Looking overweight and at times out of puff, Ruslan Chagaev pushed and panted his way to regaining the WBA title, following in the recent footsteps of superior fighters like David Haye and Alexander Povetkin.
Briton Haye, who is on the comeback trail following injury, was ringside to witness Chagaev’s win over a stop-start Fres Oquendo at the Ahmat Arena in Grozny, and will no doubt be licking his lips at the prospect of challenging the Uzbeki for his belt.
Chagaev, now 35 and at least a stone (14lbs) over his best fighting weight, hasn’t really shown the quality needed to sustain another title reign since his majority decision win over Russian giant Nikolai Valuev in 2007. Sunday night’s viewing was at times hard to grasp as both Oquendo and Chagaev laboured their way through a fight that lacked the excitement a high-profile contest of that magnitude should generate, and that has to be said is putting it mildly.
The adopted Chechen, who had President Ramzan Kadyrov amazingly running up and down from ringside bellowing instructions in his ear, now faces up to the tough task of keeping hold of the lesser ‘regular’ title, with a queue steadily forming to be the first contender in the hours after his triumph.
Unbeaten Cuban Luis Ortiz by rights should be handed his chance next, although Haye was the number one with the World Boxing Association before his shoulder ailment and could also be in the mix. Then there is the rejuvenated Povetkin, who recently defeated Manuel Charr and could be in line for a rematch, plus the likes of Antonio Tarver, Alexander Ustinov, Lucas Browne and the winner of Tyson Fury v Dereck Chisora 2 are all handily placed.
Whomever gets the opportunity would surely be confident seeing how Chagaev began his second spell as a recognised belt holder – in what is a disappointing top division that desperately needs a spark.
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