The Silver Bullet moves in me as I type this, and it’s about the only thing that could get me to write something more than a few sentences about the heavyweight fight Saturday between Nicolay Valuev and Ruslan Chagaev (headline from another writer: “Nicolay Valuev Vs. Ruslan Chagaev Rematch: Should We Just Ignore It?”). Or maybe I’m just compelled by professional obligation, as a Highly Paid Boxing Blogger, since this is a meaningful fight from the vantage point of it featuring two top-5 heavies. I must be; I spent some time today watching clips of both boxers, and only alcohol in combination with a highly developed sense of duty could convince me to do such a thing.
Chagaev is the higher-ranked of the two, having beaten Chagaev in 2007. His nickname is “The White Tyson,” which is as funny as it is embarrassing, since his predominant trait is anything but ferocious punching power. If anything, his predominant trait is bad luck.
After all, in three of his last five fights, including this one, the opponent ledger reads Valuev, Valuev and John Ruiz. Worse luck still, his list of injuries since then far exceeds those of O.J. Simpson’s character from the “Naked Gun” movies. The “Howl”-like litany of alleged or actually cited illnesses that forced him to pull out of fights — sometimes more than one has been blamed for the same pullout — are as follows: hepatitis B; a torn Achilles tendon; blindness in one eye; a “protracted virus infection… which doctors know as viral laryngitis and pharyngitis but non-doctors know as highly feverish viral infection of the upper respiratory tract with heavy symptoms;” and my favorite, “acute inflammation of the body.” Appropriately, his last fight was a technical decision win that was stopped early due to an injury, specifically a horrendous cut. Here’s the good news for him, though: He’s the WBA co-champion of his division! As if four sanctioning bodies and their belts — champion in recess, super champion, regular champion, interim champion — aren’t bad enough, now there are co-champions.
The other co-champion is, of course, Valuev. (All right, I’m relying on wikipedia’s Ruslan Chagaev entry and dubious claim that Chagaev and Valuev are “co-champions” to make an exaggerated point, but both men do claim to be the “undisputed” WBA champion, so maybe we can all just agree to get along and make these fellas all the champions, mkay? If a boxer is feeling neglected or down in the dumps, maybe we can have a belt charity program where everyone gets a belt just to make ’em feel better. Like when the WBC stripped Vernon Forrest of his junior middleweight belt the other week and named him “Ambassador of Peace and Good Will in the World of Sports.” Don’t feel sad, big guy! You’re still special!)
Valuev is, of course, the most physically freakish specimen in the sport at 7’0″ and 300+ pounds, about a foot and a hundred pounds bigger than Chagaev. Is it any wonder that he has to shave with an axe
? He’s more than just a big boy, though. He’s sensitive. He used to enter the ring to “Iris,” the mawkish anthem from Replacements wannabes The Goo Goo Dolls, and he wooed his wife with poetry. He was on the verge of breaking Rocky Marciano’s record for an undefeated heavyweight streak, via a strategy of fighting nobodies, before he ran into Chagaev. After the loss, he switched trainers, switched up his conditioning program and looked improved in a couple consecutive wins. But in his last fight, it was Valuev, not Chagaev, who appeared to come down with an illness — like maybe a bad spell of leprosy — as he looked lethargic and slower than ever getting outboxed by a shot, 46-year-old Evander Holyfield. He got the decision win, but few think he deserved it.
Neither of these guys are big punchers, so it’s extremely likely that we’re headed for another decision, probably of the low-contact variety, if the last fight is any indicator. It had its moments, don’t get me wrong, but it was one punch at a time as Valuev chased the more nimble Chagaev around the ring and Chagaev picked his spots carefully for straight left hands. Valuev may or may not be better than he was then, if the Holyfield fight tells us anything, and Chagaev may or may not be slower from his Achilles tendon injury, although he didn’t look much like it in his first fight back from the injury. That means, ta-da, prediction time, Chagaev will win again by decision, maybe a close decision.
I’ve got nothing against either of these guys personally, despite my scorched earth preview here, and rather get the idea that Valuev is kind of a nice and interesting dude. Chagaev even can box a little for a modern heavyweight, despite being thoroughly unentertaining to watch, so I respect that he has some skill. But that this fight pits two of the best heavyweights in the world against each other is a punch in the stomach or even lower to me as a boxing fan. The division is Just. So. Awful. And the weird issue of this being for a solitary sanctioning organization’s “undisputed” championship is Just. So. Dumb. (Finland is happy to be hosting its first-ever heavyweight title fight, but it is a Heavweight Title Fight In Name Only [HTFINO].) It will almost assuredly suck as fights go, and there’s not much that could make it worth checking out (which you can do at ard.de) that I’m capable of imagining. Maybe if you’re from one of these guys’ home countries — and I feel a lot less worse for picking on them knowing that the fight probably will make decent bank — or if Valuev suffers his first knockdown, just to see what happens to the ring when he crashes to the ground (although I don’t want to see him get knocked out or anything, since I like him a little).
I’ve run out of steam here. Back to devoting myself full time to the Silver Bullet.