Overrated Boxers Part IV: Nikolai Valuev (Russia)

04/17/2023 - No comments

Nikolai Valuev was a unique figure in boxing history. He was the tallest and heaviest world champion ever, standing at 7 feet and weighing over 300 pounds. He was also a gentle and cultured man, who enjoyed classical music, literature and chess. He was nicknamed “The Beast from the East” and “The Russian Giant”, but he was more than just a freak show attraction. He was a good boxer who won 50 fights, including two reigns as the WBA heavyweight champion.

However, despite his impressive physical attributes and record of 50 wins and 2 losses, Valuev was not a very skilled or accomplished boxer. He relied mostly on his size and strength to overpower his opponents, but he lacked speed, technique, and stamina. He also faced a lot of criticism for his boring and defensive style of fighting, as well as for his questionable level of opposition.

Valuev’s career was marred by some of the most controversial decisions in boxing history. He was involved in many fights that many observers felt he lost, but he was awarded the victory by the judges. Valuev never fought any of the top heavyweights of his era, such as Lennox Lewis, Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir Klitschko, or Mike Tyson. He avoided them because he knew he would not stand a chance against their superior skills and power. He also turned down a lucrative offer to fight David Haye in 2008, fearing that Haye’s speed and movement would expose him.

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Valuev won most of his fights by narrow or controversial decisions, often benefiting from biased judges or hometown advantage. In 2005, Valuev faced John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title in Berlin. Ruiz was a veteran champion who had fought some of the best heavyweights of his era, such as Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney. Valuev was a relative unknown who had fought mostly in Europe against mediocre opposition.

The fight was a close and ugly affair, with both fighters clinching and holding frequently. Ruiz landed more punches and seemed to be more effective with his combinations, while Valuev relied on his jab and occasional right hands. The crowd booed both fighters for their lack of action, and many felt that Ruiz had done enough to retain his title. However, to the surprise of many, two of the judges scored the fight 116-113 and 116-114 for Valuev, while the third judge had it 114-114. Valuev became the new WBA heavyweight champion by majority decision.

Another controversial decision came in 2006, when Valuev defended his title against Larry Donald in Oldenburg, Germany. Donald was a former Olympian who had a solid but unspectacular career as a heavyweight contender. He had lost to some of the top names in the division, such as Vitali Klitschko, Kirk Johnson and Chris Byrd. He was seen as a safe opponent for Valuev, who was looking to make his second title defense.

The fight was another dull and uneventful affair, with both fighters showing little aggression or urgency. Donald used his jab and movement to keep Valuev at bay, while Valuev struggled to cut off the ring and land anything significant. Donald appeared to outwork and outland Valuev throughout the fight, while Valuev looked frustrated and tired. The crowd booed both fighters again for their lack of action, and many felt that Donald had done enough to win the title. However, once again, two of the judges scored the fight 118-111 and 116-112 for Valuev, while the third judge had it 115-113 for Donald. Valuev retained his title by unanimous decision.

Overrated Boxers Part II: Sven Ottke (Germany)

At the end of his career, Nikolai Valuev managed to pull of the biggest robbery yet. Evander Holyfield is a legend of the sport, a four-time heavyweight champion who had faced some of the best fighters of his era, such as Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, and Riddick Bowe. He was also known for his courage, determination, and resilience, overcoming many obstacles and setbacks in his career. But by 2008, he was past his prime, at 46 years old and with a record of 42-9-2. He had lost his last title fight against Sultan Ibragimov in 2007, and many people thought he should retire.

Holyfield had other plans. He wanted to make history by becoming the oldest heavyweight champion ever, surpassing George Foreman’s record. He accepted an offer from Valuev to challenge him for the WBA belt on December 20, 2008, in Zurich, Switzerland. It was a huge mismatch on paper, as Valuev had a 10-inch height advantage and a nearly 100-pound weight advantage over Holyfield. But Holyfield was confident that he could use his speed, skill, and experience to outbox Valuev.

The fight turned out to be a dull affair, with little action and excitement. Valuev was cautious and tentative, throwing few punches and landing even fewer. Holyfield was more active and aggressive, but he also struggled to connect with his shots due to Valuev’s size and reach. Neither fighter hurt or rocked the other, and there were no knockdowns. The fight went the full 12 rounds, and most observers thought that Holyfield had done more than enough to win by outpointing Valuev.

But when the judges’ scorecards were announced, there was a shock. One judge scored it a draw at 114-114, while the other two judges gave it to Valuev by scores of 115-114 and 116-112. Valuev retained his title by a majority decision, but many fans and experts cried foul. They accused the judges of being biased and corrupt, and they felt that Holyfield was robbed of his fifth world title. Some even suggested that the fight was fixed by Valuev’s promoters or by the WBA.

Valuev defended his decision win, saying that he deserved it because he was the champion and that Holyfield did not do enough to take his belt. He also said that he respected Holyfield as a great fighter and that he would be willing to give him a rematch. Holyfield was gracious in defeat, but he also expressed his disappointment and disbelief at the verdict. He said that he clearly won the fight and that he felt cheated by the judges. He also said that he wanted a rematch or another title shot.

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But neither of those things happened. Valuev went on to lose his title to David Haye in his next fight in 2009, while Holyfield fought three more times before retiring in 2011. The fight between Valuev and Holyfield remains one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history, and one of the biggest disappointments for Holyfield’s fans.

Nikolai Valuev was very overrated as a boxer because he never proved himself against the best fighters of his division, he won many of his fights by dubious decisions, and he lost badly to the only two punchers he faced. He was more of a freak show than a legitimate champion, and his legacy is tarnished by his lack of quality and credibility.

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