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Ruslan Chagaev-Less like White Tyson, more like White Holyfield


BoztheMadman
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Ruslan Chagaev was one of the most talented boxers to come from the former Soviet Union, but at 6'1 he was too small for a heavyweight of this century. He would probably have a better career if he could've fought at cruiserweight. Still, he managed to overcome incredible physical challenges when he defeated then-undefeated giant Nikolay Valuev to win his first WBA title. He is also the second ever Uzbek pro world champion, after Artur Grigorian. Although he did have some success, he was doomed to failure against a guy like Wladimir Klitschko, who then ruled the division-simply because he wasn't big enough or hard-hitting enough. He still had a good career and won the WBA title three times, only losing to the best in his prime.

 

Ruslan Shamilevich Chagaev was born 19 October 1978 in Andijan, what was then a part of Soviet Union, but later became the independent nation of Uzbekistan. As amateur, Ruslan showed extraordinary talent by beating Felix Savon on points in the finals of the 1997 world amateur championships. However, he had already boxed two pro fights, so he got disqualified upon this revelation. He won both those fights by ko. He also competed at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, but failed to win a medal. At the 1999 world championships, he lost on points to Savon. He embarked on a pro career in 2001 and first beat the tough Everett "Bigfoot" Martin by TKO4. In 2002 he fought Rob Calloway but the fight ended as a technical draw after 3 rounds-after Calloway got cut by an accidental butt. He won 14 more fights, last one a rematch with Calloway, knocking him out in 2 rounds, before fighting the 20-0 Ukrainian powerhouse Volodymyr Virchis for the WBA and WBO Intercontinental title, 11 March 2006 in Hamburg. However, since his mother had a heart surgery the night before and Ruslan hadn't slept for 24 hours prior to the fight, Virchis (who was a good friend and a stablemate) reportedly took it easy and more or less let Chagaev win, in that he didn't try to capitalize on his power and size advantage. In the end, Chagaev won by a majority decision. He made one defense of the WBA belt by stopping Michael Sprott by TKO8 and then vacated it to fight John Ruiz in a WBA-eliminator, 18 November same year. Chagaev was clearly the better and sharper man, but one judge (a Latino) curiously gave the fight to Ruiz by 115-114-thus Chagaev won by split decision. He then faced "the impossible obstacle" in the form of the 7-foot and 320-pound Nikolay Valuev, who was holding the WBA title and was 46-0. It was on 14 April 2007 in Stuttgart that Chagaev made history by beating a nearly-foot taller and 91-pound heavier Russian by majority decision, simply by moving and boxing. Although one judge scored it even, Chagaev clearly won the fight against the slow and plodding giant. He thus became the fourth southpaw world heavy champion.

 

He would defend the title first against Matt Skelton on 19 January 2008, winning clearly by UD, and then a year later on 7 February against Carl Davis Drumond by a technical decision after 6 rounds. He was then supposed to fight Valuev again, but instead fought Wladimir Klitschko and so got stripped of his title. It turned out this was a mistake, but a noble move since he took the more challenging fight. The fight happened 20 June '09 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Chagaev was down in the second round but came back to win the sixth, however in the eight a big cut opened over his left eye, which led to the stoppage after the ninth round. He was firmly behind, of course. After his first debacle, he came back to beat Kali Meehan by UD in a WBA eliminator, 22 May 2010. He then fought Alexander Povetkin for the vacant title on 27 August 2011 in Erfurt, Germany. It was a closer fight than the Klitschko one, but Povetkin still edged him out and won by the scores of 116-112 and 117-113 twice. After fighting lesser fighters for a while, he came back to win the WBA title again, which had become vacant, on 6 July 2014 in Grozny, Russia. His opponent was the seasoned Fres Oquendo and after a close fight where Chagaev won the first half and Oquendo the second, the judges proclaimed Chagaev as the winner by majority decision. Holyfield, Haye, Huck and Artur Grigorian were in attendance. Next year, he made a successful and impressive defense by knocking out Francesco Pianeta in 1 round; first he dropped Pianeta with two left hooks to the head and then finished him off with an overhand left which sent Pianeta into the ropes and down. His final fight and downfall came when he fought the Aussie contender Lucas Browne. Despite Brown standing 6'5, he only weighed 3 pounds more than Chagaev, showing how Chagaev's shape had deteriorated. It was on 5 March 2016 in Grozny and Chagaev looked like a winner when he dropped Brown in round 6 but then punched himself out in the next round, trying to score a knockout. The tough Browne came back and first knocked him down in 10th before beating him allover the ring to enforce a stoppage at 2:02.

 

Despite Browne getting stripped by WBA after failing his post-fight drug test and Chagaev being reinstated as the champion, on 28 July same year, Chagaev announced his retirement, because of problems with his eyes. He was 37 and he left behind a record of 34(21)-3-1. As one of the last "small guy" world champions at heavyweight, Chagaev was special and he had significant skills and could punch hard enough too. His problem was I guess simply that physically he was not a specimen nor did he have special athletic gifts to present a serious challenge to guys like the Klitschkos or Povetkin. I hope you enjoyed this presentation.

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