It’s a chilling image that won’t go away. Dark and ominous, it’s a sobering picture of newly crowned WBA heavyweight champ Nicolay Valuev – also known as the “Beast from the East” – being caught in the act.

I picture the 7-footer from Russia, who recently beat John Ruiz for the title, standing in a parking lot in Russia, where he’s grabbed onto (gasp) a frail, terrified 61-year-old security guard. And he’s holding the poor guy up by his shirt collar.

The security guard is suspended in mid air, a look of disbelief and horror in his eyes as he tries to run from The Beast. But as hard as he tries, he’s not moving because his feet are a foot off the ground. Still, he’s trying to run, trying to break free from the tight grip, arms and legs flailing in the air, security guard hat awry, official security guard tie clip smashed on the pavement.

After a few seconds, the guard realizes his efforts are futile and he stops and just kind of hangs there waiting to accept his beating.

It’s not unlike one of those old Saturday morning cartoons where the junkyard dog catches the cat inside the fence and holds it up by the collar as the cat tries desperately to get away.

It didn’t take Valuev (might want to learn how to spell his name) long to make headlines outside the ring. The new champ, who is following in the footsteps of one of his idols, Mike Tyson, has been accused of assaulting the security guard.

According to the St. Petersburg Times in Russia, the guard claims The Beast beat him up last week outside the Spartak Ice Palace in St. Petersburg. It all started when Valuev’s wife parked illegally in a place reserved for buses and was told to move her car by the guard, who was working as a parking attendant.

In an interview, the guard said The Beast’s wife, Mrs. Beast (aka Galina) told him it was her business where she parked and not his. She also told him she didn’t want him interfering with her parking responsibilities. She then called her husband, The Beast, who arrived 10 minutes later.

To hear the 61-year-old guard tell it, The Beast began beating him over the head and kept beating him even after he fell to the ground. He was later hospitalized in stable condition.

“She pointed her finger and said, ‘That’s him,’ and stepped off to the side,” the guard said. “And Valuev took me by the back of my neck and dragged me into the ventilation shed (probably like the woodshed in this country) and he beat me for a long time, and I even managed to lose and regain consciousness.”

I keep picturing this huge wolf grabbing tiny Thumper behind the neck and shaking him like a rag doll.

OK. That’s one side of the story. The Beast has his own tale to tell.

According to the newest member of the heavyweight champions of the world club, Valuev said he got a tearful call from his wife who said she was taking her young son to the ice rink when the guard mocked her, yelled at her and demanded to see her drivers license.

So The Beast quickly arrived on the scene.

”I sincerely regret the conflict,” The Beast said. “But you have to understand, I acted like any normal man in my position would have, whether he was the world champion or a simple engineer. I stood up for my wife and my 3-year-old son.”

Simple engineer? Bet they like that down at the construction sight.

“He insulted my wife,” The Beast said. “And then I grabbed him by the collar to bring him to his senses. I did not hit this man.”

Thus, the haunting vision.

The Beast said this wasn’t the first time the vigilante guard has crossed swords with the Valuev clan. Some time ago, the attendants shoved his young son.

The Beast’s wife said the whole episode might have been staged.

“Immediately after Nicolay talked with the attendant, an ambulance arrived at the ice palace,” she said. “Sometimes you have to wait three hours for an ambulance, and this time they hurried over immediately.”

Three hours? Remind me to avoid serious injury the next time I’m visiting Russia.

Mrs. Beast claims people were running around yelling, “Valuev won’t get away with this,” and “We have lots of friends in television and the newspapers. Everyone will find out what kind of world champion he is.”

Sorry. We won’t know that until he faces a legitimate heavyweight contender.

Meanwhile, welcome to the Big Time, Nicolay.