Talk of a new beast in the ‘Iranian Hulk’ entering combat sports imminently has brought WBN to consider some of the past anomalies to enter the squared circle.
As Sajad Gharibi prepares to join the ranks of Bare Knuckle Fighting after signing a deal with BKFC, he won’t be the only freakish-looking fighter to do so.
There have been many in the past. Dating back to the very early days of boxing. But in 1935, one European giant opened the doors for others to follow.
Gogea Mitu, born Dumitru Stefanescu, started the revolution on the professional side of the sport.
Still listed as the tallest Romanian of all time, Mitu stood anywhere between 7ft 4ins (2 meters 23cm) and 8ft 2ins (2 meters 50cm), depending on who you believe.
Judging by photographs of Mitu, You’d tend to lean towards the latter.
But by the time Mitu made his pro debut at the age of 25 in June of 1935, the lanky puncher was already struggled to cope with his growth.
Defeating Saverio Grizzo via KO in the first round, though, Mitu was off and running. Four months later, a second early stoppage victory in his home country led to a call from France.
Mitu headed to Paris for what should have been the start of a lucrative spell with the possibility of a further trip to America. Sadly, this failed to transpire. Despite wowing the Parisian fans with a second-round win over Giuseppe Sanga, Mitu would never fight again.
Six months later, Mitu died of complications from tuberculosis at just 26. Mitu had already laid the groundwork for what was to come.
Alongside South African George Potgieter, who stood 7ft 2ins and won 11 of 13 bouts (all eleven by KO), the boxing fraternity was already hooked.
The fascination, particularly in professional wrestling and other combat sports, grew and grew.
Boxing enjoyed crossovers with such fighters from the wrestling and sumo world for years to come. Muhammad Ali and George Foreman where just two of those who competed in exhibitions.
A lull in the 1980s as Mike Tyson took center stage, the 1990s was a breeding ground for the taller heavyweight. Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, and brother Vitali took the top division into a new era of super heavyweights.
In the 2000s, the super-tall pugilist returned in the form of Nikolai Valuev. A 7ft Russian behemoth with bad intentions. Valuev turned pro in 1993 to instant recognition for his sheer bulk and brute force alone.
A ten-year run again timid opposition turned Valuev into a ranked contender at 33-0. It was time to steps things up.
By then, the Klitschko brothers held the monopoly over the division. Typically, neither wanted to go near someone like Valuev, despite the fact he was now a big name in Germany.
Valuev instead forged his own path to a WBA ‘regular’ title shot. Victories over Larry Donald and Clifford Ettiene helped push his ranking.
John Ruiz was next up for the largely unrecognized strap. But Valuev broke the mold by becoming the only ever fighter over 6ft something to become champion of the world.
The run lasted three defenses. The unfancied and considerably shorter Ruslan Chagaev took Nik’s cloak of invincibility via majority decision.
Triumphs against Evander Holyfield in Zurich, Ruiz again (regaining the title) and Siarhei Liakhovich kept a run at the top going. Again, the strain of being a fighter took its toll on Valuev’s considerable frame.
When a puny (compared to Valuev) former cruiserweight named David Haye came calling the writing was already on the wall. Another far smaller man proved to be the Kryptonite.
Training regimes were torture for Valuev by then. After twelve rounds, Valuev succumbed to the big-punching Briton on points. Wobbled along the way, it was a clear moment for Valuev to call it a day.
Already leading the taller man into a new era by proving a long-term run in the sport is possible, Valuev remains a legendary figure among larger heavyweights.
In a later shock move, Valuev ended up becoming a children’s storyteller on TV.
Since then, boxing has been craving another monster. For a brief moment in 2015, it seems Chinese man-mountain Taishan Dong was that man.
Signed by Golden Boy Promotions under Oscar De La Hoya, Taishan was promoted under a moniker of ‘The Great Wall’.
A couple of KO’s in and things seemed to be going well. That was until Taishan began to ship more and more punches in each fight. Clearly not happy as his suspect defense being breached, Taishan quit boxing after just six bouts.
Quiet for almost two years, people wondered whatever happened to Taishan. In 2017, they got their answer.
Unsurprisingly, WWE boss Vince McMahon, the entrepreneur who brought ‘Andre the Giant’ to the fore, was behind it.
Offering Taishan a spot in WWE Developmental at their Performance Center, Dong entered pro wrestling.
Trying out in October 2017, Taishan was officially signed by WWE in July 2018. He lasted a mere five months before leaving WWE voluntarily.
Now, the latest beast to be linked to fighting is Instagram sensation Gharibi. An unbelievable specimen.
BKFC boss David Feldman is keen to put on at least one show featuring Iran’s most-followed weightlifter.
Interest has intensified since the official announcement late in 2019. A debut is set to go down over the next few months.
Judging by some of his vast feats on social media, the Iranian Hulk is sure to push PPV’s to record BKFC levels if Feldman can finally get Gharibi on US soil.