Chagaev dethrones Valuev

valuev16.04.07 - By Geoffrey Ciani: When the final bell rang after Saturday night’s WBA heavyweight championship bout between Nicolay Valuev and Ruslan Chagaev, I was most surprised to see the celebration taking place in Chagaev’s corner. There were congratulatory hugs, celebratory high-fives, and an overwhelming sense of joy and merriment—as if there was no doubt Chagaev would be crowned the new champion. In fact, team Chagaev was acting like one might expect after the decision was formally announced.

It was startling to see the confidence of team Chagaev. After all, this is boxing — a sport notorious for its controversial decisions. Furthermore, this wasn’t exactly a fight wherein one fighter completely dominated the other. On the contrary, this was a very close bout which could have gone either way. In fact, I scored it 114-114—a draw.

And, when the first card was read (114-114), I was fairly certain the final outcome would be a draw. After the second scorecard, which read 115-113 in favor of Chagaev, I was even more convinced it would be ruled a draw. Then came the third score—117-111 in favor of Chagaev—and we had a new champion!

All in all the fight wound up being much more entertaining than I’d anticipated with each fighter having his moments. Chagaev took most of the early rounds, utilizing quicker hands and sneaky counter-punching techniques; Valuev took most of the later rounds, making the best of his enormous size and long reach. The clash of styles made for a very unique bout.

Chagaev fought a very smart fight while utilizing the advantages he had in order to neutralize Valuev’s tremendous size. He did this by moving around and circling Valuev, forcing the giant pugilist to contend with a moving target. He also made great use of upper body movement making himself an even harder target for Valuev to locate. All of this movement posed problems for Valuev and allowed Chagaev many countering opportunities.

Time and time again, Chagaev would avoid the thunderous slow blows from his opponent only to sneak in a quick left hand on the giant’s chin. Valuev was troubled by the speed, he was troubled by the movement, and he seemed troubled by the punches that continuously caught him flush. Not only was Chagaev hitting Valuev whenever he decided to throw his left upstairs, but he was also sneaking in the occasional right and a couple of shots to the body whenever the opportunity permitted. This trend persisted throughout most of the first half of the fight.

The second half of the fight told a different story. Down the stretch, Valuev began finding his target more and more frequently. Despite being hit with numerous shots to head and body, Valuev didn’t slow down the way one might expect. Instead, he seemed to pick the pace up and began landing more shots of his own. Amazingly as it is, Chagaev is the one who began slowing down, and as a result, Valuev’s long straight punches began landing with regularity. The main difference in the second half of the fight was that Chagaev stopped moving the way he was earlier in the bout when he was more successful; this gave Valuev a stationary target to tee off on.

In the end, the judges favored Chagaev’s counter-punching over Valuev’s lumbering style. This is a bit surprising, as rightfully or not, judges tend to favor the man moving forward. This time, however, they favored the slick counterpunching put on display by Chagaev. Although I scored the bout a draw and thought Valuev did enough to hold onto his title, I thought a close decision either way would have been fair and warranted.

It will be interesting to see how Valuev rebounds and where Chagaev goes from here.

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Article posted on 17.04.2007

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