For a third successive day Asian fighters are involved in world title fights with Uzbek born Heavyweight Ruslan Chagaev (34-2-1, 21) defending his WBA title against unbeaten Australian puncher Lucas Browne (23-0, 20). The bout, one of the bouts recently set out as part of the WBA's Heavyweight unification tournament, will be taking place in Grozny and looks likely to be an intriguing bout, even if neither man is truly a world class Heavyweight, at least not at the moment.
Aged 37 Chagaev was once one of the top Heavyweights on the planet. There was a time where you could clearly describe him as the #2 Heavyweight, behind only Wladimir Klitschko. Sadly however that time was around 9 years ago, when he strung together wins over Volodymyr Vyrchys, Michael Sprott, John Ruiz and Nikolay Valuev.
At his best Chagaev was a tough and intelligent fighter. Technically he was among the best in the division. He could box, brawl or counter and seemed capable of being a very solid all rounder with hurtful power, better than average speed and a real gritty toughness. Sadly however his prime years were hampered with injuries and illness, and from 2009 onwards he was made to look very poor. That was most notable when he was stopped by Wladimir Klitschko in June 2009.
Since that loss to Klitschko we've seen Chagaev go 9-1, losing Alexander Povetkin in 2011 and subsequently stringing together 7 wins. Those wins have included a very controversial win over Fres Oquendo, in 2014, to claim the WBA “regular” title and a defense of that title, stopping Francesco Pianeta inside a round last year.
Whilst Chagaev was once a hugely talented fighter he's no longer that fighter and is now an older, slower and podgier fighter than the man he had once been. On the other hand Browne has never been any where near as good as a prime Chagaev.
In all honesty the Australian challenger is technically rudimentary, pretty limited and fundamentally flawed. Despite that he's a big hitter, with genuine power in both hands, he's tough, has a good engine and a great will to win. He can certainly be out boxed but not many will out brawl him and given his desire we suspect he'll be in the shape of his life for this bout. We're not saying he'll be ripped and look like a shaven headed, heavily tattooed Adonis, but he will likely be in much better shape than he was when he faced Eric Martel Bahoeli a couple of years ago, and came in at a frankly ridiculous 273lbs.
Naturally a big strong guy Browne is also incredibly likeable and although he'll be the first to admit he's not the most talented he's the sort of fighter who is very easy to cheer on. He's also a fighter who has taken to the road on a number of occasions, with bouts in the UK and Hong Kong. Saying that however those bouts say him as the affable visitor, and although away from home he was the “promoters boy” so to speak. In Grozny that will certainly not be the case, with he crowd almost certainly against him. He will have to use that to ignite a fire as it's very difficult to see him getting a decision here.
If Browne comes out swinging, and looks to shake up Chagaev we can genuinely see the WBA title heading with Browne to Australia. He has the power and physicality to see off the current version of Chagaev. If the challenger isn't firing on all cylinders however it's likely we'll see Chagaev take a clear decision, whether he deserves it or not.
Heavyweights and Asian boxing don't typically go hand in hand together, however Asia does have a Heavyweight “world” champion. That's WBA “regular” champion Ruslan Chagaev (33-2-1, 20) who defends his title on July 5th against once beaten Italian born fighter Francesco Pianeta (31-1-1, 17).
Chagaev, an Uzbek born southpaw, is the only Asian fighter to have ever won a Heavyweight world title. At one point he was regarded as one of the very best in the division, though those times are long gone and now, aged 36, he's a plodder with a political title belt that is seen by many as a joke. When talking about top Heavyweights no one mentions Chagaev's name, and in fact most wouldn't even regard him as a top 10, or even top 20 Heavyweight.
At his best Chagaev was a very solid all rounder with good strength, respectable speed, solid, though not monstrous power, and very well rounded skills. Those abilities lead him to notable wins over the likes of Volodymyr Vyrchys, John Ruiz and Nikolay Valuev. Sadly though those wins came more than 6 years ago and since then he has been stopped by Wladimir Klitschko and out pointed by a lethargic looking Alexander Povetkin.
Since losing to Povetkin in 2011 we've see Chagaev win 6 bouts, with the most recent being his “title” win last July when he narrowly, and controversially, over-came Fres Oquendo. That win seemed to show just how little Chagaev had left in the tank as he looked over-weight, slow, sluggish and very basic. The once sharp punching southpaw skills had seemingly long left him and had the bout been anywhere but Grozny he'd have almost certainly not picked up the win.
