By Alexey Potapov
Photos: Pavel Terekhov
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IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (53-3, 47 KOs) scored a tenth round TKO over previously unbeaten WBA heavyweight champion in recess Ruslan Chagaev (25-1-1, 17 KOs) on Saturday night in front of 61,000+ at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Klitschko and Chagaev came together in the ring after both had fights cancelled. Klitschko was originally scheduled to defend against David Haye on this show, but Haye pulled out with an injury. Chagaev was to face-off with Nikolai Valuev on May, 30th in Helsinki, but the Finnish Boxing Federation KO’d the fight the day before due to uncertainty about Chagaev’s health as he had previously contracted hepatitis B.
At the press conference and the open training session before the fight, Chagaev desplayed his WBA champion’s belt and and implied that this would be a unification fight, however some hours prior to the fight, WBA Legal Director Robert E. Mack informed that the WBA would not sanction the fight.
“Ruslan is still world champion, tonight, however, he will not box for his WBA belt. Beyond that, the WBA still has not decided anything. Our focus is now on the fight against Wladimir Klitschko. Everything else we’ll see about afterwards,” said Chagaev promoter Klaus-Peter Kohl. The decision stopped the Klitschko brothers from laying a claim to all major world titles.
Although Wladimir was an unconditional favorite, he has had problems with lefthanders, such as Sultan Ibragimov and Tony Thompson. And of course, he suffered his most painful and shocking defeat against lefthander Corrie Sanders in 2003. However, Wladimir has become the best heavyweight in the world since he started to train under Emanuel Steward.
The unbeaten Chagaev presented Klitschko with a new complex test, although in the past Wlad handled unbeaten boxers, such as Sultan Ibragimov, Calvin Brock and Samuel Peter. “The White Tyson” as Chagaev is known, held wins over Nikolai Valuev and John Ruiz, as well as Cuban triple Olympic champion Felix Savon in the amateurs.
Veltins Arena, the football stadium of FC Schalke 04 was filled completely with 61,000 fans, movie stars and celebrities. The atmosphere was simply electric. When the Haye fight imploded, HBO chose not to televise the world heavyweight championship, opting instead to show a rerun of “Meet The Spartans.” Luckily for U.S. boxing fans, ESPN Classic saved the day.
Wlad and his team chose the ideal tactics for boxing against a lefthander. Having a huge advantage in size and physical strength, Wladimir constantly connected to the head of the Uzbek boxer. Chagaev had little luck in getting to the head of the champion and instead concentrated on the body. Klitschko dropped Chagaev with a big right hand in round two, but patiently continued with his fight plan rather than go for the early kill. Chagaev constantly marched forward, but found little success as Klitschko’s jab held Ruslan at bay.
A bad cut was opened over Chagaev’s left eye late in the fight, and the blood may have inspired Wladimir who began to absolutely hammer Chagaev on the ropes. After the ninth round ended, Chagaev’s trainer Michael Timm made a decision to stop fight. It was the correct decision. Chagaev was a beaten fighter. It was announced as a tenth round TKO since referee Eddie Cotton had officially waved it off after the bell rang for the tenth round.
Now one of brothers Klitschko will try to land a fight against seven-foot WBA heavyweight Nikolay Valuev. With Chagaev vanquished, the Russian Giant now holds the only major heavyweight championship belt not in the Klitschko family.