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Skelton Chagaev: Can Matt Pull Off The Upset Over Ruslan?

British Commonwealth heavyweight champion Matt Skelton (21-1, 18 KOs) goes up against the undefeated World Boxing Association heavyweight champion Ruslan Chagaev (23-0, 17 KOs) this Saturday night in a 12-round bout at the Burg-Waechter Castello, in Dusseldorf, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. It will be Chagaev’s long overdue first title defense of his WBA title in which he won nine months ago in a close majority decision over then champion Nicolay Valuev on April 14th, 2007. Now after all this time, Chagaev, nicknamed “The White Tyson,” has elected to take to fight 40 year-old Skelton, who himself is coming off a close decision victory of his own, a win over Michael Sprott in July 2007.

Though he’s getting up there in age, Skelton is still a very tough opponent for Chagaev, and there are more than a few people in the boxing community that feel that Skelton may be good enough to pull off an upset over Chagaev. However, for that to happen, Skelton is going to have to decisively win the fight, for it’s taking place in Germany, where there are often questionable decisions occurring. In point of fact, Chagaev’s title fight with Valuev is the perfect example, as Valuev appeared to win the fight by at least a couple of rounds, yet he lost decisively – 117-111 – on one judges’ scorecard and by a couple of rounds on another judges’ card.

As you can see, anything is possible in Germany, so Skelton is going to have to be the aggressor in the bout or else he’ll lose, likely by a wide margin even if the fight does turn out to be close to the naked eye. Chagaev, originally from Russia, now fights out of Germany, hence any close decisions fought there will go in his direction.

Skelton will have a big size advantage in the bout, as he’s three inches taller than Chagaev, at 6’3″, and will likely outweigh him by close to 25 lbs, coming in at 250+. Chagaev is listed at 6’1′, but he’s actually only 6’0,” so he may have some problems dealing with Skelton if they get in close and start wrestling on the inside. In terms of power, Chagaev has the advantage here, but he doesn’t use his power nearly enough for it to matter against better opponents. Most of Chagaev’s 17 kOs have come at the expense of C-level fighters, ones that would very likely be knocked out by any good heavyweight with decent power.

However, against top level opponents, such as John Ruiz, Vladimir Virchis and Nicolay Valuev, Chagaev’s power didn’t bother them in the least. Chagaev tends to be more of a pot shot type fighter than a true slugger in the Mike Tyson mode, preferring to hit and run. He will at times come forward against certain opponents, like Ruiz, but he’s still not a true power puncher in the classic style. Chagaev struggled badly against both Ruiz and Virchis, winning narrow decisions in both fights.

I had the Ruiz fight a draw, and thought Chagaev just barely beat Virchis. Neither fight was impressive, and like I mentioned earlier, Chagaev clearly lost to Valuev. That was a very, very poor decision. I don’t expect for Chagaev to try and knock Sketon out in this bout, though he’ll give it a try in the first round or two. Most likely, Chagaev will hit and run as he did against Valuev, selectively picking his time to land fast flurries and then retreating. It will be Skelton who will be the one applying to pressure, stalking Chagaev and trying to force him to fight.

I don’t think he’s wily enough to corner Chagaev enough to win the decision, however, because Ruslan is difficult to trap and pin down. He’s got that Roy Jones Jr. side to side style pretty well learned at this stage, making it hard for a plodding type heavyweight like Skelton to beat him. However, if Chagaev makes the mistake of getting lazy and stranding in front of Sketon all night long, then, yes, Chagaev will surely lose. He’s not in the same class as Skelton is on the inside, and will eat a steady diet of uppercuts, hooks and rabbit punches all night long from Skelton and lose by a considerable margin.

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