Roman Greenberg (24), Israel's premier heavyweight boxer successfully defended his Inter-Continental Heavyweight title by knocking out 31-year-old Russian Champion Alexei Varakin in the sixth round, at Monte Carlo, Monaco.
It was the usual steady, patient Greenberg who came into the fight 22 and 0, with 15 KO's, ranked 48th in the world by the IBO. His superior hand speed and ring knowledge allowed to him to dictate the terms of the fight, finding the opening he was waiting for in the 6th.
The punch that ended the fight was a crushing right uppercut that floored the big Russian, a winner of his previous 7 fights. Greenberg (23-0, 16KO's) received rare praise from boxing aficionado Angelo Dundee: "Greenberg has the fastest hands for a Heavyweight since Muhammad Ali."
He has also received his share of criticism for not jumping on weakened opponents and lacking the killer instinct. His conditioning coming in to this fight was suspect, clearly sporting a flabby mid-body for the first time in his professional carrier.
If Roman is serious about contending for the Heavyweight Championship of the World, he'll have to do more work in the gym, because the higher his rank goes the tougher his opponents are going to be, and not having the body to compete for 12 rounds is a major liability at the highest levels.
Still a patriot
Greenberg's story begins at age 11 when he made aliya with his parents. The difficulties he faced trying to become Israeli did not break the young boxer's spirit who, in 2000, won the silver medal at the World Boxing Championship.
The victory did not improve the family's financial situation and Roman decided to go pro, a decision that prevented him from participating in the 2004 Olympic Games but was the launch of a successful career outside of Israel.
Greenberg's long term relationship with former Israeli beauty queen contestant Atalya Kogan has not kept him in Israel. In 2004 Greenberg relocated to one of the world's boxing centers, London, where he received a warm welcome from the local Jewish community.
In an interview with Ynet this past September, Greenberg said: "During the war in Lebanon, I lost sponsorship opportunities. Nevertheless, it did not undermine my support of the country or change my opinion about Israel. Definitely not when it's trying to protect its citizens."
"During the war I was at home, in the north of Israel but even then I did not leave. I am a patriot. That's why I have the Star of David on my shorts," he added.