Eleider “Storm” Alvarez will take another step towards stardom when he faces WBC-ranked contender Ryno Liebenberg this Saturday. The match will mark a milestone for the Colombia-born Alvarez, as he will compete for the first time as a professional outside of Montreal, his city of residence. Both Alvarez and Liebenberg will enter the ring in Monaco sporting undefeated records, and with so many big names making waves in the light-heavyweight division, both combatants are surely aware they must post an impressive performance if they want to keep climbing the ranks.
But despite all the pressure, Alvarez, whose main assets in the ring are his flashy hand-speed and snappy combinations, seems comfortable enough as fight night approaches. He claims the novelty of fighting somewhere other than Montreal is no novelty at all, since he fought most of his amateur commitments outside of Canada. Moreover, he proclaims to have had a great training camp in preparation for Liebenberg, one in which he had the chance to train alongside both Jean Pascal and Artur Beterbiev.
Marc Ramsay, Alvarez’ trainer, is happy with the upcoming matchup. Speaking to the media, the trainer said of Liebenberg that he will pose a good challenge for Alvarez, but one the 30-year-old “Storm” should surpass. “(Liebenberg)’s a well-rounded fighter, with above-average power and above-average defense,” said Ramsay. “He’s an aggressive guy who’s coming to fight.”
Liebenberg has scored eleven KOs in 16 encounters and is currently ranked number four at light-heavyweight by the WBC, with Montreal’s Adonis Stevenson holding the crown and Jean Pascal being the current number-one challenger. So a win by Alvarez, who currently occupies the eleventh spot in the WBC rankings, would propel him upwards, perhaps giving him the chance to fight for the top-challenger spot in the near future.
Beyond the Liebenberg vs. Alvarez encounter, the card in Monte Carlo has in the past few days become of increasing interest to fight fans because the outcome of the main event could provide Khazak bruiser Gennady Golovkin with his next opponent. Brit middleweight Martin Murray will step through the ropes this Saturday in an attempt to earn victory number 29 overall and his fourth consecutive win since posting a losing effort against Argentina’s Sergio Martinez back in April of last year. He will square off against Italy’s Domenico Spada, whom few give a significant chance of upsetting the strong Murray.
Ironically, Murray’s rating and reputation rest primarily on a draw and a loss. Most thought Felix Sturm was highly fortunate to not see another defeat on his ledger after Murray out-punched him over 12 rounds back in 2011. And in 2013 more than a few observers saw Murray as the rightful winner when he gave champion Sergio Martinez one of his toughest fights before dropping a close decision to “Maravilla” in Argentina.
Thus, Murray has earned recognition as a tough middleweight who’s unafraid to mix it up and who’s more than capable of hanging with higher-ranked opponents. It’s not hard to see why he’s the overwhelming favorite against Spada, who has invariably come up short against the most talented middleweights he’s seen in the ring, namely Marco Antonio Rubio, Sebastian Zbik and Darren Barker.
With so much at stake, the budding names competing this weekend will be trying hard to make the most of the opportunities in front of them, and this is often enough to produce either dramatic action or breakout performances. For this reason, fans are well-advised to keep an eye on this intriguing European card. — Robert Portis