Fistic Notes and Nuggets – Ten years ago – on October 7, 2006 – Nikolay Valuev emblazoned his 7-foot-1-inch, 328-pound frame on the American boxing scene with an eleventh-round knockout of Monte Barrett in a fight that was televised by HBO. Soon after, Valuev was asked, “You always step over the ring ropes instead of climbing through them like the other boxers. Do you do this to intimidate your opponents? With impeccable logic, Valuev answered, “I do this because it is easier for me to step over the ropes than to climb through.”
Valuev went on to beat the likes of Jameel McCline, Sergey Liakhovich, John Ruiz, and a badly-faded Evander Holyfield. He also briefly held the WBA heavyweight title on two occasions. Chronic physical ailments hampered his ring career, which ended with a November 7, 2009 majority-decision loss to David Haye.
Valuev, along with the Klitschko brothers and Kostya Tszyu, was part of a generation of fighters who came out of what had once been the Soviet Union.
And he was aware of what might follow.
“The time has come,” Valuev said in 2007. “It is our turn now. Since the breakdown of the Soviet Union, many boxers have taken the opportunity to head west and have trained there. By doing so, they have gained valuable experience. We are influenced by the Russian school, but we can implement this newfound knowledge. That is the secret of our success.”
Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev, Vasyl Lomachenko, Alexander Povetkin, and others have proven Valuev right. Their time has come.
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Dino Duva and Don King once co-promoted Nigerian heavyweight Samuel Peter. Recently, Duva reminisced about what happened after Peter beat Jameel McCline and Oleg Maskaev in consecutive fights to claim the WBC “interim” and “world” heavyweight crowns.
“It was early-2008,” Duva recalled. “Don and I went to Nigeria and met with a former president of Nigeria and some businessmen. They were serious about wanting to promote Samuel’s next fight in Nigeria. We were close to a deal. Then Don asked for fifty thousand barrels of oil as part of the package. I said, ‘Don, don’t kill the deal.’ And Don told me, ‘Don’t worry; I know what I’m doing. When the deal is done, I’ll give you ten thousand barrels of oil.”
“And it killed the deal,” Duva remembered. “But the most interesting thing about it was, Don and I were fifty-fifty partners on Samuel Peter. And there he was, telling me that we were going to split the oil eighty-twenty.”
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Last month, the WBC released its ranking of the top ten WBC middleweight champions of all time.
Ray Leonard is #1, which is a stretch. As great as Leonard was, he had only two wins at middleweight; one against Marvin Hagler and the other in his long-forgotten third bout against Roberto Duran.
Bernard Hopkins is ranked #2 by the WBC. Then things get truly idiotic.
The WBC lists Joey Giardello as its third-greatest middleweight champion. That places Giardello (a marginal champion) ahead of Carlos Monzon (#4), Marvin Hagler (#5), Nino Benvenuti (#6), and Gennady Golovkin (#7).
Boxing fans should keep these rankings in mind the next time the WBC tries to defend the credibility its contemporary rankings.
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Fight fans have grown accustomed to hearing the term “undercard” in conjunction with preliminary fights. Jose Corpas discusses the origins of that designation in Black Ink, a recently published biography of world bantamweight champion Panama Al Brown.
“Undercard,” Corpas writes, “is a name held over from illegal boxing. Since posters could not be used, promoters had cards small enough to fit inside the palm of a hand printed before their shows. Word on upcoming shows was spread by men handing out the cards, concealed in a handshake, at train stations, pubs, and street corners. On the front, or top, of the cards were the headliners, date, and location. On the flip side, or ‘under’ the card, appeared the names of the preliminary fighters.”
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The tidal wave of commentary that washed over the world when Muhammad Ali died has receded in recent months. But some of the observations bear repeating. One of these comes from Bart Barrry, who, shortly after Ali’s death, wrote, “Look closely at how Ali set his mouth when he threw right hands – hurting punches thrown with every intention of bringing pain or unconsciousness or both to the men across from him. Don’t dismiss this as an anomaly either. Ali had athleticism and charisma enough to make his living quite a few ways other than hurting others. But he hurt others for a living because he was great at it in a way we rightly call historic. That is an aesthetic judgment, not a moral one. It is a reminder that Ali’s ascent from Olympic gold medalist to heavyweight champion of the world relied necessarily on his conversion from an athlete who boxed for points to a fighter who hurt other men. And he didn’t do it reluctantly. Look at his eyes when he took other men’s consciousness. Ali was all fighter.”
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His most recent book – A Hard World: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing – was published recently by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.
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