Now a days we're set for the most exciting time in Uzbek professional boxing with a host of top Uzbek amateurs turning professional, and looking like they are set to be fast tracked in a really impressive and exciting fashion. Historically however the country hasn't had many notable professionals. Prior to the current wave it was really hard to make a list of notable Uzbeks, but one name that would have made that list is former Heavyweight Ruslan Chagaev (34-3-1, 21).
Chagaev, dubbed the "White Tyson", was an amateur standout, twice winning the World Amateur Championships, though he had one of those stripped, before becoming a professional world champion. To date he's the only Asian fighter to have won a Heavyweight world title and despite his career faltering at times he did manage several major wins during his 38 fight professional career.
Although we could talk about Chagave's incredibly interesting amateur career we're not going to do that and instead we will focus on his days as a professional as we bring you the 5 most significant wins for... Ruslan Chagaev
Volodymyr Vyrchys (March 11th 2006)
Fighting a close friend is never easy but that's exactly what Chagaev did in March 2006 when he took on good friend Volodymyr Vyrchys, in a bout between unbeaten fighters. The bout was pretty much a world title eliminator, with both men being world ranked, but there was more surrounding the bout than their friendship and potential title fight. Chagaev's mother was ill at the time, Chagaev has reportedly not slept the night before, and yet dug incredibly deep in what was clearly an emotional situation and did enough to take a close decision over Vyrchys. The win saw Chagaev move to 20-0-1 (16) and was a real gut check for the German based Uzbek hopeful who took a massive step towards a potential world title fight.
John Ruiz (November 18th 2006)
Around 8 months after beating Vyrchys we saw Chagaev take on former 2-time WBA world champion John Ruiz. Ruiz wasn't a great fighter, by any stretch, but was an effective one. He knew how to win, and regularly beat better fighters by making things ugly, and spoiling fights whilst fighting to his own strengths. Chagaev managed to take a split decision over Ruiz, in what was a WBA Heavyweight world title eliminator. This isn't a particularly exciting fight, very few Ruiz fights could be described as "exciting", but was a major win for Chagaev who moved within touching distance of a world title. It was proof he could fight against some of the best in the world, and could even beat a man who made life incredibly difficult for top fighters.
Nikolay Valuev (April 14th 2007)
The win over Ruiz had seen Chagaev secure a bout with WBA Heavyweight champion Nikolay Valuev. At this point Valuev was 46-0 and edging towards Rocky Marciano's legendary 49-0 record. Although Valuev, like Ruiz, was nothing special in regards to his fighting ability, he was another fighter who had a style that worked for him, and he also had some physical advantages. In fact Valuev was a 7', 320lb behemoth of a man. He was almost a foot taller than Chagaev and over 90lbs heavier than the Uzbek. Despite being dwarfed by Valuev we saw Chagaev defeat the "Beast from the East" to claim the WBA title, and create his own little bit of history. This was, at the time, the most significant win by any Uzbek in the professional ranks, by some margin.
Carl Davis Drummond (February 7th 2009)
After beating Valuev for the WBA title Chagaev's career went a bit awry. He beat Matt Skelton before suffering an out of the ring injury in 2008. This lead to the WBA instilling Chagaev as the champion in recess whilst he recovered, whilst Valuev recaptured the WBA title. When he returned to the ring after 13 months out Chagaev fought Costa Rican Carl Davis Drummond. The bout was a mess, and was stopped after 6 rounds due to a cut suffered by Chagaev, who won the technical decision. The bout really wasn't memorable or all that exciting, but it was significant. Not only was it Chagaev's first bout after a serious injury, but it also lead to a very messy situation with the WBA.
Due to the win over Drummond Chagaev was ruled to be a "co-Champion" along with Valuev, and the two men were supposed to fight later in 2009. That bout was planned for May but after Chagaev was found to have Hepatitis-B antigens the bout was scrapped. Due to that bout being cancelled and David Haye pulling out of a bout with Wladimir Klitschko we would end up seeing Chagaev and Klitschko facing off in a bout that essentially left us with a clear #1 in the division. Essentially this began a Heavyweight line that many still regard as being in existence today, more than a decade on.
Fres Oquendo (July 6th 2014)
Talking about something that's still on-going Chagaev would defeat American Fres Oquendo in 2014 to become a 2-time WBA Heavyweight champion. The result was regarded as massively controversial, and things weren't helped when Oquendo would later fail a drug test, according to RUSADA. The bout was another rather messy one, and if we're being honest it seemed like Chagaev got a home decision, with the fight then based in Russia. Despite the messiness of the result it's become messier since.
Currently Oquendo is in the WBA rankings due to a legally mandated world title fight, that he's been owed since this bout. But he's yet to get. In fact he's not fought since this bout, more than 6 years ago, he's never had his legally ordered world title fight but he was still in the world rankings at the time of writing, in May 2020.
Yup this win for Chagaev has lead to a man being world ranked, without fighting, for around 6 years.* Boy did this win for Chagaev really mess things up for Oquendo, and the WBA, who still technically owe Oquendo his shot...despite the fact he is now 47!
*Please note - Oquendo may have been dropped from the rankings by the time this is published, if so he was still there as of the WBA rankings for March 2020!
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