30.05.06 – By Tim Nielson: On Saturday, June 3rd, “the Beast from the East,” Nikolay Vlauev, 32, will defend his WBA heavyweight title against challenger, Owen Beck, 29, at the Tui Arena, in Hannover, Germany. Beck (25-2, 18 KO’s) will be making a big step up in competition by facing the Giant Russian, since prior to this bout, the best two fighters that Beck has faced, Monte Barrett and Ray Austin, have both beaten him.
For Valuev (43-0, 31 KO’s), this will be his first defense of his WBA title, after having won it in December, 2005, in a close 12-round mandatory decision win over John Ruiz. While I personally felt that Valuev did enough to win that fight, many in the boxing public were of a different opinion, thinking that Ruiz had won the fight with his harder punches and effective aggression.
Nevertheless, for much of the bout, Valuev appeared to control the action with his left jab, a punch that he used often to tag Ruiz as he was coming in. Valuev, despite being 7’0″ 320 lbs., isn’t much of a puncher, and he proved it against Ruiz, as his punches never had “The Quiet Man” in any real trouble. Part of the problem, I think, is due to Valuev’s straight up style, being that he rarely bends his knees when punching, which takes away from his power and makes him mortal. Also, he punches incredibly slow and that takes away from his power as well. In truth, he’s more of a clubber than an actual puncher but still, he seems to get enough on his punches to make him command respect in the ring. That being said, if anyone wants to question Valuev’s power, just take a look at Ruiz’s badly swollen and reddened face following their bout.
Technically, Valuev is at his best when he can get full extension on his right hand, as he did in his bout with Attila Levin, (29-3, 23 KO’s) a 6’5″ European power puncher, who Valuev completely destroyed using a series of big right hand bombs, while in the process of stopping him in the 3rd round by TKO. Also, in Valuev’s bout with Clifford Etienne, Valuev was able to time Etienne as he was coming in and level him with perfectly thrown lead right hands. When Etienne was able to get in close, Valuev connected with beautifully thrown uppercuts, a punch that was sadly missing from Valuev’s arsenal against Ruiz.
However, Valuev despite being gifted with huge size and decent power, he has some glaring flaws that make him beatable against Beck, or for that matter, against almost any heavyweight. For starters, his defense is rather porous, making him easy to hit. He holds his hands up in front of him, yet he rarely uses them to block or pick off punches and when he gets hit, it’s usually by a clean punch, one that has not glanced off one of his gloves. His inside fighting, also, needs a lot of work, for he doesn’t use his uppercut often enough to get respect from fighters that tend to crowd him. As I mentioned earlier, he has a rather good uppercut, when he throws it, but he rarely used it against Ruiz or in his fight with Larry Donald. I can excuse him for not using it in the Donald fight, since Donald ran much of the bout and never came inside, possibly afraid of getting hit. Another negative for Valuev is his lack of clinching ability when getting smothered by fighters, who have no other choice but to try and get inside on Valuev. You would think that after all this time, Valuev would have learned to nullify shorter fighters, yet he still seems vulnerable to inside fighting.
At best, I see Beck as a high 2nd tier fighter, someone who is more of a gatekeeper than a heavyweight contender. However, he does have good right hand power, especially early in the bout when he is dangerous. Regrettably, he has poor stamina and quickly loses his power as early as the 6th round and then has nothing to fall back on in terms of boxing ability. In February, 2005, he was stopped in the 9th round by Monte Barrett, a weak puncher. In that fight, Beck looked good early on but seemed to go into his shell later on in the fight, before tiring and getting stopped. For Beck, he’ll have to fight better than he did against Austin and Barrett, for him to have a chance at beating Valuev. Beck seems to fight at his best when he’s moving forward, throwing punches, but when he starts to face adversity, he tends to look confused, almost frightened and quickly starts backpedaling and taking punishment.
In any event, the key to victory for Beck is for him to go all out and go right hand crazy, and hopefully one of his wild swings will hit pay dirt for him. No doubt, he’ll be facing a loud, pro-Valuev crowd of screaming Germans, but if he tune the fan reaction out and stick to his game plan, I think he’s capable of scoring an upset. The harsh reality is that it’s going to be tough for Beck, for at 6’1 1/2, he’s giving up almost a foot in height and 100 lbs. in weight to Valuev and he will have his work cut out of him, especially if he’s timid or lazy and foolishly stays on the outside, where he will likely get sliced and diced by Valuev’s long range jab.
For Valuev, he just needs to stick with his jab and to use it often enough to keep Beck on the outside and then catch him with his sneaky right as he tries to get in close. When Beck does get inside, Valuev needs to have presence of mind to tie him up. If Valuev can let his hands go, and remember to throw his uppercut, I think he has the potential of ending this fight quite early, maybe even in the first few rounds. Valuev takes a good shot, as he has showed in his bouts with Ruiz, Noble, Etienne and Levin, and it will require a monstrous shot to probably stop him, so he shouldn’t be afraid to trade with Beck.
Personally, I think Beck is going to pull off the upset, for I’ve heard good things coming from his training camp and I think his offensive weapons are better than anything Valuev has yet faced and he will be in for a big surprise on Saturday night. I see Beck jumping on Valuev from the opening bell, and quickly getting inside on the slow, lumbering Russian, and then connecting with series of big right hands to Valuev’s unprotected chin, and chopping him down, all in front of a stunned German crowd, who will go away disappointed.
Prediction: Beck by 4th round KO.