Faruq Saleem: The Unknown 36-0 Heavyweight

10.07.07 - By Paul McCreath: If someone asked the average fan which heavyweight from around the world currently has the longest undefeated streak, it is likely that few could answer correctly. How can this be? A few months ago the answer would have been easy. Everyone knew about Nicolay Valuev as he piled up victory after victory. How could we forget the great debate about whether Valuev would break Rocky Marciano's boxing record if he reached 50 wins? Fortunately for all concerned except Valuev himself, the streak ended at 46 or 47 depending on whose records you accept as official, when he was defeated by Ruslan Chagaev this past April.

So now the longest winning run belongs to Faruq Saleem at 36-0 with 32 KOs. WHO? How can this be? How can a fighter go 36-0 and be almost totally unknown?

Well, first it helps to be very careful who you fight. Among his many boxing victims, Faruq met the immortal Franky Hines in his 10th pro bout. Franky was 14-94-4 at the time and one of the greatest all time stiffs. He finished up at 17-120-5 and was stopped 78 times. Oh, yes, Faruq stopped him, too, this time in two rounds and later again in two in a rematch, which I understand was in great demand because it was rumored that Franky was still breathing after their first fight.

Another victim was Ken Bentley in Saleem's 9th boxing fight. Ken was 9-75-1 at the time and finished at 9-95-1 with the end coming early 30 times. Faruq finished him too in 3-rounds. Two other opponents were Mike Robinson,8-30-1 and Max Key,9-27. Both were stopped in the first round and never fought again. I think you probably get the idea now.

Before you write off Faruq completely, I think I should point out that his record bears a lot of similarities to that of Valuev, who had over 30 fights spread over about 10 years before anybody ever heard of him, and he did, after all, wind up as the WBA champion. Faruq turned pro in 1998, so he is approaching the same time frame. He is also a big man at 6 foot 7 inches and weighs anywhere from 240 to 280 pounds, usually comes in at around 250. He is 33-years old, a couple of years older than Valuev when he made his move up the boxing ranks, but Saleem was inactive for nearly two years, including all of 2005. Recently, he has become more active again.

Not all of Faruq's fights have been against total stiffs. He met the tricky loser Marion Wilson in 2001 and won a 10 round majority decision. That is no disgrace although it does suggest some limitations. His toughest foe was probably Melvin Foster, a good journeyman whom he outpointed by split decision in December of 2001.

So can we hope that Faruq will be another Valuev? Well, we can hope but don't hold your breath. I am more inclined to think he may turn out to be another Lamar Clark. Does anyone remember him? This Utah heavyweight started his career with a 4-round decision win then ran off 44 strait KOs before getting stopped by limited journeyman Bartolo Soni in the 9th round of a nationally televised bout. Before that, he had met nothing but stiffs, often winning three or four times the same night. 41 of his opponents had never won a single fight when they met Lamar and I suspect few if any ever did win one. After the Soni bout, he met Pete Rademacher, the former Olympic champ, and was stopped again, this time in 10 rounds. After one more soft win, he concluded his career by being stopped in two by Cassius Clay, the future Muhammad Ali, who was fighting his 6th pro bout.

Oddly enough, Saleem has not run up his long streak entirely in boxing's backwoods areas. He has fought 18 times in New Jersey, his home state and has also appeared in Philadelphia at the Blue Horizon in his most recent bout. This suggests that perhaps he is now getting a bit serious about his career. Let us hope so. It is clearly time he made his move to prove one way or the other if he can fight. How about it, Faruq? It is up to you now.

PS- Faruq is scheduled to fight again this Thursday in Newark. No opponent has been named yet, but they are still checking the bars.

Article posted on 11.07.2007

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