Nikolay Valuev - What Heavyweight Has The Best Chance Of Beating Valuev?

11.10.06 - By Grampton James: All week long leading up to WBA heavyweight champion Nikolay Valuev’s fight with Monte Barrett, I couldn’t wait to see the fight. However, after finally watching it, I have to admit that what I saw of Valuev, I was slightly disappointed. The footwork that Valuev showed in some of his previous fights was almost non-existent against the thirty-five-year old Barrett. For the most part, Valuev (45-0, 33 KO's) looked sloppy and at times even flustered about what to do to his pressuring opponent. Valuev took a great deal of punches and for such an important fight, considering it was his US debut, he failed to knock Barrett (31-5, 17 KO's) out quickly enough to enthrall the general public, and create the image that his promoter was most likely looking for.

Many Americans who had not previously seen Valuev fight, more than likely expected a devastating knockout because of with Valuev's immense size (7’0, 328 lbs) and his perceived power, they naturally just assumed he could punch hard. While Valuev seems to pride himself on his boxing ability and doesn't fight the brawling style that would be expected from a man his size, Valuev needs to realize that boxing is a business.

In this game, unless you're absolutely spectacular with your boxing ability for a big man, most people want to see a brutal knockout. Unfortunately for Valuev and the fans that were present at and watching his debut, Valuev did not deliver the kind of devastating fight that people were looking forward to. In fact, aside from questions about his chin, Valuev may have lessened his perceived value and lost a considerable, potential American fan base. Overall, his fight with Barrett left a lot to be desired.

So why did Valuev not live up to expectations?

In my opinion, Barrett fought the best fight that a man with his talent could against Valuev. Valuev has shown a bit vulnerability to pressure fighters and, while it seemed that Valuev nullified this problem in his last fight against Beck by delivering a hard right uppercuts to incoming opponents, Barrett was still able to effective by fighting Valuev up close.

Barrett managed to avoid Valuev's uppercut by predominately fighting him on his left and staying as far away as possible from Valuev's devastating right hand. It doesn't help matters for Valuev that he is such a large and; therefore, easy to hit target. Barrett could practically close his eyes, and swing wildly, yet still manage to land blows on Valuev's massive head. While it is questionable that Barrett's punches actually hurt Valuev, they're still worth points as far as the judges are concerned, and if Barrett was able to sustain Valuev's punches for 12 rounds, he might have won by decision. Barrett did manage to stay alive for a long as he did by clinching as soon as he landed a punch in order to avoid getting hit by the harder punching Valuev. Unfortunately for the very courageous Barrett, he eventually punched himself out and succumbed finally succumbed to Valuev's size and power. What's interesting to point out is that Valuev seemed to increase his work rate and punch effectiveness much later in the fight when Barrett was obviously worn out. This should lead one to believe that Valuev should be confronted and pressured early on during the fight by using similar tactics Barrett was using, and then boxed and avoided later on when Valuev begins to put pressure on. It's not likely that Valuev is going to get knocked out, so it is imperative that a boxer leaves himself enough gas in the tank to avoid Valuev's late fight onslaught.

Where does this leave Valuev?

Valuev is still the WBA heavyweight champion and regardless of how anyone felt about his performance against Barrett, he still won by TKO. Clearly, he is a very dangerous opponent, and I think the general public would salivate at him challenging the other titlist, especially Wladimir Klitschko.

On the other hand, there is a lot of people, after watching Valuev's performance against Barrett, that will probably just write off Valuev against Klitschko, as another easy win for Wladimir in a weak heavyweight division. They could very well be wrong.

Klitschko fights nothing like Barrett. Barrett was effective against Valuev because Barrett threw wild punches, coming constantly forward, clinching as soon as he felt he was in danger. While clinching is an incredibly important aspect in Wladimir's fighting style, haymakers are not. Klitschko has been able to use his reach, height, and hand speed against other opponents by having a fraction of a second necessary for him to plant his feet and deliver hard straight punches. This kind of fighting style will not be as effective against Valuev as it is against other opponents from my perspective.

Quite obviously, Valuev and Klitschko are not boxers that are known for excellent mobility. Klitschko lacks great lateral movement and is not exactly Gene Kelley on his feet. While Valuev is an easy target to hit, his footwork is more than exceptional for a man his size, and his ability to change angles on the straight punching Klitschko could allow him just enough time to land a punch before or as Klitschko is landing one on him.

Though it's debatable between Klitschko and Valuev on who has the more powerful punch, it is much more clear cut when concerning their ability to take a punch. While Valuev has not been shaken by a big punch in any of his fights, Klitschko has been knocked out three times and knocked down many more. This is a very important aspect because if both men have their feet set and are throwing straight punches, it is much more probable that Wladimir will take a fall before Valuev. Considering Valuev's reach and size advantage, Klitschko will also not be able to bully and push around Valuev when he feels he's being pressured. Understandably, this is a very dangerous fight for Wladimir and it is unlikely that he is jumping at the chance to fight the Russian Giant. In order to defeat Valuev, Klitschko may have to drastically change his style. Considering that Klitschko has not had to do this or has not been able to do it before in the past, it is unlikely that he'll be able to adapt his style.

So while, it seems like Wladimir is the majorities' answer to who can beat Valuev, I don't think it's true. In fact, I think that Valuev has a very legitimate chance of knocking Klitschko out.

So who does have the best chance to beat Valuev?

The fighter that I think has the best chance to beat Valuev is Sergie Lyakovich. While Lyackovich punches no harder than Barrett, I think he has a more heart. Lyakovich has exactly the type of style that Valuev is vulnerable to. Lyakovich will put the pressure on Valuev as soon as the bell rings and keep it there. On top of that, I think that Lyakovich has the heart and determination to avoid and outbox Valuev in the later rounds and win a decision.

Article posted on 12.10.2006

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