Ryno Liebenberg has always been the most earthy and honest of fighters, so when he says he’s finished if he loses his next fight, you know it‘s not hype.
“If he beats me, I’m done,” he says of Patrick Mukala, whom he fights in a super-middleweight 10-rounder at Emperors Palace in a fortnight.
“The guys I’ve lost to, sometimes controversially, have all been involved in high-level championship fights since,” says Liebenberg. “This guy [Mukala] is a nobody. He hasn’t beaten anyone. If I can’t get past a guy like this, someone I’m supposed to destroy, I’m done.”
The veteran admits to becoming complacent in his most recent fight, over-relying on his outstanding fitness against Enrico Koelling, but this hasn’t been the case ahead of his next assignment. He took eight weeks off work to dedicate himself to training. He’s also dieted for five weeks and was bang on the mark – 78,6kg – during a test weigh-in yesterday.
“I’ve pulled finger,” he says, supplementing his training at Colin Nathan’s HotBox with working out at the home gym he recently built.
He draws inspiration from the quality of performance he produced in all five of his defeats which have come in the past three years. He pushed Eleider Alvarez hard before cuts ended his challenge in 2014, and Alvarez now fights Adonis Stevenson for the world championship in December.
Twice he fought Enrico Koelling to a standstill and the German now fights Artur Beterbiev for the IBF belt, while Eric Skoglund has been involved in the Super Series.
These underscore both the quality of opposition Liebenberg has been matched with and the tough demands placed on him.
“That’s why I can’t begin to contemplate defeat on the 21st. I’m lucky; I’ve never needed boxing. I love the sport and I love to fight. But there’s no point in going on and losing. My family is growing – I have a baby on the way – and life moves on. I believe I have a few years left and this fight will prove it.”
Liebenberg has consequently promised Mukala, from DRC, will be in “the rawl of his life”. But he isn’t under-estimating the young lion.
“He hits effing hard. He’s a very strong, physical guy. He has power in both hands, and is quite clever. The little I’ve seen of him, he believes in his power. But he’s never fought anyone like me. I’m not one of the bums he’s fought. Look what happened to Brandon Thysse . . . too much too soon. That’s what this kid is in for, I promise you.”