ROMAN GREENBERG.298.8 .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For 58 years, Israel has been waiting for a heavyweight boxing champion of the world. If everything goes according to Roman Greenberg's plan, the long drought will end next year.
Israel's top heavyweight boxer is completely focused on the lofty goal and has faith in his abilities. "If I didn't believe that I could be the world champion, I wouldn't be fighting," Greenberg told The Jerusalem Post during an interview while vacationing in Israel. "If everything goes as planned, I will win my next two fights in November and December and next year I will fight for a world title."
For the 24-year-old's plans to materialize, he will first need to beat Alexei Varakin on November 4. Greenberg, who is the current IBO Intercontinental Champion and is undefeated in his 22 fights to date, will have to be at his best if he's to beat the 31-year-old Russian.
"I'm optimistic ahead of any fight. This will be a challenge for me," he said of his next rival. "He is a good fighter who has only lost against the best fighters in the world."
Greenberg's preparations for the fight against Varakin were disrupted last month when he lost a sponsor because of his views on the war in Lebanon. The Israeli was ready to sign a deal with an unnamed English firm, but after a published interview came to the attention of his intended sponsor, all relations were severed.
"As soon as the sponsor saw the article, he called me and said that he was not interested anymore," Greenberg recalled. "In the article, I was asked about the war in Lebanon and I stated that I support the Israeli government and the IDF 100 percent. I said that Israel should wipe out all the terrorist organizations."
Greenberg managed to find a new sponsor almost immediately. The BGM Web site contacted him after hearing of his story and quickly signed him to a new sponsorship deal. "We believe in Greenberg's talent and in his great personality," the new sponsors said. "Greenberg's success is our success and we plan to continue to support him for a long time."
Greenberg began boxing at the age of 11 after a friend took him to a boxing club in their neighborhood in Kiryat Bialik. He soon excelled and at 15 won the silver medal at the European junior boxing championships.
The boxer had to pay for his own plane ticket to the European championships and to this day is extremely critical of the attitude towards boxing in Israel. "Boxing isn't treated properly in Israel," he claims. "The boxing level is very poor and in a constant decline.
"The funding and the help the boxers receive are appalling. I had to pay for my own plane ticket to get to my first European championships. If you were to tell this to any boxer from overseas, he would laugh in your face.
"A child without financial backing is unable to fulfill his potential. Unfortunately, many children's dreams have ended because of this."
Despite his bitterness about the lack of help he received at the start of his career in Israel, Greenberg, who has spent the last five years in England developing his boxing career, proudly fights with the Star of David on his shorts.
"Through the Star of David, I represent Israel and myself," he declares. "All through history, the Jews have always had to fight for their freedom and for their lives. When I come out wearing the Star of David, it shows the whole world that the Jews are still here and that they are successful."
Greenberg returned to England this week to resume his rigorous training regime ahead of his next fight in six weeks. He believes that he is "edging closer and closer to the highest level of boxing," and is confident of victory. "I would like to win my next few fights and avoid injury," he said. "If I can do that, I'll achieve my goal."