WBA heavyweight champion Nikolay Valuev is reluctantly considering a voluntary defense of his title because of his inability to land a dream rematch with his only conqueror, Ruslan Chagaev. The WBA permitted the seven-foot-tall Russian Giant to make an optional defense before facing Chagaev in the fall, but Valuev was so intent on revenge that he requested an immediate purse bid so that Chagaev rematch could be scheduled before German boxing fans go on summer holiday. Surprisingly, the WBA received the request but since then has done nothing to facilitate a second bout between Valuev (50-1, 34 KOs) and Chagaev (25-0-1, 17 KOs), a champion who was moved to WBA champion ‘in recess’ due to his constant injuries. Because Valuev and Chagaev are under contract to rival promoters and television networks, negotiations are highly unlikely to be concluded without the WBA’s assistance.
Valuev’s manager, Wilfried Sauerland is losing patience with the lack of progress, and now intends to explore other options for the two-time heavyweight champion. “Niko is so confident he can avenge his only loss that he asked me to get him a rematch with Chagaev as his first fight of 2009,” said Sauerland. “I was happy to accommodate his wish, but we need the help of the WBA. For reasons unknown to me, the WBA is asleep at the switch. I don’t know if it’s the WBA or Chagaev that is behind the delay, but I want Niko to fight by the end of May, and since there has been no movement with Chagaev, I have no choice left but to start looking for a different opponent for Niko. He has always been an active champion and wants to stay that way.” With May 30th being held as the working date of Valuev’s next defense, the WBA must act immediately if it is to salvage a prompt rematch between the Russian rivals. Otherwise, Valuev will exercise his right to a voluntary defense and Chagaev will have to honor a previous WBA ruling that forces him to remain inactive until September.
After losing a majority decision to Chagaev in April 2007, Valuev earned a rematch by topping respected former WBO champion Sergei Lyakhovich in a WBA eliminator. However, Chagaev pulled out of the rematch in 2008, first with a sore throat and then again with an Achilles tendon injury, forcing the WBA to lower the fragile Chagaev’s standing to “champion in recess.” The busy Valuev then won the vacant title against John Ruiz, followed by a close points victory over Evander Holyfield.