is re-energised or rusty. He will strut to ringside as a live 13-5 outsider but, with so much to gain, motivation won’t be an issue.
One senses that Walsh will need to arrive with nothing less than his A game if he is to prevent Klimov and Pedraza renewing acquaintances.
Opponent Walsh assesses: ‘I love to delve into opponent’s backgrounds but can find very little about Klimov on either Facebook or Twitter.
‘I’ve seen about seven of his fights on DVD – including Molina, Crawford and Pedraza – and he’s definitely the best opponent I’ve faced.
‘He’s mixed in very good company and is a very solid, world class pro. Though he does nothing brilliantly, he does everything good; excellent formation, consistent defence. His front hand sets everything up; top jab, decent left hook. His right hand is almost nonexistent.
‘And he’s super tough. Apparently he’s never been knocked over in something like 150 amateur bouts and 21 pro fights. Against Pedraza, he broke his nose before half way and took plenty of solid whacks on it after that. His face was a swollen mess at the end but there was no quit in him.
‘But Crawford and Pedraza have provided the blueprint on how to beat him.
‘I always enter fights happy to use my skills and get home safely.......until I get hit! I’d love for Klimov to sign up for a war with me but expect it to be cagey. Realistically, to win, I’ll have to box smart, be strict with myself from round one to twelve and gradually break him down.’