Ryno Liebenberg will challenge for the WBA intercontinental title against Enrico Koelling of Germany on October 1.
It’s a prime opportunity for the South African to get back into contention after his narrow recent loss against Erik Skoglund, which had the crowd on its feet.
Koelling is a former Olympian with 21 wins in 22 starts and is rated by three of the major organisations – WBA No 14, IBF No 6 and WBO No 12.
It’s another tough match for Liebenberg – the combined record of his recent world-ranked opponents (including Koelling) is a staggering 83-1-2.
But he’s never happier than when he has a fight lined up and Liebenberg was predictably upbeat about the prospect of travelling to Germany.
“I can’t wait. I know the promoters have asked me back because I put up such a good show against Skoglund, who I still reckon I beat. They know it, too. This is a hard fight, very hard. Koelling is an ex-Olympian with a decent pedigree. In the amateurs he beat a lot of boxers who are now world-rated. But this is the pros, it’s different.”
Koelling, who recently won the WBA strap, is also pumped for the challenge: “My expectations are high for this bout. The build-up is over, now it’s do-or-die! Ryno has already proven that he can hang with guys from the top of the light-heavyweight division. Beating him would show the world that I am also able to do so and even do better than him. I want a chance to fight for the world championship and this fight will show if I am on the right path to reaching my goal.”
Liebenberg has mixed in higher company than Koelling, chiefly Tommy Oosthuizen and Eleider Alvarez, but he will be under pressure to perform after his narrow recent loss.
“Koelling is a good boxer, but he has no power,” he said. “He doesn’t dance and run away, he puts pressure on and he fights. I like that . . . I excel when I can hit you because I’m a puncher-brawler. If I land, he’s gonna go. I have to knock this guy out because I know how judging goes when you are the away fighter.”
Speaking of Liebenberg’s strengths, Koelling said: “Ryno is a physical, very strong guy, who has superb stamina. He comes to fight for the whole 12 rounds. I like to hang with this kind of boxer because there is no backing down, just duking it out until the bell sounds. This makes for a great fight the fans will enjoy.”[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]’I like to hang with this kind of boxer because there is no backing down’ – Koelling[/perfectpullquote]
Koelling also has the advantage of having already studied Liebenberg as he was Skoglund’s chief sparring partner for the Swede’s fight against the man they call “The Lion”.
“I watched many of Ryno’s fights ahead of this bout and therefore fancy my chances to put him in his place. Erik is a friend of mine and I gave him some tips on how to handle Liebenberg. What can I say? He beat him.”
Koelling will have the added luxury of fighting in his back yard, in Neubrandenburg.
“The atmosphere is awesome,” he said. “This place is always sold out when it comes to boxing and the fans not only support their favourite but the sport. In addition, the venue is just 90 minutes away from Berlin, my home town. I expect a lot of support from home come October 1.”
This won’t daunt Liebenberg, however, as he is used to hitting the road and revels in the crowd baiting him. For now, he’s busy scouting around for sparring partners. “I’m lining up pressure fighters because that’s what is coming. I can’t wait.”
Said Koelling: “I have already been training on my fundamentals for over two months. This will be my most important fight to date and this is the way my coach and I are treating it. I am already in top condition and in a few weeks’ time will intensify my workout routine and start sparring afterwards. When the last bell has rung October 1, I will say to myself that I did everything possible to win this fight and this is what I am going to do!”