Chagaev-Wladimir: Ruslan Gets Big Opportunity
By Sean McDaniel: World Boxing Association ‘champion in recess’ Ruslan Chagaev (25-0-1, 17 KOs) received a golden opportunity this week when David Haye pulled up lame for his June 20th fight with IBF/WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, leaving an opening for Chagaev to slide in and take the fight. Chagaev, 30, was in the right place at the right time and was able to take advantage of Haye’s misfortune to get the fight.
Just last week, things looked bleak for Chagaev after he failed a pre-fight medical exam for his fight with WBA heavyweight champion Nikolay Valuev in Helsinki, Finland. The WBA still has yet to make a ruling about the cancellation of that fight. However, it might not matter to Chagaev either way if he’s able to pull off an upset over Klitschko on June 20th at the Veltins Arena, in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
Chagaev, 6’1”, 228 pounds, will be giving up a lot of size and weight to the 6’7” 245 pound Wladimir, and will have to find a way to nullify the big Ukrainian’s size and reach advantage if he’s to have a chance at beating him. Chagaev did well in the past in beating the 7-foot 320 pound Valuev by a 12-round majority decision to win the WBA title in 2007.
Chagaev showed in that fight that with his speed and power that he could not only beat a fighter that was almost a foot taller than him, but look impressive in doing so. There’s a big difference between the slow moving Valuev and the nimble-footed Klitschko, but how much of a difference remains to be seen.
Chagaev fights well in short bursts, and is good at coming in fast to throw quick flurries and then get out of range before he gets hit. You can expect that the southpaw Chagaev will be looking to do the same thing against the taller Wladimir. Chagaev may be facing a slightly quicker opponent in Klitschko, but Wladimir is equally vulnerable to fighters that come at him and press him hard.
Chagaev will have to adjust to getting hit much more often that he’s had to in recent years, because Ruslan has had it easy fighting opponents like Matt Skelton, Valuev, Michael Sprott, Carl Davis Drumond, John Ruiz, Vladimir Virchis and Rob Calloway, which accounts for all of Chagaev’s opposition during the past three years.
Wladimir is a tremendous step up in competition from those fighters, at least in terms of offensive firepower. Chagaev will have to find a way to bridge the gap to get inside Klitschko’s long reach if he wants to have a chance at beating him. Wladimir’s recent opponents Hasim Rahman, Lamon Brewster and Sultan Ibragimov were unable to get close enough to Klitschko to land anything big.
Only 6’5” Tony Thompson was able to land with any kind of regularity, but he had no power with which to bother Wladimir. Chagaev does have good power, but unless he can get close enough to Wladimir it won’t matter. Wladimir will be retreating backwards every time that Chagaev comes forward, you can bet on that.
However, Chagaev is going to have to keep chasing after Wladimir if he is to have any hope of winning the bout. Chagaev can’t stay on the outside because he will be beaten up by Wladimir’s long jabs.