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Is The Timing Right for a Chagaev Victory?

Ruslan Chagaev Wladimir KlitschkoBy By Brock Kaiser: On Saturday, June 20th in Gelsenkirchen, Germany Wladimir Klitschko (52-3 46 KO) will defend his various alphabet titles (and perhaps gain a new one as the vacant Ring magazine title is on the line) against Russian Chagaev (25-0-1 17 KO) in what he hopes will further his argument as being the “real” heavyweight champion of the world.

Before a prediction can be made on the outcome, smart pundits of the sport know that beyond the combatants’ individual records it is even more important to study the attributes of each. Qualities such as power and hand speed are certainly important factors to be weighed, but an often overlooked quality that a boxer also brings to a fight is timing. All the abilities in the world won’t help a boxer whose mind is not telling his body to react soon enough to what is occurring in the ring. In fact, sometimes this attribute even transcends the fight itself and becomes an important component for what goes on out of it.

Consider for a moment the case of Ronald “Winky” Wright. Those who have followed Winky’s career know that he fought his way up from relative obscurity to become both light middleweight and middleweight champion (the latter undisputed) of the world. Never asking for a handout along the way but rather just an opportunity to show he was worthy, he also came to be known as one of the hardest working fighters in the sport.

Most would say that it was simply a case of a great fighter’s time had finally come.

Winky would eventually lose his championships but since he was still relatively young, most stakeholders in boxing expected that he would rise up and once again begin the climb to championship status. But instead of fighting his way to a title shot, Winky inexplicably went on a self-imposed hiatus. Allegedly, word out of his camp was that based on the respect he should have earned for prior fights, he was only looking for the bigger names to step in the ring with and wanted an immediate shot at a championship. The opportunity he was looking for never came.

Possibly the time for a title shot to fall into his lap just wasn’t right.

Supporters of Winky would say that opponents were afraid of the ring tactician and that his skill set made his opponents look bad in defeat. Detractors said that it was actually his sleep-inducing, money-losing fighting style that really scared opponents away, and that even in defeat he did in fact manage to make his opponents look bad. But for whatever the reason was, when Winky did get finally some interest from a big name it might have been a case of “be careful what you ask for” as it was Paul Williams, arguably one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the sport. Winky, seemingly tired of sitting around and waiting for something to happen, took the fight.

One would suppose that after a 21-month layoff, even Winky realized that the time was now or never.

As expected, Winky lost (though not badly) and said that based on his performance he was still interested in fighting for a championship. So after competing in the total of one fight in almost a two-year span (in which he lost), and not even having won a fight since December of 2006, word out of his camp was that one of the names on his short list was Kelly Pavlik.

An odd time to call out one of the biggest names in the sport.

Which brings us back to Chagaev, the curiously nicknamed “White Tyson” (at best, a moniker for their somewhat like body type and certainly not fighting style). Chagaev was at one time one of the plural WBA heavyweight champions (his title being “Champion in Recess”, also known as “Paper-Title in Which We Can Still Extract Sanctioning Fees From”). He was due to fight Nikolay Valuev (the “Active WBA Champion”) to determine the supposed one true divisional champion.

But after a failed medical test (allegedly for Hepatitis B) Chagaev’s rematch with Valuev was canceled, his “championship” (for whatever it was worth) stripped, and was left looking for another fight.

However, sometimes the stars align in boxing and the timing becomes just right.

This would prove to be an advantageous cancellation as Klitschko himself was now looking for another proverbial dance partner as David Haye had pulled out of their fight because of an injury. And so after a meeting of the minds Chagaev will now take on Klitschko for his IBF and WBO titles, and also the previously vacant Ring magazine title. And not wanting to be left out of the lucrative sanctioning fees that the winner of this fight will command, the WBA has reported that it will now re-evaluate whether or not this fight will also include the WBA title. This is, of course, after the organization anointed Valuev as their one true champion.

Perhaps it’s time for Valuev to give his budding acting career a more serious try?

But ignoring everything else, it really all comes down to this one question: Who will win Saturday’s fight?

Klitschko has shown more capability in the power department with over an 83% KO rate while Chagaev comes in with a little over 65%. While hand speed likely goes to Klitschko, it is only useful when combined with accuracy, and Klitschko has assuredly has that by a mile. His jab (though arduous to fans looking for more action from the champion, or at the very least, an occasional uppercut) has become one of the most dangerous weapons in the sport. Both boxers have showed an excellent command of the ring and exceptional defensive skills, and thus that comparison comes out as a draw.

However, what might be most telling predictor of the outcome is while Chagaev comes in at a little over six feet, Klitschko stands at 6’6” and even perhaps closer to 6’7”. Although Chagaev has beaten the giant that is Valuev, the outcome of their fight was a disputed one, and comparing his talent to Klitschko is an insult to both Klitschko and the person who invented the word “talent”.

At best, this difference is going to be a difficult roadblock for Chagaev to maneuver and at worst, the fight becomes a repeat of Klitschko’s “battle” with Imbragimov.

But as we come back full circle, perhaps the best attribute of all in boxing is in fact timing, and by the time the final bell sounds in the 12th round Wladimir Klitschko will have convincingly won this fight by unanimous decision.

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