By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza: Today in Germany Russian boxer Nikolai Valuev because the #1 contender for the WBA’s, and John Ruiz’s version of the heavyweight belt by slightly outgunning Larry Donald. From most accounts of the fight, although it was close and could have possibly been a draw, Valuev’s reach advantage won him the day.. Although Donald was more effective in the rounds he won, like Tarver vs. Jones 1, its not the quality of the victory in a round but the quantity of rounds won. Most observers were in agreement that Valuev took at least 6 and with a few close rounds there was no surprise that in Germany, Valuev the local favorite would get the nod, especially since he does hold the strap which is an added incentive for judges to give him rounds.
As a fan of Valuev, and as a fan of boxing, I am ecstatic with this decision. First of all having followed Valuev closely I am glad that he is finally getting a title shot and a chance at a pay day, however, I want to put that “biased” sentiment aside for a minute and discuss the boxing aspect. Nikolai is a hot name; an undefeated fighter who is young enough that should he win could still make some excitement happen for a few years. That is why as a fan of boxing I am rather glad to see him get the title shot, because a Ruiz vs. Valuev showdown (rumored as already signed for December 17), really does sound more exciting then Ruiz vs. Donald.
As far as Donald goes, what annoys me most is the people who say that Donald is washed up and past his prime. Whether Donald is past his prime is really irrelevant because in his prime he lost a wide UD to arguably the best fighter of the period in Riddick Bowe. In the past however I want to bring people’s attention to the following: look at Bowe, Holyfield, Tyson, and most of these other “legendary” fighters going into their forties now. If you want to see what a washed up fighter looks like then those guys are a prime example. Larry Donald may not be at his best but I know that he is a class above these guys; so calling him washed up isn’t fair in my opinion. Now a lot of fans may say “well now he is trying to hype Valuev up through Donald” but I pretty much said the same thing before the fight so I don’t care if people criticize me because they don’t like Valuev or his fans.
Larry Donald’s cautious style, like it or not, has preserved him better as a fighter then that of Holyfield, Tyson, or Bowe. His last loss was to arguably the best heavyweight fighter in the world (Vitali Klitschko) and it wasn’t close to being a blow out like when Donald blew out Holyfield on points, or when McBride and Williams stopped Tyson, or Billy Zumbrun gave Riddick Bowe all he could handle. After that loss, Donald has done nothing but win, but again it’s the same old argument, if you give Rahman, and Maskaev, some credit for beating up no hopers give the same benefit to Donald. Everybody was clamoring when Toney stopped Holyfield, but when Donald gave him a boxing lesson it was “expected”? Rahman lost a technical decision to the same Holfyield that Donald blew out and he is suddenly the #1 contender and rightfully so according to everybody because of his “awesome” list of recent wins? Come on I would give Donald a 50% chance to wipe the floor with Rahman which tells you that he isn’t far off from any of these other so called competitors.
Like we all know in the actual sense the heavyweight division is really weak, but in the absence of “true” competition, the likes of Larry Donald has to be taken seriously. Is it good news that Valuev struggled with Donald? Probably not, but that is not because Valuev is as bad as his detractors would have you believe, and because Donald has more in the tank then expected.
To Valuev’s detractors, I want to make one thing clear, this is nothing he has not heard before. When he first started these were the same thoughts echoed behind his back as he walked to the ring, and guess what he has earned a shot at the WBA version of the heavyweight title like it or not. Some fans think that I am a Valuev fan because I am a fan of his awe inspiring “natural skill,” or perhaps his “awesome size” or any of the other elements that make people turn their heads, and unfortunately that is not the reason. Valuev is one of my favorites because of his effort and dedication to the sport, something other fighters considering to be more naturally talented, better, more accomplished then Valuev, do not show. I can name the names of some of these “dime a dozen” guys but what’s the point? If they have some BS gimmick you will see them on TV again even if they embarrass themselves last time out, skill or no skill. With Nikolai Valuev win or lose, there is very little chance that he will ever cut down on training or not take his opponent seriously. THAT is why I admire him and am his fan, and why I am glad he was able to come out victorious.