A year on from that narrow win we see Chagaev return to action to face Pianeta, who has previously faced the premier Heavyweight on the planet, Wladimir Klitschko. Klitschko is, to date, the only man to have beaten Pianeta, who was stopped a little more than 2 years ago by Dr Steelhammer.
Although Pianeta was dominated by Klitschko he is on a 3 fight winning streak over relatively weak opponents. His real claim to success is the fact he's a former EBU-EU champion holding the “European Union” title back in 2008-2009. Back then he scored some notable wins including a decision over the under-rated Johann Duhaupas and a stoppage against veteran Matt Skelton.
Aged 30 Pianeta is still a man with plenty of time left in his career. Like Chagaev he's a southpaw though unlike Chagaev he's never managed to prove himself near the top level. He's basic, lumbering and slow. Although a big man at 6'5” he doesn't do much to really stand out from the other predictable fringe contenders that seem to be awaiting a shot at another money fight. He's solid in most areas but nothing stands out about any particular part of his game.
Whilst Pianeta isn't impressive we don't see Chagaev having 12 good rounds left in him. In fact if anything he maybe has 6 rounds. Pianeta can be stopped but we see Chagaev being worn down late in what should go down as one of the most disappointing “Heavyweight world title fights” in years. Neither guy really belongs anywhere near a world title, even in this diluted era of title belts, though this is the joke that the WBA seem happy to keep playing on us.
Boxing politics is a funny old game and over the past few years we've seen it become more and more bizarre with the infamous "cold war" in the US forcing the top two Western Promoters to make more and more internal match ups.
In many cases the political situation of the sport has been frustrating, irritating and even backwards though it has rarely forced us to question the sanity of the organisation running the sport, even when the decisions haven't made any sense at all.
One that does have us tearing our hair out is the WBA's decision to have Uzbekistan's Ruslan Chagaev (32-2-1, 20) fight against American veteran Fres Oquendo (37-7, 24) for the "WBA Heavyweight" title. The decision, which immediately cheapens the sport is one that doesn't make sense in the slightest, in fact if anything the WBA are basically saying, openly, that they no longer care about who is the best in division and prefer to think about their sanctioning fees.
As we all know the WBA Heavyweight champion is Wladimir Klitschko who has, incidentally, beat the last 3 WBA Heavyweight champions in the form of David Haye, Alexander Povetkin and Chagaev. Though of course the WBA refer to him as the "WBA undisputed champion" a term as laughably stupid as decreeing this up coming contest as a "world title fight". Surely any organisations "world champion" should be their "undisputed champion" barring the few cases where a mandatory title is properly used, which of course we're seeing less and less often.
Anyway with that short rant out of the way lets get on to this "world" title fight which will be Chagaev's first "world title fight" since his loss to Alexander Povetkin back in 2011. Since that fight Chagaev has run up 5 successive wins, though the most notable of those was a victory over Jovo Pudar last time out. The victory over Pudar was impressive in terms of a performance but poor in several ways, includig the fact Chagaev came to the ring at 250lbs, a career heaviest and some 20lbs heavier than what he is at his best.
At his best Chagaev was a fantastic boxer who had sharp punching, good technique, a genuine toughness and decent snap. He wasn't a monster puncher or lightning quick but he was a very good all round boxer with very few real flaws despite being work man like at times. It was the hard and heavy work of Chagaev that saw him score wins over Nikolay Valuev, John Ruiz and Volodymyr Vyrchys with the Virchis fight being a very impressive one when one realises that Chagaev was far from his usual self due to tragedy outside of the ring.
Sadly however Chagaev is no longer the fighter he once was, in fact he's a million miles from that fighter. He has suffered with serious illness, he has aged notably and is also a long, long way from his best fighting weight. Fighters put weight on they get older but Chagaev hasn't been close to his best fighting weight in around 5 years.
As for Oquendo, who is the older man at 41, this will be his first fight for a "world title". Surprisingly it the American gets this chance on the second longest winning run of his career, a 5 fight winning streak. That winning run has seen him winning against a number of "journeymen" and "gate keepers" though it does appear that those are the sort of fights a boxer needs to secure themselves a world title fight, just ask Deontay Wilder.
Oquendo is one of the more skilled American Heavyweights. He's sharp with his punches, clever in the ring and a fighter who is best known for his speed, hence his nickname "Fast". At 41 he's not as fast as he once was but he's still quick for a Heavyweight in today's world and, in fairness to him, some would argue that his shot is over-due considering some of the other weak title contenders in recent years.
