In a place far away, another WBC-related fight will take place on the same day the now-delayed Vitali Klitschko – Hasim Rahman bout was supposed to occur.
This fight, between one-time top contender Oleg Maskaev (31-5) and always-on-the-fringe contender Sinan Samil Sam (24-2) will take place in Germany in what is being billed as an eliminator that will eventually lead to a WBC title opportunity.
The winner is expected to face former cruiserweight titlist Juan Carlos Gomez (40-1), who recently cruised past former a WBC heavyweight titlist, the 40-year-old, Oliver McCall, in another eliminator.
Maskaev made a name for himself in 1999 by knocking out an up-and-coming Hasim Rahman. Prior to that he was seen as a tough but limited guy who was stopped by David Tua (KO by 11 in 1997) and McCall (KO by 1 in 1996).
However, so dominating was his through-the-ropes depositing of Rahman that the big guys at HBO took notice. A couple more wins and he was pitted against then-undefeated Canadian Kirk Johnson.
Johnson appeared to be wary of the powerful Kazakhstani’s famous right hand through the first three rounds, but the clever Johnson was not to be denied. He caught Maskaev running headlong to him with a beautifully timed shot that ended the fight, and ostensibly ended his time as a top contender.
If that fight did not accomplish Maskaev’s career demolition, in his next fight Lance “Mount” Whitaker stopped him in only two rounds. After a couple of meaningless wins, big man Corey Sanders (the American version) stopped him in eight rounds in 2002 for what should have meant relegation to the club circuit with no return. The “Big O,” it seemed, was a no-go. (Sanders has since lost four fights in a row).
Perhaps as an instructive precursor for Hasim Rahman’s course in career reclamation, Maskaev returned to the club circuit with a vengeance.
He has won nine consecutive fights; all against guys you’ve never heard of and likely never will. As a result, at the age of 36, he finds himself the number two-ranked heavyweight in the world behind Sam – at least in the eyes of the WBC. He is unranked by the WBO, IBF or WBA.
In his most recent win, against the Ecuadorian Livin Castillo, Maskaev, while heavy-handed, appeared much slower than in years past. The smallish Castillo, who has worked mostly as a light-heavyweight and cruiserweight, provided almost no opposition and, we suspect, that is exactly what Maskaev’s handlers were looking for.
While no one has ever doubted his right-handed power, his chin and the fact that he is clearly faded fighter are limiting factors in his march to a mandatory title match.
How this translates into a number two ranking is anyone’s guess. His history with the Klitschkos, including an amateur win over Vitali, could indicate a desire (I’ll leave it to you, the reader, to decide who could benefit from such an arrangement) for a major matchup of big men from the former Soviet Union. It could also simply give the Turkish, Germany-based, Sam an eliminator against a man thought to be well past his prime (again you’ll have to decide who could benefit).
In any case, Sam, who holds something called the WBC International title, is now the number one contender (though this does not make sense in light of the fact that Hasim Rahman is the mandatory challenger and “interim” titlist – we can only assume he is the super number one).
Apparently to keep that rating he is being forced to first meet Maskaev, and perhaps later he’ll face Gomez in a rematch of their 2003 fight that Gomez thoroughly dominated.
Like Maskaev, Sam, now 31, was apparently down and out with back-to-back losses, first to Gomez, then to Luan Krasniqi in a bout for the EBU belt. While Krasniqi would go on to challenge and lose to Lamon Brewster for the WBO belt, Sam, again like Maskaev, reentered the club circuit.
Yes, from those two losses he rebounded to achieve the number one status by meeting and beating the following list of heavyweight stalwarts: Peter Okhello (W12); 39-year-old Lawrence Clay-Bey (W12); Dennis Bakhtov (KO10); Sergey Dychkov (KO3); Doug Liggion (KO1) and Edgar Kalnars (KO5).
Clearly his biggest win to date was his 2003 annihilation of Danny Williams (KO6), long before Williams stopped Mike Tyson and later challenged Klitschko for the WBC belt.
Neither before or since has Sam met and defeated anyone that resembles a true contender. Although his rugged style and physical makeup makes him a difficult opponent for anyone, his overall lack of power and speed, combined with a suspect defense also makes him easy pickings for the bigger and faster heavyweights truly at the top of the sport.
Sam is ranked number 10 by the WBA, unranked by the IBF, and number 8 by the WBO.
The WBC has forced a match that will ultimately lead to another mandated match for the title that will undoubtedly include a heavyweight who has no business being in a title bout.
Maskaev was nearly a contender once, and Sam has never really been near the top. Both deserve respect as tough journeymen competitors but neither has proven himself up to the mission of capturing the world title.
So, while we’ll have to wait for the Klitschko-Rahman match – again. Just know that November 12th still has a heavyweight fight that will figure into the future of the division’s multi-splintered title picture.
It is not a pretty picture, but there you have it.