Oleg Maskaev on the comeback trail

02.12.03 - By Ron Widelec: At one time, Oleg Maskaev was one of the top ranked fighters in the heavyweight division. He had excellent power, good skills, and a vicious knockout win over fellow top contender, Hasim Rahman. Oleg seemed to be on the fast track towards a heavyweight title shot. On the way, however, Maskaev hit a massive speed bump. That speed bump was Kirk Johnson and Mount Whitaker.

After two knockout losses in a row to Johnson and Whitaker, Oleg began a comeback which ended in 2002 when he was knocked out once again by Corey Sanders. After that fight, Maskaev began a new and completely separate comeback; one with a new trainer, strength coach, manager and promoter. Since then Oleg has won five fights in a row, all by knockout.

In the context on Oleg’s career, a serious comeback is not out of the question. In his sixth fight, Oleg was put in the ring with Oliver McCall, who was 26-6, and a former heavyweight champion. He then got back on track with a few more wins before losing to David Tua in 1997, after getting caught in the eleventh round. A loss to David Tua is not uncommon among the heavyweight elite, and nothing to be embarrassed about.

It was after that loss that Maskaev began his big climb to the upper echelon of the division, winning ten fights in a row, including the knockout over Rahman, who later went on to be heavyweight champion on the world. Unfortunately for Oleg, he then lost three of his next five fights.

But before we declare Oleg out for the count, we need to wait and see if this comeback will be as dramatic as the previous ones. With a record of 27-5, Oleg is only one or two fights out of the top 20 or 15 in the division, depending on whom he fights. Maskaev’s last few wins have been against journeymen type fighters, as he was waiting on a possible Tyson fight.

Now that a Tyson fight seems unlikely, Oleg will be looking for tougher competition to advance himself in the division’s rankings. As Oleg is 34 years old, this is likely to be his last run for the title and time is of the essence. Oleg has been calling out top rated contender Vitaly Klitschko, hoping to lure him in by bringing up Oleg’s devastating win over Vitali in the amateurs. However, Vilaty seems less then interested, since he is facing Kirk Johnson on December 6th with a possible title shot looming in the near future.

While some my scoff of Oleg’s chances of a comeback, one must consider the shape of the division today. All three champions have looked vulnerable in their last bouts. Chris Byrd barely beat Fres Oquendo in a foul fest, Lennox Lewis nearly lost to Vitaly Klitschko, and Roy Jones had a hard time at light heavyweight against Antonio Tarver. With the heavyweight division in a state of flux, anyone is just a fight or two from a title shot.

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Article posted on 02.12.2003

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