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.
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.