Nikolay Valuev vs. Monte Barrett: Can Valuev Get any Respect If He Defeats Barrett?

03.10.06 - By Tim Nielson: Nikolay Valuev, 33, the WBA heavyweight champion, will be making his 2nd title defense on Saturday night when he fights challenger Monte Barrett (31-4, 17 KO's) at the Allstate Arena, in Rosemont, Illinois. Valuev, both the tallest and heaviest heavyweight champions in history of boxing, has so far failed to catch the appeal of the boxing public, despite his impressive 44-0 record. Part of the problem, it seems, is the fact that Valuev, although huge at 7'0" 320 lbs, he punches with very little power and is forced to box with his much smaller opponents. Then, of course, is the way Valuev won his heavyweight title, that is, in a match with John Ruiz, which Valuev won my majority decision, even though many people who saw the fight felt that Ruiz decisively won the match. Having seen the fight myself, I thought the fight should have been ruled a draw. Nevertheless, if Valuev wins this fight against Barrett, he may be soon fighting Ruiz again, since Ruiz is now the number # 1 ranked challenger for Valuev's WBA belt.

Monte Barrett, 35, currently ranked #10 in the WBA, it would seem that he has been selected specifically to make Valuev look good and to ensure that the huge Russian gets another win. As far as I can tell, there's no other reason I could imagine for fighting Barrett. Perhaps, significantly, Barrett has shown to have problems when facing larger heavyweights like, for example, against Wladimir Klitschko, who easily stopped him in 7 round, knocking him down 5 times in the process back in 2000, Lance Whitaker, who busted up Barrett's face en route to winning a 12-round decision in 1999. Although, I don't think Valuev hits nearly as hard as either of those heavyweights, he's so much larger than Barrett, almost outweighing Barrett's 225 lbs by 100 lbs, it gives Valuev the advantage of being able to push around and pretty maul his undersized opponent. In reviewing Barrett's fight with Wladimir Klitschko, I noticed that Barrett was pretty well man-handled by Wladimir on the inside, where Wladimir was able to sap the strength of Barrett with his wrestling.

That being said, Barrett has exceptional boxing skills, and he reminds me of a cross between Chris Byrd and James Toney. He's got the ability to move and duck, making his opponents miss with their punches, while at the same time, he's got respectable power in either hand. In his fight with Joe Mesi in December 2003, Barrett rallied after being knocked down in the 5th, to return the favor in the 7th, knocking Mesi down with a big left hand. Although Mesi ended up winning the fight based on his early lead, he was punished repeatedly by Barrett for the remainder of the 10-round bout. Against Owen Beck in February 2005, Barrett easily dominated the fight, knocking out Beck in the 7th round. However, in Barrett's last fight against Hasim Rahman, in August 2005, he lost a 12-round decision, fighting mostly passive. Whether that fight was just a fluke or not, remains to be seen. There was talk before the match that the fight would likely be a bore fest, being that both Barrett and Rahman were close friends. In watching the fight, it seemed like neither fighter wanted to really be there, as it seemed much like a sparring session than an actual fight.

Valuev, on the other hand, has had an pretty easy career, having faced mostly 2nd tier opposition. In glancing at his career record, the only names that stand out are these: Gerald Nobles, Clifford Etienne, Atilla Levin, John Ruiz, Larry Donald, Paolo Vidoz and Own Beck. You get the picture. Other than John Ruiz, hardly top level opposition, yet here Valuev is, one of the 4 heavyweight champions from Eastern Europe. Well, it's exactly the reason, his lack of quality opposition, that makes him suspect as a fighter, not just a champion, in many people's opinions. I mean, he was fought to a standstill by John Ruiz, who actually was the more powerful puncher of the two. if that wasn't all, Larry Donald came close to defeating Valuev as well in their bout in October 2005. The fight, too, was ruled a majority decision victory for Valuev.

Whatever the case, I don't see Barrett as having enough power or size to keep Valuev off of him. Regardless of Barrett's excellent boxing skill, I think he'll have problems with Valuev, who will force his way inside and beat him up with uppercuts and clubbing rights. Although Valuev is big and painfully slow, he throws combinations and is throws lots of them.

Prediction: Valuev by 7th round KO.

Article posted on 03.10.2006

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