Valuev vs. McCline: Battle Of The Giants!

02.01.07 - By Scott Frake: WBA heavyweight champion Nikolay Valuev, (45-0, 33 KO) defends his title on January 20th, against ring veteran Jameel McCline (38-6-3, 23 KO’s) in St. Jakob-Halle, Basel, Switzerland. The choice of McCline as an opponent seems rather odd, since he’s ranked only at the 14th spot by the WBA, and has had a rough time in recent years when fighting tough opposition, losing to Wladimir Klitschko, Chris Byrd, Calvin Brock and Zuri Lawrence.. Based on these fights alone, he would seem like a poor choice for Valuev to defend his title against, particularly since Valuev has already had two easy title defenses against Owen Beck and Monte Barrett. Come on, how many easy defenses does Valuev need before he finally fights someone dangerous, like Lamon Brewster, Alexander Dimitrenko, Hasim Rahman or Serguei Liakhovich?

Since winning the WBA title against John Ruiz by 12-round majority decision in December 2005, there’s been hopes that the 7-foot, Russian-born Valuev would eventually attempt to unify the title against one of the other three heavyweight champions, preferably Wladimir Klitschko or Oleg Maskaev. Instead, however, Valuev has been focused on defending his title against what I consider to be lesser fighters within the WBA, much to the disappointment to many fans.

In the case of McCline, this would seem to be another easy title defense for Valuev, despite McCline’s huge 6’7” 270 lb frame. Though McCline, 36, is big, he’s still dwarfed by Valuev, whose monstrous 7’0” 320 lb body is considerably larger. More than that, Valuev is able to use his size better, particularly in the inside where he often mauls his smaller opponents, tiring them out with his size and power. Against McCline, I see essentially the same outcome, maybe even worse since McCline is noted for having especially poor stamina and often tires out by mid point in the fight, as was the case in his loss to Brock, Byrd, Lawrence and Klitschko.

Admittedly, McCline has the tools to beat Valuev, namely, an excellent jab, which he can snap very quickly at his opponents. In the past, however, McCline often fails to utilize his jab, instead trying to slug it out on the inside against his shorter, smaller opponents. More important, if McCline attempts the same against Valuev, a fighter that is well noted for his excellent inside fighting ability, I see Valuev quickly taking out McCline. If, however, McCline can stick to a disciplined game plan, in which he stays on the outside, uses his jab and footwork to stay away on the outside, I can see him producing considerable problems for Valuev.

As Larry Donald showed in his fight with Valuev, using a hard jab and staying on the outside, is the key to beating the 7-foot Russian. Without those tools, though, it will take nothing short of a miracle for McCline to come out on top. Even then, he has a chance, slight as it is, if he can land a huge right hand in the early rounds, and possibly stun Valuev. At which point, McCline could overwhelm the slow moving Valuev with punches, much in the same way McCline did with Michael Grant in their fight in 2001, which ended in a 1st round knockout victory for McCline. Nonetheless, that was a long 6 years ago, arguably McCline’s career zenith, when he was fighting at his best. Although McCline has lost little in the way of punching speed, his stamina isn’t as good as it was back then, nor is his foot work.

Since winning the WBA heavyweight title against John Ruiz, Valuev has quickly established himself as the premier heavyweight in the division, mowing down Monte Barrett and Owen Beck in quick fashion. With his immense size, and long reach, Valuev has shown the ability to dominate in all areas, whether it be the inside or the outside. He moves surprisingly well for a man of his size, and has excellent stamina, carrying his power well into the later rounds of his fights.

Before becoming a champion, not much was expected of Valuev, as he was considered too slow, weak and slow-footed to ever become a champion. However, after moving to Germany, Valuev was given a first rate training team and facility, quickly improving his skills to the point where he could eventually challenge for a title. At this point, in fact, he may indeed be the best of the four heavyweight champions and the one with the longer future potential. He’s still a relatively young 33-years-old, and with his tremendous size and power, he may end up dominating for a long time to come. At this time, he is quickly approaching Rocky Marciano’s career record of 49-0, and with five more wins, Valuev will eclipse this mark, putting him in the record book.

Ultimately, I see Valuev’s size being too much for McCline to deal with in this bout. Though, I think McCline will have his moments early on, in which he will land his fair share of shots, but at some point, his pride will get in the way and he will try to stand and trade with the larger Valuev, thus getting taken out with a clubbing right hand.

Prediction: Valuev by 7th round KO.

Article posted on 03.01.2007

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