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)
Whilst many fight fans over-look the smallest division in the sport we genuinely love the Minimumweight division and consider Katsunari Takayama as one of our favourites due to his willingness to fight anyone. Amongst those that Takayama has been linked to in recent months is South Africa's WBA champion Hekkie "The Hexecutioner" Budler (25-1, 8).
Budler is widely regarded as either the #1 or the #2 fighter in the division along with Takayama who fills out the top 2 with most fans and independent rankings.
Although not much of a puncher Budler is still a nightmare to fight. He's quick on his feet, accurate with his punches and is very sharp with his shots which are often thrown in buzzsaw like combinations. It's not that he's going to knock out rivals regularly or hurt them but he's going to keep stinging them until whilst making them miss, a bit like Takayama does when he's at his best.
The lack of power hasn't prevented Budler from becoming an elite level buzzsaw who has managed to score notable wins against the likes of Florante Condes and Nkosinathi Joyi, both of whom are world class fighters even if they were slightly on the slide to what they were once.
This weekend sees Budler defending his WBA title against experienced Thai Pigmy Kokietgym (52-6-2, 22) who is stepping up to world class for just the second time in his long career.
The 32 year old Pigmy debuted way back in 1999 and began his career with an unconvincing 12-5-1 (8). Since then however he gone an amazing 40-1-1 (14) and established himself as one of the busiest men on the Thai boxing scene with around 4 bouts per year for the last 10 years. Of course, as we all know, Thai's are busy fighters though tend to fight a lot of poor fighters in an attempt to just stay busy and keep paydays coming in and unfortunately this has been the case with Pigmy who's most notable wins have come against very limited opponents.
Although he has 60 fights on his record Pigmy has only fought in 1 world title fight, losing that to the then unbeaten Kwanthai Sithmorseng on November 2010 via a split decision. Although he gave a great account of himself in that fight he still came up short and has been effectively put on the side until now.
Much like Budler, Pigmy is a fighter who basis his work on speed and tries to break down fighters or out point them with volume as opposed to blasting through opponents. He's not quite as sharp or technically correct as Budler but he's got the Thai warrior mentality and will continually take the fight to an opponent meaning that this could be a very interesting contest to watch.
Sadly for Pigmy the deck is stacked against him and whilst stylistically he and the South African are similar everything else is against the Thai. Pigmy at 32 years old, is getting on for a Minimumweight whilst the 26 year old Budler is just hitting his prime, the fight will be in Monaco on a show promoted by Golden Gloves Promotions, the company who back Budler, and it'll be the first bout outside of Asia for Pigmy.
We're expecting a very fun to watch battle here with both men throwing a hell of a lot at the other but unfortunately for Pigmy we simply can't see him over-coming the smarter, faster and every so slightly more powerful South African who appears to have all the advantages both out of the ring and in the ring. Thankfully with all the action we're expecting we're unlikely to find much to complain about after the fight which we're hoping could steal the show.
(Image courtesy of Golden Gloves Promotions, unfortunately it only features Budler and Martin Murray and not Pigmy)
Every so often in this great sport we get a must watch fighter who seems to transcend the typical fan base extend of him. One such fighter fighter is Ruslan Provodnikov (23-2, 16), the current WBO Light Welterweight champion.
Provodnikov, dubbed "The Siberian Rocky" for his all action style, is everyone one doesn't expect in a Russian fighter. The text book goes out of the window, the up right stance and educated boxing takes a back seat and instead what we get is a free swinging and somewhat wild looking warrior who does everything in the ring that fans enjoy even if trainers and corner men might not be huge fans. He's happy to take one, or two, or even three in an attempt to launch his own attacks. He's happy to set his feet and swing, he's also happy to chase an opponent in an attempt to cut them off and break them down.
Often with Provodnikov the action isn't pretty. It's not clean cut and smooth. Instead it's violent, rough, tough and bruising. It's as if the fighter has implanted the harsh Siberian landscape on his fighting style and doesn't mind showing it. After all if he survived in the harsh weather at home then he can survive in any ring with any opponent.
Although Provodnikov's style has always been eye catching and his performance on ESPN were often non-stop excitement it wasn't until last year that he managed to come to the attention of the wider boxing public with his great effort against Timothy Bradley. He lost the bout but became an instant fan favourite and his follow up bout with Mike Alvarado saw his popularity grow immensely whilst he also won his first world title.
That title, the WBO Light Welterweight world title, will be defended for the first time this coming Saturday when Provodnikov enters the ring for the first time as a world champion and takes on the unbeaten Chris Algieri (19-0, 8) in a fight that looks like a show case bout on paper for the champion, though promises to be really exciting.
Whilst Provodnikov will be, and deserves to be, the favourite, he's going to be fighting an unbeaten fighter who has a lot of self belief and is a strong man himself. Not only is Algieri strong but he's an intelligent fighter who uses his defence well, as shown in his latest fight against Emmanuel Taylor, moves well and has a very nice variety of punches. There is perhaps a lack of a "special" quality though there is a lot like about Algieri who looks like a fighter who can fight at the top level and hold his own.
Algieri is being shot down by a lot of people online who haven't seen him in action though if they made an effort to watch him they'd realise that he was a very credible challenger for Provodnikov. Sadly though only a handful of opponents are truly suitable for fans who, if they remember correctly, expected Provodnikov to be thoroughly out classed when he fought Bradley before having his break out performance.
What we're expecting is a fun to watch fight that will see Algieri boxing well early on before being dragged into a war with the Russian monster. Sadly for Algieri, though happily for the fans, this is where the fight will pick up and swing towards the defending champion who will begin to wear down the challenger who will fade and eventually be stopped after putting up a brave effort.
Despite feeling like Provodnikov will manage to break down Algieri in the middle rounds there is a chance that the Russian will have under-trained or over-looked his opponent. He was linked to much bigger fights and if the disappointment of fighting the little known Algieri plays on his mind he may well fail to impress. Provodnikov needs to make sure he gets in there and takes care of business in the hope of opening a big door for the end of the year. Bouts against big names are out there if he continues to win and so he needs a big victory here and hopefully that is what is in his head going in to this fight.
(Courtesy of barclayscenter)
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.