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Ruslan Chagaev Given Until June 2009 to Defend WBA title, Against Ruiz vs. Valuev winner

John Ruiz Nikolai Valuev Ruslan ChagaevBy Erik Schmidt: The WBA has come out today with announcement giving their undefeated heavyweight champion Ruslan Chagaev (24-0-1, 17 KOs) until June 26th 2009 to heal from his injuries and make a title defense against his number #1 challenger Nikolay Valuev (48-1, 34 KOs). Last month, Chagaev, 29, suffered a tear in his left Achilles tendon, making it necessary for him to cancel his bout with Valuev. This was the second cancellation with Valuev, and the third overall for Chagaev since winning the WBA heavyweight title in April of 2007 with a 12-round majority decision victory over Valuev.

In the meantime, Valuev and John Ruiz, the #2 rated challenger in the WBA, are free to meet for the regular WBA heavyweight title, with the winner of that fight to meet Chagaev, considered to be the “champion in recess” for the title no later than June 26th 2009. Clearly, this is a move that will please all, for there were many people who felt that Chagaev should have been stripped of his title long ago for his two previous cancellations, and with the latest one last month, it was like throwing fuel on the fire. However, Chagaev’s recent injury had nothing to do with the two prior cancellations, so it made sense for the WBA to let him continue to hold onto the title until he heeled from the injury, letting him then take on the winner of the regular title.

Valuev has met once before with John Ruiz, defeating him by a 12-round majority decision in December 2005, to take away his WBA heavyweight title. The fight was very close, with Ruiz landing the better shots but with Valuev landing more often, and doing enough down the stretch to take away Ruiz’s title. Compared to the Chagaev bout with Valuev, the fight was much more interesting to watch, as both fighters traded shots for the full 12-rounds.

Ruiz, known as a fighter prone to clinching and wrestling on the inside, unveiled an altogether different fighting style in the bout. Instead of usual punch and grab technique that he’d been using for much of his boxing career, he opted to slug it out with the huge 7’0″ 320 lb Valuev. The outcome was an exciting fight, and for many people, they thought that Ruiz had done enough to hold retain his WBA title.

Since that fight, Ruiz has continued fighting well, although losing controversial a 12-round split decision to Chagaev in November 2006, punching much more often and not clinching in the manner he had used in the past. Ruiz, now 36, has looked especially impressive in his last two fights, defeating Otis Tisdale by a 2nd round TKO in October 2007, and defeating Jameel McCline by a lopsided 12-round unanimous decision in March 2008, for the WBC title eliminator.

For his part, Valuev, has reeled off two consecutive wins over Jean Francois Bergeron and Serguei Lyakhovich, the ladder Valuev defeated by an impressive 12-round unanimous decision in the WBC title eliminator in February.

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