Valuev vs. McCline: Can Jameel Upset The Russian Giant?

jameel mccline08.01.07 - By Paul McCreath: On Saturday, January 20th in Switzerland, Nicolay Valuev (45-0, 33 KO's) will defend his WBA heavyweight boxing title against Jameel McCline (38-6-3, 23 KO's) in a 12-round voluntary defense. The combined weight of the two fighters will be close to 600 pounds, an all time record for a title bout. This fact alone is one of the few outstanding features of this match, although that is not to say it is not an interesting paring that may turn out to be a good fight to watch. Neither fighter is considered to be the best in the world in spite of the billing as a world title match.

In Valuev, 33, we have a giant of a man, around 7 feet tall, and usually about 325 pounds. He is often criticized as being slow and limited in skills, but when you are that big, does it really matter how fast you are?

Nicolay has very good strength, reach, stamina,and so far as we know, a good chin. The fact that his chin is around 6 inches higher than even the biggest heavies, makes it very hard to reach, and combined with his excellent jab to keep opponents out of range, it doubles the problem for his opponents.

Big Nicolay spent the first 10 years of his career as more or less a circus act, and learned very little in the boxing from all accounts, but since relocating in Germany under new management and trainers, in 2003, he has improved greatly and continues to make progress. His punching power, while not in the same class as a young Mike Tyson or David Tua, is still on par with most of the top heavyweights, such as Wladimir Klitschko, Shannon Briggs and Oleg Maskaev. His technical skills, while not outstanding, are good enough for a man his size. His best wins are over John Ruiz, Monte Barrett and Larry Donald. Overall, he has 46 wins and no losses, and is on course to equal or better Rocky Marciano's record of 49-0.

At the same time, Jameel McCline is no midget, either. At 6 foot 6 and around 265 pounds, he will likely the biggest man Valuev has ever faced, although Jameel is apt to still be outweighed by 30 to 50 pounds. His size should not cause Valuev any problems, in my estimation, but Jameel may find Valuev's size a considerable problem.

McCline's career has seen it's ups and downs, the high point being in July of 2001, when he blasted out the then top contender Michael Grant in one round, a huge upset at the time. When McCline followed this with a convincing decision in 12 rounds over contender Lance "Mount" Whitaker then another in 10 rounds over future belt holder, Shannon Briggs, McCline seemed poised to make a serious title challenge. Jameel got his chance in December of 2002, but performed poorly, losing by 10th round KO to Wladimir Klitschko for the WBO title. For some reason, McCline seemed to freeze in the face of this big event.

McCline did not quit and followed the lose with a 3rd round KO of fringe contender, Charles Shufford and two tune-ups later, McCline was ready for another try, this time in November 2004 against IBF champ Chris Byrd. McCline looked better this time, and got off to a good start, flooring Byrd early in the fight, but then in spite of his huge weight advantage, he ran out of gas in the late rounds and dropped a split decision. This was really his last impressive outing against quality opposition. His next bout in April 2005 against Calvin Brock saw him drop another decision in spite of a mid fight knockdown of Brock. Many saw this as the beginning of his decline, but few expected what happened in October when the little known trial horse Zuri Lawrence outworked him for a win.

At this stage, McCline appeared to be finished as a fighter, but it wasn't over yet. Jameel began a Shannon Briggs-style campaign, in which he fought largely 2nd tier fighters and six tune-ups later, McCline had the stroke of good luck to be selected by Valuev's team to be his next opponent, giving McCline his incredible third shot at a heavyweight title fight. His best opponent in this stretch was Terry Smith, a journeyman from Arkansas, whom he decisioned in 10 rounds. To me, Jameel has not looked anything like the fighter he was in his peak years, not even close to being as fast or as active.

If McCline were at his peak, he would have to be given a fair chance of victory in my opinion. However, McCline still has better speed and technical skills than Valuev, but will be conceding a lot in the power department, strength, weight, and stamina. At 36 years of age, it seems unlikely McCline can do it now against someone as big and talented as Valuev. Does McCline have any chance at all? Certainly, but a very slim one. Nevertheless, in a heavyweight fight, anything can happen, particularly with two heavyweights as large as McCline and Valuev.

I see Jameel doing fairly well in the early rounds, but with Valuev gradually taking control of the fight and grinding out a stoppage around the 8th to 10th round. Stamina, always a problem for McCline, and a Valuev strongpoint, will be the deciding factor.

Article posted on 09.01.2007

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