On paper this isn't a world title fight despite the whistles, bells and belt. Likewise Oquendo, despite his skills, isn't a world level fighter, he has lost every time he's stepped up and we imagine the same will happen here. Oquendo will likely give his all but we don't think he'll manage to give enough to over-come even this shop worn version of Chagaev who will become the first ever Asian to become a 2-time Heavyweight champion.
(Image courtesy of WBAnews)
There is no division in boxing quite like the Heavyweight division. No fighters through history have been spoken about in the way we speak about Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Mike Tyson. There is just something extra special about the Heavyweights.
Unfortunately it's fair to say that no matter how special the Heavyweight division is historically, it's not at it's most exciting right now. The US hasn't provided a notable Heavyweight in over a decade, the supposedly "exciting" David Haye has been incapable of cashing the cheque's his mouth has been writing and worst of all the top 2 fighters in the division have no chance of fighting each other due to the fact they are brothers.
Thankfully however this weekend promises to see the Heavyweight division given a sparkling of magic powder as Wladimir Klitschko (60-3, 51), the seemingly indomitable king of the division faces talented Russian Alexander Povetkin (26-0, 18) a man long tipped as the most obvious successor to the Klitschko monopoly of the world titles.
Of course a Russian Heavyweight challenging a Kazakhstan born Ukrainian may not seem that magical on paper but with everything at stake it is something special. Not only are the IBF, WBA, WBO, IBO and Ring Magazine titles on the line but so too is the staggering amount of money on offer and the potential place in history that the winner could find themselves getting.
For Klitschko his IBF title reign is the second longest reign of any Heavyweight champion in history, his 14 defenses of that belt is the 3rd most of any champion in the division. A victory here and he could very well end up breaking both records, such is the sorry state of much of the division. On the hand a victory for Povetkin would see him go from a much maligned pretender to arguably the biggest draw in the sport with a potential national audience of 143,000,000 fans and many more internationally who support him on the basis that he defeated Wladimir Klitschko.
With such much at stake there really is something a bit special being brought back in to the division.
Unfortunately for Povetkin he, like most others, has been written off before even setting foot in the ring with Klitschko. He's priced at around 11/2 and seen as the lamb walking to the slaughter. This isn't helped by the fact that Povetkin has twice reneged on bouts with Klitschko, firstly with an injury then secondly when his then trainer didn't have the belief in him to defeat Wladimir.
Aged 34 Povetkin has seemingly been around for an eternity, though this has been because of how highly spoken about he was when he turned professional in 2005. Prior to turning to the professional ranks was an outstanding amateur running up a reported record of 125-7 with Gold medals at the 2004 Olympics, the 2003 World Championships and the European championships of 2002 and 2004.
Much like Povetkin the 37 year old Klitschko first made his name in the amateurs. His amateur career, which resulted in a record of 134-6, was highlighted by his own Olympic Gold medal back in 1996 though was also lined with medals from various competitions.
Whilst their amateur career were, on paper, similar, their actual professional career's have been vastly different. Povetkin, turning professional in his late 20's was rushed into notable fights, he was given the "sink or swim" treatment and generally found himself swimming with only really Eddie Chambers pushing him close until he fought Marco Huck last year. This strategy paid off with Povetkin getting quickly ranked and winning the WBA "regular" in his 22nd professional bout.
Klitschko's career was a little more hectic. He turned professional aged 20, very young for a Heavyweight and was kept busy early in his career with fights on a very regular basis. Unfortunately his activity caught up with him and after little more than 2 years as a professional he was upset by Ross Puritty in what was his 25th bout in around 25 months. Since then Klitschko has been a 2-time world champion, winning his first WBO world title when he was just 24 and winning his currently titles in he last decade as he's becoming the dominant fighter of his generation.
Not only have the two men had different careers but physically they are very, very different and this, in turn, has lead to them each using a different style.
Povetkin is somewhat short and stubby. He stands at round 6'2" with a 75" reach whilst looking slightly doughy at around 227-230lbs. This has seen him fighting as a somewhat pressure fighter. He has excellent skills and can deliver some wicked shots, though he has got questionable stamina, questionable toughness and maybe most worryingly only average power. Yes his stoppage rate is around 70% but the most notable opponents on his record have gone the distance.
