Battle of the Behemoths: Nikolay Valuev versus Jameel McCline

10.01.07 - By Geoffrey Ciani: On January 20, Nikolay Valuev will defend his WBA heavyweight championship belt when he makes a voluntary defense against Jameel “Big Time” McCline. The bout, which will take place in Switzerland, features two enormous heavyweights which, in and of itself, makes this a most intriguing match-up. Combined, these two giants stand at thirteen and a half feet tall and weigh in excess of 600 pounds! That’s a lot of heavyweight! In fact, these two behemoths will be the biggest men ever to have squared off in a heavyweight championship bout—even bigger than Lennox Lewis’s blowout victory against Michael Grant, duly billed as “Two Big”, when the combined height and weight were thirteen feet and 500 pounds.

Valuev is undefeated in the professional ranks; he has 45 victories, 33 coming by way of knockout. Since beating John Ruiz for the WBA championship, he has had two successful title defenses, having stopped Owen Beck and Monte Barrett inside the distance.

As impressive as Valuev’s resume may appear on paper, he is largely untested. Many of his victories were against inexperienced fighters, and the most significant wins on his ledger—against Larry Donald and Ruiz—were hardly decisive. In fact, both of those bouts were majority decision victories that many observers did not feel Valuev deserved to win.

Jameel McCline busted onto the scene when he stopped Michael Grant’s 2001 comeback with the first punch he threw. Subsequent victories over Lance Whitikar and current WBO titlist, Shannon Briggs, helped propel McCline into the top ten. McCline was a huge man who had very quick hands for his size. Unfortunately, McCline never fought like a big man; in fact, he often appeared timid in the ring and, despite his enormous size, he rarely utilized his physical tools to his advantage. This was especially obvious in losses to Wladimir Klitschko and Calvin Brock, but even in victory, McCline seemed to lack the confidence required to be championship material.

In terms of entertainment value, this fight has the potential to go either way. On one hand, this one might well turn out to be a snooze-fest. In a worst case scenario, from a fan’s perspective, Valuev lumbers around the ring for twelve rounds, throwing painfully slow punches in an attempt to catch the timid McCline, who circles away, avoiding engages at all costs. On the other hand, this one might well be a true battle of the behemoths, wherein, two gigantic fighters unleash an array of clobbering blows, each trying to chop the other down.

However this bout ultimately unfolds, Jameel McCline might very well represent the toughest challenge Valuev has ever encountered, and despite recent losses against Zuri Lawrence and Calvin Brock, McCline definitely has a chance in this one. Standing six and a half feet tall, McCline will have a much better chance of landing meaningful punches on the seven foot tall champion—especially when one considers McCline’s quick hands. Additionally, Valuev won’t be punching down quite as much as is ordinarily the case when he fights.

The question is, will Jameel McCline take the fight to Valuev or will he revert to his more timid style and attempt to outbox Valuev? Either way, I think he stands a fairly good chance this time, and it will be very interesting to see how Valuev deals with someone as big and skilled as McCline.

Now just five wins shy of surpassing Marciano’s mark of 49-0, has Valuev finally met his match? Or when all is said and done, will he be just four wins away?

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Article posted on 10.01.2007

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