“Step right up ladies and gentleman and buy your tickets to see the biggest heavyweight champion in the history of the world.”
In Nicolay Valuev, the WBA now has the center-ring attraction in the three-ring circus that is the heavyweight division.
Whenever the 7-foot, 300+ pound Russian makes his U.S. debut as champion, the fight should be held in a tent, cotton candy should be sold, and the bearded lady should be a round card girl.
None of these things will happen – at least I hope not – but you can bet that Valuev will be promoted for his curiosity value. Whether he can fight will not matter to the curious among the general public. There also will be plenty of real boxing fans who want to take a look at someone who makes the Klitschko brothers look medium sized and who would make Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey look like a couple of shrimps.
Primo Carnera, at 6-5, 270 pounds was sometimes known as the Ambling Alp. He would be just a foothill alongside the Germany-based Beast of the East, who prefers to be known as the Russian Giant. How clever.
“I’m not thinking about being the first Russian champion, I’m thinking of improving, so I can keep the title two or three fights,” the 32-year-old Valuev was quoted as saying after winning the WBA title on a majority decision over John Ruiz that was roundly booed by a crowd of 10,325 in Max Schmeling Hall at Berlin.
An opponent has not been selected for Valuev’s first defense. May I suggest 7-foot Julius Long, who is called the Towering Inferno. It could be billed as “History’s Biggest Fight – 14 Feet of Heavyweights.”
Okay, so Long only has 14-7 record, with 12 knockouts, and lost his last fight. But how difficult should it be for promoter Don King to get the WBA to rank him?
The Beast apparently would have a weight advantage over the Inferno. Long has weighed as much as 290 pounds, but he weighed only 237 when he dropped a 10-round decision to 223-pound Terry Smith (height unknown) last Sept. 2. There is plenty of room, however, for Long to pack on some pounds.
Valuev, 43-0, 31 knockouts, who has weighed as much as 333 pounds, slimmed down to 324 for his victory over the 6-2, 237 3/4 pound Ruiz after 12 pushing, pulling, clutching rounds on Dec. 17. It was the 11th straight fight in Germany for Valuev. In two previous fights, he knocked out 6-2 Clifford Etienne in the third round, outweighing Etienne by 115½ pounds, and, with a weight advantage of 80 pounds, he scored a 12-round majority decision over 6-3 Larry Donald.
Before he settled in Germany, the majority of Valuev’s fights were in Russia, but he has fought twice in The United States, both times at Atlantic City. He stopped Terrell Nelson (height unknown) in the second round of an undercard bout in 1997 in his ninth pro fight. In 2001, he stopped 6-3 George Linberger in the first round of a scheduled 12-round co-featured match. Weights were not available.
While Valuev has replaced 6-7½ Vitali Klitschko as the tallest heavyweight champion, he is not the tallest fighter ever. John Rankin was 7-4 and South African Ewart Potgieter was 7-2 when they fought.
I could find only one listed fight for Rankin, who called himself Big John. In 1967, Rankin, weighing 300 pounds, won a four-round decision over Willie Lee (height unknown), 197 1/4, at New Orleans. Potgieter, 11-2-1, 11 knockouts, in 1954-57, weighed 323 pounds for his last fight in which lost a 10-round decision to 6-3, 203-pound John Holman at Portland, Ore.
Two other 7-foot heavyweights were Marcellus Brown and Gil Anderson. The latter’s only two listed fights were wins by a knockout and by a TKO in 1954. His high weight was 248 pounds.
Brown, billed as “More than a Conqueror, posted a 25-15-1 record, 21 knockouts, in 1989-91/ 1994-2001. He weighed 273 pounds when he was stopped in the first round by 6-4, 231-pound Yanqui Diaz in his last fight. Of his 15 losses, five were by knockout and seven were by TKO. Talk about “the harder they fall.”
What would have been the most talked about fight involving a 7-footer never happened.
In 1971, a bout between Wilt Chamberlain and Muhammad Ali was in the works, but the Big Dipper came to his senses and pulled out.
There are lists that have two other 7-4 fighters, George Mitu of Romania, and Jim Cully of Ireland. I could not find a record for Mitu. I did find a partial record for Cully, in which he scored a knockout and got knocked out in two fights in 1948, but his height was listed at 7-2. There also is a Henry Johnson listed at 7-2, but I could not confirm it.