Boxing: Valuev v Chagaev clash to decide true champion



BERLIN, Ryland James - Russian giant Nikolai Valuev finally gets the chance for the revenge he has craved for two years when he faces Ruslan Chagaev in Helsinki on Saturday to finally settle who is the undisputed WBA heavyweight champion.
The 35-year-old Valuev suffered the only defeat of his career when he was shocked by Chagaev who clinched a majority points over the Russian in Stuttgart in April 2007.



Boxing: Valuev v Chagaev clash to decide true champion
Now Valuev, from St Petersburg, will step into Helsinki's Hartwell Arena ring determined to prove he is the undisputed WBA heavyweight champion against "champion in recess" Chagaev.
"I am coming to Helsinki to show that I am the real champion," said Valuev who has 34 knock-outs in 50 wins with just the single loss on his record.
"I have made a lot of key changes since the defeat two years ago.
"I have appointed a new head coach who has changed my training routine completely and has made me a much better fighter.
"I have improved a lot. I have no doubts that I will leave the ring victorious this time out."
Valuev, a deep thinker who won over his wife Galina with poetry, has been waiting impatiently for the rematch since April 14 2007.
As the WBA's mandatory challenger, he was set to meet Chagaev in May 2007, but illness forced the Uzbekistan fighter to postpone the fight before a ruptured achilles tendon injury ruled out another rematch in July that year.
The WBA vacated the heavyweight title, making Chagaev champion in recess while Valuev defeated John Ruiz in August 2008 to win back his title.
But with two active champions, both fighters have since claimed they are the undisputed WBA heavyweight champion and Saturday's fight in Helsinki will finally settle the score.
Chagaev returned to the ring in February when the 30-year-old defeated Carl Davis Drumond and showed his opinion on the matter with "The Real Champion" printed on the back of his t-shirt.
"I have beaten Valuev once and I will beat him again," he has said.
"I don't understand what all that talk is about. I am the champion."
Valuev has trained in the quiet German village of Kienbaum, 20 miles east of Berlin, to shut out all distractions ahead of the fight.
"In St. Petersburg, the phone would ring every two minutes," said Valuev who defended his title against Evander Holyfield in Zurich last December.
"Then there would be a family duties.
"And I could not walk on the streets without being recognised and asked for a signature.
All of Valuev's sparring sessions are behind closed doors and he only flew to Helsinki last Sunday as the countdown for the fight began.
The first-ever heavyweight title fight on Finnish soil is a chance for Valuev to put his defeat to Chagaev behind him which killed the Russian's dream to tie Rocky Marciano's record of 49 fights undefeated.
The bitter taste of defeat saw some big changes in Valuev's life.
He parted company with long-time coach Manuel Gabrielian and started to work with compatriot Alexander Zimin, who has worked on his speed and agility.
"I cannot wait to get in the ring with him (Chagaev)," said Valuev who is 2.13m tall and weighs in around 145kgs.
"I want to make amends for the loss against Chagaev and show the world that I am the true WBA heavyweight champion.
"It is about time to end all the confusion.
"Right now, we have a champion and a champion in recess, but after May 30, there will be just one title-holder - me."
Plenty of Valuev fans are expected to travel to Helsinki from neighbouring St Petersburg to see their hero, but Chagaev is unconcerned.
"I don't care where this fight takes place," he said.
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Tuesday, May 26th 2009
Ryland James
           


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