The history of boxing has seen it all, turn arounds, comebacks, feel good stories and shocks. In fact we saw all of those earlier today when the scary looking but genuinely affable Lucas Browne (24-0, 21) scored one of the early shocks of the year, and stopped Uzbek Ruslan Chagaev (34-3-1, 21) to claim the WBA “regular” Heavyweight title.
Chagaev, the only Asian Heavyweight champion in history, was heavily favoured to record the second defense of the title but instead found himself being the latest victim of the Australian who had put in real work to prepare for his opportunity. That preparation was shown at the weigh in, when Browne came in at a career low, whilst Chagaev came in close to a career high.
Not only was Browne in great shape but he was also looking like a man with a clever game plan and began the bout boxing on the back foot, making the most of his reach advantage and easing himself in to the contest. The opening couple of rounds acted as a chance for Browne to relax and get his feet set for the bout, and although the pace was slow it was certainly not a problem for either man. Whilst Browne acquitted himself well, Chagaev was landing the better punches however they weren't having much effect and he wasn't able to slow the challenger's movement.
In rounds 3 and 4 the pace changed with Browne stepping up the pace and forcing Chagaev to take shots, particularly uppercutts and body shots. Again Chagaev was landing the better blows but Browne was starting to out work the champion and the intelligence of Browne was showing through as he went around the guard several times.
The higher tempo continued in to round 5 as both landed some of their best shots up to that point. Both managed to have some success with their jabs, but it was the counter straights that seemed to be the more telling, with Chagaev getting some very solid lefts through the guard, whilst Brown managed to lands his own thudding right hands.
Chagaev's power hadn't had too much effect in the first 5 rounds, though changed in round 6 with the defending champion upping the pace and landing some very solid left hands as Browne began to look like a man who was tiring. With Brown'e defense falling apart Chagaev managed to find a left that clean and dropped Browne who seemed wobbly when he got to his feet. With Browne clearly not recovered Chagaev went on the attack and wobbled Browne again whilst trying to force a stoppage. The round, which seemed to go on for a much longer period than it should have, ended with Chagaev landing a combination after the bell and it looked like the end was nigh for Browne.
The minute rest between rounds 6 and 7 seemed to be enough for Browne to recover his senses and he came out with bad intentions, letting his hands go early with some savage uppercutts. The uppercutts seemed to get Chagaev's respect, and forced the champion to think twice about what he was doing. It was a great change in tactic from Browne who seemed to realise that he needed to gamble. It did however almost back fire with Chagaev stiffening the legs and hurting Browne late in the round. Well we say late in the round, the bell actually went with 42 seconds left and may well have saved Browne from being stopped late in the round whilst blood was dripping down his face from a number of cuts that had begin to form.
Browne again showed his great recuperative powers at the start of round 8 as he landed some solid right hands. The round however was a mostly quiet round with both looking happy to catch their breath after what had been a couple of very intense rounds. The intensity was again relatively low ion rounds 9 for the most part, but both had their moments, with Chagaev landing a fantastic uppercutt and Browne landing some solid right hands. There was however a feeling that both were visibly tiring.
After the two slow rounds the action picked up in round 10 with Browne landing some clubbing rights early on whilst Chagaev managed to land a very clean left. It seemed like the left was going to be the start of something from Chagaev but the the champion couldn't follow up at all and it took some time before he landed another shot of note. Sadly for Chagaev the next left he threw with bad intentions was countered with a wonderful right hand from Browne which dropped Chagaev hard. The Uzbek took his time to recover his feet but eventually got up, looking lost and confused. Browne charged in looking for the finish and unloaded shot, after shot, after shot on a bewildered Chagaev who was, eventually, saved by the referee.
For the 37 year old Chagaev this is almost certainly the end. There was some magic in what he did at times, but he looked like a fighter who had little stamina, little intensity and couldn't keep an assault going. The once very talented fighter now looks like a man who is likely to retire. For Browne however the “Cinderella Man” story is complete and the 36 year old, who turned professional at 29, now has a great chance to cash in on his career.
At one point, a few years ago, Ruslan Chagaev (34-2-1, 21) was considered one of the best Heavyweights on the planet. Today he's a lowly regarded fighter in the much derided Heavyweight division. Despite the relatively low standing that Chagaev has he does hold the WBA title and, several years beyond his prime, he does still garner some attention courtesy of his title.
