Top heavyweight prospect Deontay Wilder, the last man to win an Olympic medal for the United States when he claimed a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games, is stepping up to face his most significant opponent when he faces former titleholder Sergei Liakhovich.
Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer said Tuesday that the fight was signed and will take place as the main event on a Showtime-televised tripleheader on Aug. 9.
The site for the scheduled 10-round fight has not been determined. Schaefer said it could take place at the Fantasy Springs resort in Indio, Calif., or in Wilder's home state of Alabama, where he is a major sports figure.
The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Wilder (28-0, 28 KOs), known as "The Bronze Bomber," has compiled his glittering record against extremely weak competition, but Schaefer said it's time for the 27-year-old with the thunderous right hand to face tougher opponents.
"This is a great test getting in the ring with an experienced fighter," Schaefer said. "[Liakhovich] is a former champion and he has a lot of experience. He's clearly the most experienced fighter Deontay will have fought. But we feel he's ready. It's time to unleash the beast."
Wilder is coming off a 70-second demolition of England's Audley Harrison, a 2000 Olympic gold medalist, on April 27.
Golden Boy was in the final stages of making a deal for Wilder, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., to return to England to face former titleholder Dereck Chisora on July 20, but Wilder's ability to travel outside the United States was in question after he was arrested on May 4 in Las Vegas, where he was going to attend the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Robert Guerrero bout, for a domestic violence incident. That caused the deal for the Chisora fight not to be finalized.
"This kind of fight is a step in the right direction for Deontay," said Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez, who made the fight. "With heavyweights it's a very long process but now Deontay is fighting a former world champion and a guy that's tough. He's tough and dangerous and the kind of guy Deontay needs to fight, a guy with experience who will fight back."
Liakhovich (25-5, 16 KOs), 37, who is from Belarus but based in Scottsdale, Ariz., won a heavyweight world title in 2006 when he outslugged Lamon Brewster over 12 brutal rounds to win a unanimous decision. But Liakhovich lost the belt in his first defense later that year. He was ahead on all three scorecards when Shannon Briggs knocked him out with one second left in the fight in a dramatic comeback.
Liakhovich is on a two-fight losing streak against rising contenders, both by ninth-round knockout -- to Robert Helenius in August 2011 and Bryant Jennings in March 2012.
"He took a rest after the fight with Jennings," Tony Cardinale, Liakhovich's attorney told ESPN.com. "He was really disappointed in how he performed. He believed he took the kid too easy. He was convinced this guy had no experience and wouldn't be a problem and he was a problem. Sergei wasn't ready for that kind of fight.
"So he took some time off and then decided he didn't want to stop fighting. He thinks the conditions of the weight class are such that with one big win anyone is in the mix, and this is his one big fight. He wins this fight and he's back in the mix and ready for a shot at one of the [champion] Klitschko brothers. You win one good fight on television and hopefully you get a shot at one of them. Sergei is a tough guy and we expect Wilder will bring his 'A' game and Sergei brings his 'A-plus' game. We are signed, sealed and delivered."
Gomez said there will be two other televised bouts on the card featuring prospects -- junior middleweight Jermall Charlo (14-0, 10 KOs), 23, of Houston, and junior lightweight Francisco Vargas (16-0-1, 13 KOs), 28, of Mexico.
The deals are not finalized but Gomez said Charlo could face Antwone Smith (23-4-1, 12 KO), 26, of Miami and Vargas could face Brandon Bennett (15-0, 7 KOs), 25, of Cincinnati.