What about Oleg Maskaev?

23.01.07 - By Jason Peck: Oleg Maskaev is one of four heavyweight champions today, and easily the most unpopular. Contenders regard him with disdain. Promoters disregarded Maskaev altogether when Sam Peter and James Toney fought for a shot at him. Worse yet, the average sports fan regarded his knockout win over Hasim Rahman with indifference..

"Another big white Russian guy?" the mainstream fan wondered. "I though we already had one. Is Tyson fighting again?" The marketing push behind Rahman-Maskaev didn’t help either. Billed as “Last Line of Defense.” In one corner you had Maskaev as an Ivan Drago, a soul-less foreign devil intent on laying the belt before the feet of Joseph Stalin.

In the other corner, Rahman stood with Uncle Sam. “The Rock” was our only hope. Never mind that Maskaev gained American citizenship years ago, and that Rahman was a mediocre fighter rather than a national hero. That mediocre fighter stood between us and the Soviet hammer.

But why hasn't Maskaev gotten any respect? He has a decisive victory, something that frequently escaped Peter, Toney and Rahman.

Rahman never won the WBC title, save for when he knocked out Lennox Lewis and served as heavyweight champ for the shortest amount of time in boxing history. Few believe he could have beaten Vitali Klitschko. Doc Ironfist retired with injuries instead, and Rahman gained the belt in a ceremony, rather than a fight.

Toney had horrible conditioning and a mediocre record against second tier heavyweights. He failed to defeat Rahman in a sloppy, shameful farce of title fight. Peter had fought only one opponent of worth – Wladmir Klitschko – and lost a sound decision despite dropping Wlad three times with pushes and rabbit punches. Combined, Peter and Toney fought one of the most boring fights in recent memory. Peter’s as slow and talented as the legendary King Hippo of the ­Punch-Out games. You know your fight’s in trouble when the Nigerian Nightmare leads in jabs.

Name recognition seems to matter too much it title shots today. But Maskaev did everything he was supposed to. He out-pointed Sinan Samil Sam to become the rightful mandatory, and knocked out Rahman despite being a heavy underdog. Many fans derided his title defense against a sub-par Peter Orkello, that’s hardly Maskeav’s fault. The WBC sided with the naysayers in ordering Peter-Toney II, a fiasco of a fight that prevented Maskaev from a crack at Peter, Toney, or Wladimir Klitschko.

But Peter finally won a commanding victory against James Toney. He was horribly out of shape, 38 years old and a blown-up middleweight, but whatever – Maskaev can finally defend his title like a real belt holder. Who’s to say he can’t beat Peter?

I don’t car how much weight Peter lost, I don’t care how good he looked, I don’t care if he manages to knock out fighters who didn’t belong in the ring to begin with. His fight with Klitschko exposed him as a one-dimensional hack with a limited grasp of boxing skills. Comparing him to a young Mike Tyson – a well trained and fat-free – is just plain stupid.

Maskaev may not have the best conditioning or boxing skills, but he certainly surpasses Peter. He shocked the world once, why not twice.

The fight will doubtless be dull, but don’t count Drago out.

Article posted on 23.01.2007

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