Late on Friday in Germany the Uzbek recorded the first defense of his title has he made incredibly light work of Franceso Pianeta (31-2-1, 17) who gave one of the most pitiful efforts in a Heavyweight world title bout.
The two men came out battling with their southpaw jabs early on though within 30 seconds or so it was clear that Pianeta was intimidated by the champion and was backed up by Chagaev, despite the fact the champion didn't throw a really meaningful punch. It didn't take for that to change and when Chagaev landed his first left hand of note the challenger went down, after less than a minute.
Pianeta looked in pain but got to his feet in an attempt to fight back against the Uzbek champion. That fight back however consisted of little it wasn't long until he was backed up again and hurt once more. Only seconds later a couple of left hooks, the second of which was a glancing blow, sent Pianeta down for the second time. This time he was unable to continue, with the bout being waved off as he got to his feet.
For Chagaev, the only Asian to ever become a Heavyweight world champion, this was an impressive result but one that really belies the fact that Pianeta was simply terrible. It told us nothing about what Chagaev has left and instead just made it clear that Pianeta should never get a shot at any world class fighter ever again. His punch resistance is simply non-existent.
An often made comment by boxing fans in recent years is that the Heavyweight division is dying. It, apparently, lacks excitement, action and characters. The fighters don't put on wars like they used, they don't have memorable contests like they used to and, worst of all, the fights don't capture the imagination like they did when the likes of Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield were at their primes.
On the whole we tend to disagree, two of the most interesting stories we've had on this site were related to Heavyweight boxing and there is, when the occasion is right, real excitement concerning the biggest weight in the sport.
Sadly when you mention "Heavyweight boxing" and the "WBA" in recent years you also need to apply the world "farce" to any complete and accurate sentence. It may seem harsh but really, it's true. The WBA have allowed more farcical title fights in the Heavyweight division than the other 3 major bodies have allowed, combined. The most recent of those farces came earlier today when former champion Ruslan Chagaev (33-2-1, 20) and the 41 year old Fres Oquendo (37-8, 24) fought for the WBA "regular title", a title that really should be re-named the "WBA-we want more sanctioning fees title".
On Friday night the bout was in serious jeopardy as Oquendo's promotional team seemed to refuse to allow him to fight. After a wrangle between the two parties a deal was thrashed out allowing the American to fight though delaying his journey to Chechnya where the fight was taking place. It seemed, for the first few rounds, that that delay in arriving took it's effect on Oquendo who started remarkably slowly.
By the end of the fifth round Chagaev looked to be in cruise control. He had won 5 rounds against a man who simply looked like he didn't want to be there. In round 6 however things started to turn as Chagaev appeared to tire and suffered a nasty cut that seemed to help Oquendo spring into life. Unfortunately for Oquendo he failed to really have the drive or desire to make the most of his opportunity, the skills were there but the determination to win wasn't and instead he ponderously went through the last few rounds against a man who lacked the energy to really fight back.
With Chagaev struggling his buddy, the president of Chechnya, came to his call and walked over to the corner to offer his words of encouragement. We kid you not Ramzan Kadyrov was giving the corner advise to Chagaev. We're unsure what was said but it appears that the words helped Chagaev see his way through the final few rounds, including a torrid 12th which saw him looking all in. Oddly it seems that the bell came to the saviour of Chagaev with the round ending 10 seconds early.
Despite the good start the Uzbek born fighter did see his lead away at by Oquendo's late charge. The charge saw one judge scoring the bout 114-114 but the other two both scored the bout 115-113 in favour of Chagaev, now an adopted Chechen, who celebrated with both the president and the president's child. In all honesty whilst the fight was relatively forgettable it did give Heavyweight boxing a new "character", that of Ramzan Kadyrov who appears to have more passion, desire and money than many others involved in the Heavyweight division.
With the WBA belt around his waist Chagaev becomes a 2-time WBA Heavyweight champion though he really is ripe for the picking and any fighter with the desire to win will beat him. Interestingly this may well see him offered a lot of money to leave Russia to fight someone like David Haye or Tyson Fury and we'd, sadly, favour both of those men to beat this version of Chagaev with out any real problems.
(Image courtesy Notifight.com)
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.