Forrest injury creates
dead end sipping
White Russians

Apr 11, 2006 6:24 AM

Vernon Forrest is injured again so his intriguing HBO date next Saturday with Ike Quartey has been indefinitely postponed.

The only bout of note on the weekend is the April 14 ESPN2 Friday Night Fights main event between Audley Harrison and Dominick Guinn, to which we say, "Not here."

They’ll probably advertise it as a "crossroads" fight, but it’s really a meeting of two dead ends. That brings us to the rest of the heavyweight division, which it seems, is being taken over by the White Russians.

Okay, they’re not all really "Russians," but it’s possible that by year’s end, all four alphabet championships will belong to members of the former Soviet Union. It may not be a commie plot, but there is almost an anarchistic tinge to these revolting developments.

Sergei Liahkovich of Belarus, after his upset of the out-of-shape and poorly prepared Lamon Brewster, joins Nicolai Valuev, the lone true Russian in the White Army, as a strap-holder.

It only remains for two others to repeat earlier victories over the last two American title-holders for us to begin looking for a Great Black Hope. Wladimir Klitschko of the Ukraine will probably be at least a 3-1 favorite April 22 in Mannheim, Germany, when he challenges Chris Byrd for the IBF trinket, having already scored a lopsided decision over the slippery southpaw.

Oleg Maskaev of Uzbekestan once knocked out Hasim Rahman, sending the current WBC title-holder out of the rings and almost atop Jim Lampley’s head. Maskaev, a bit long in the tooth perhaps, must be Rahman’s next challenger. That’s the mandate from the WBClowns, negating James Toney who while badly out of shape held Rahman to a draw last month.

Klitschko and Maskaev both carry chins marked fragile and neither is exactly making hearts flutter. This is a time where such as Shannon Briggs, Riddick Bowe, Oliver McCall and even Mitch Green can continue to dream. Never has the division stooped so low in public esteem.

Yet, in recent weeks, there have been two above-average heavyweight "title" contests. First, there was the Rahman-Jones draw, which had some moments of action and was at least very, very close.

Then came the Liahkovich-Brewster brawl, which allowed Showtime commentator Steve Albert to marvel that "we’ve got an exciting, competitive heavyweight fight." Exciting, yes. Competitive, yes, though Brewster won only two rounds on my card. Very good, no.

The reason it was competitive was that both contestants are, to mimic the terminology used by Floyd Mayweather Jr., "C" fighters. I’m not sure they’re even "C-plus."

Brewster is virtually impossible to miss. He underwent an operation for a detached retina, which he said he suffered in the opening round and couldn’t see all the punches. The way he doesn’t move his head or hands, not even more eyes than a Terrell Owens monologue would have helped.

Liahkovich may be something. His only pro defeat was a knockout by the light-hitting Maurice Harris, but a vitamin shot before the bout was blamed for making him woozy. Vitamins have that effect on me, too. In any case, he showed a fine jab, a decent chin and has improved considerably since beating Guinn in 2004 under the tutelage of trainer Ken Weldon.

He owes Brewster a contractual rematch — when you fight for Don King and the WBOogers decide which rules apply, then you can have an immediate rematch. Liahkovich will have to wait, though, for Brewster to heal.

We’ll get up close and personal about the Byrd-Klitschko rematch in the next essay. Rahman-Maskaev II still has a way to go before being scheduled. In the meantime, we should all remember that the current state of heavyweight affairs. All we can hope for is exciting, competitive fights.

I don’t think "good" is an applicable adjective, not even with the cream of the next crop. Samuel Peter, the Nigerian Nightmare, is light years away from being a good boxer. However, he has a terrific chin and knockout power in both hands. In today’s market, that makes him a valuable future.

And yes, there is an American hope. Undefeated Calvin Brock has knocked out opponents with one punch. But, that’s all they were — opponents. He can box a bit, along with showing enough guts and smarts to make it to the top.

Meanwhile, there’s the ESPN2 heavyweight division, featuring this week Fraudley Harrison, as he is known in his native Britain, and the lackadaisical Guinn. But it’s Friday night, so you don’t have to watch. "Monk" will be on USA Network. Now there’s a heavyweight.