Nicolai Valuev: The Sleeping Giant has been Awoken

15.02.05 - By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza - After his latest victory this past Saturday night in Germany, it seems Nicolai Valuev is on his way to becoming an all around complete fighter. In dismantling Swede Attila Levin, in the third round of their encounter, Valuev has finally PUNCHtuated, and eliminated the final criticism that kept him at the back of the Heavyweight bus. By knocking out Levin, in such quick and impressive fashion, Valuev showed that not only can he use his size to box effectively, but he can also use it to generate substantial power.

This development was not something that came easy to the giant Valuev. According to his trainer Manvel Gabrielyan, Valuev was “working very hard at developing his power, at times throwing something like 7,000 punches a day.” Personally, that is where I think his strength lies. Valuev’s biggest asset is his ability to work hard, and constantly learn.

Whereas a normal fighter can reach a certain plateau where he feels he is unstoppable (about the time that fighter usually loses) Valuev has never been fully satisfied, as evident in his interviews, and understands he still has stuff to work out. Even after this fight, although claiming he was morally ready to fight for a title against Ruiz, he still agreed with his promoter that he needed a few more tune up fights before a title shot. Its not a coincidence that before the fight, he claimed, “All questions about my power will be answered.” Valuev is one of the most humble fighters in boxing today, and for him to make a bold (for him) statement such as this, indicates that he put in great effort to develop his punching power. Another issue that Valuev had to overcome is his generally gentle and nice demeanor. Although he may seem like a savage barbarian, with a ferocious attitude, according to Gabrielyan, that kind of behavior had to be trained and forced into him. Valuev had to be tortured, trained to the point where, according to Gabrielyan, “I felt he wanted to eat me.” I guess that also paid off, even though according to sources, Nicolai was celebrating his victory with a dance soon after the fight. I don’t think they can get all the meanness out of this guy quite yet.

At the same time, this win must be put into perspective, lest some may read too much into it. Levin was a decent fighter, and not far off, from Vidoz, Bango, and Nobles, in terms of the skills he possesses. Certainly if Valuev is to be elite, he should be doing to decent fighters, what he did to Levin. At the same time, however, I hope he does not fall into the trap that many have before him, and that is, falling in love with his punch (Kostya Tsyzu, anyone?). What I mean is, early in his career, when he was more crude and unpolished, and had to go the distance with guys like Bob Mirovic ( a K.O. victim for most elite fighters), I was a bit more impressed, because he could go that far. Usually bigger guys do have the ability to break ribs like he did to George Linberger in Atlantic City, but they don’t have the ability to go the distance. Valuev was unique in that he could go rounds, and even though it was unimpressive to not see a spectacular KO, it prepared him better for fighting elite guys that know how to avoid getting hit with that big punch. So although I am happy that a win like this silences some critics in regards to whether Valuev can hit, I hope he and his team, don’t place too much emphasis on this aspect, and rather focus on beating the elite, more by submission and points, rather then ferocious power.

For instance, Valuev is hoping to get a fight with WBA champ John Ruiz. Ruiz is exactly the type of fighter that I would think going the distance against would be important. Even though I hate Ruiz as a “fighter” to no end, I will compliment him on one aspect of his abilities and that is endurance and stamina. Through all the blatant cheating, and dubious decision victories, he has always been able to go rounds, and in most instances if the illegal holding can be ignored, get better as the fight wears on. He is just one of those fighters, that forces you to fight into later rounds, and I think trying to knock him out, although not impossible, it is ultimately more difficult than controlling him from the outside. If Valuev, who has claimed in a fight with Ruiz, that he “will try to end it before the end of the 12th,” would try for the KO against Ruiz he will make it easier for Ruiz to use his clinch technique, grabbing for Valuev’s arms after he misses a punch. To add to that, Valuev, although very fluid, and mobile as of late, does not have the necessary hand speed, to not leave himself open for clinches if he goes inside. Now, if there is a competent referee in there, it will not matter.

The reason I would favor Valuev in this fight, however, is I think, due to his natural weight advantage. He would be able to push Ruiz off him, if he would stay on the outside forcing Ruiz come to him. In the Vidoz fight, and in the Nobles fight, Valuev showed a very developed ability of pushing his opponents off him, when they tried to clinch, not allowing them to tie up, and also pushing them off in such a way as to create a considerable distance. If Ruiz would have to come to Valuev to tie him up, he would have to depend on his boxing skill to get inside, and as most people would agree Ruiz is not exactly that great a boxer. Now bogus decisions, ala Golota Ruiz, aside, I think in the actual sense, if these two fought and Valuev approached the fight correctly, he could deter Ruiz’s clinching and wrestling with his natural size, and use his greater reach and height, in between the, bound to happen, instances of clinch and wrestle.

Right now, however, Valuev is getting the exposure he deserves, due to his dedication to the sport, and his own improved abilities, based on his work ethic. I did not think that after all the trouble he had, with the Visa issues, and the Russian boxing organizations, as well as getting decent fights, that he would get the respect that he deserves as a regular hard working boxer. It’s nice to see people cheering for him, and its nice to see him fight, if not the best, but decent quality fighters. No matter what happens from this point on, whether he gets knocked out, or does go on to be champ, nobody can deny that he didn’t get a chance prove himself, like he has wanted to all along.

All thoughts to

Article posted on 15.02.2005

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