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)
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.