Klitschko is he opposite. He's tall at 6'6" and fights taller using his 82" reach to deliver repeated and heavy jabs, thunderous right hands and all whilst remaining patient on the outside. Unlike the doughy and soft physique of Povetkin, Klitschko always looks in great shape with a very athletic frame of 240-250lbs well spread. His stamina, like Povetkin's is questionable, so is his chin, but his power, especially from his potent right hand, is not.
For the Russian to win he must, at all costs, avoid the dynamite right hand. If that lands it could very easily be an early nights work for Klitschko. Instead he needs to use his speed, get inside and neutralise the reach of Klitschko. If Klitschko gets full extension on his shots he's devastating. Unfortunately for Povetkin the Ukrainian champion has found ways to land his fight controlling jab on everyone he has faced over the last 10 years or so and it'd be no shock if he landed it again here, at will.
With so much at stake we expect this to start very slowly, neither man wanting to make the first mistake. Unfortunately for Povetkin this visualisation isn't a good one for him because Wladimir Klitschko doesn't make many mistakes if you let him work at his pace. If we continue to mentally imagine the fight, Klitschko's jab will be thudding the face of Povetkin through the middle rounds and by round 9 or 10 the Russian will need miracle to avoid the booming right hand.
For Asian boxing we'd love to see the upset, though we're struggling to see how Povetkin can overcome the jab, the right hand, the reach and the overall skillset of Klitschko.
The special, magical feeling this bout has going in to it, may feel a little less than a cheap card trick by the end of the night. But don't let that stop you from looking forward to a bout that may, just, live up to the big fight feel that it seems to have around it.
Courtesy of Ya-number1
Russian Heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin (25-0, 17) looks to make the 4th defence of his WBA title this Friday as he takes on unbeaten Pole Andrzej Wawrzyk (27-0, 13).
Povetkin, pictured opposite, was a former amateur standout that many singled out to be the successor to the Klitschko brothers. His successes in the unpaid ranks included both World and Olympic gold medals and well over 120 wins from just over 130 bouts.
In his early professional career the Russian really did race off to a great professional start and beat numerous talented fighters. In all honesty his rise through the ranks really did send shock waves through the division as he blazed through solid opponents.
Sadly after an electric start to his career Povetkin's development started to slow down drastically as he had various issues including a change in trainer (to Teddy Atlas) and injuries that helped prevent a fight with Wladimir Klitschko. Despite those issues however Povetkin has claimed the WBA title and made 3 defenses of it as he's tried to prove that he's the #3 Heavyweight on the planet.
With victories over Larry Donald, Chris Byrd, Eddie Chambers, Ruslan Chagaev and Marco Huck we've certainly seen Povetkin in with talented opponents though we've also seen plenty of issues with the talented fighter. Against Huck it was obvious that Povetkin's stamina isn't great and his punch resistance whilst solid is unspectacular. Offensively he's a hurtful puncher with surprising hand speed though he's certainly not a banger and his record certainly makes him look like a harder puncher than he really is.
With Povetkin's undoubted resume being very impressive it's a bit of a shock that he is given the slating he gets on forums but much of that is due to the hype he got early in his career as a "Klitschko Killer". It appears that we could well see Povetkin v Klitschko, if, Povetkin gets beyond Wawrzyk here.
As the challenger Wawrzyk is a sizable under-dog, though this means he's fighting as a fighter with nothing to lose. His record, whilst containing an "0" in the L column is certainly worth risking for this massive opportunity and with many dismissing him already there is a case Povetkin could actually be over-looking him.
Aged 25 the Pole hasn't had a breath taking career so far. He's been a professional since 2006 though lacks any sort of notable win on the world stage with his better wins being over fringe European level guys like Denis Bakhtov. In all honesty it was the victory over Bakhtov that told us a lot about Wawrzyk, notably that he has heart though not the greatest punch resistance and the fact he was hurt several times by Bahktov, doesn't bode well here.
Technically Wawrzyk is "decent" but nothing spectacular, he makes some pretty basic mistakes, and has a lazy looking jab that is there to countered. With those two issues it's actually quite easy to see a Povetkin win quite early in the bout with his sharp straight right. If Wawrzyk has tightened up defensively he could give Povetkin some worries though in all honesty it's hard to see how the challenger could score the upset. It's obvious that he can't out boxing and also pretty clear that he hasn't the power to take advantage of Povetkin's questionable chin.
It's genuinely difficult here to see anything but a Povetkin win, sure upsets happen but a Wawrzyk win here would be amongst the biggest upsets of the year.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.