Ruslan Chagaev vs Kali Meehan: Another Eliminator, Another Farce

Ruslan Chagaevby Paul McCreath - On May 22 in Rostock Germany Ruslan Chagaev the former WBA heavyweight champion will attempt to get back into the title picture and earn a shot at his old title currently held by David Haye when he meets Kali Meehan in an elimination bout over 12 rounds. I don't know why they are going to bother with this farce. Chagaev is certainly qualified but he is the only one that is. As a former champion with a 25-1-1 record and 17 KOs he holds victories over name fighters like Vlad Virchis, John Ruiz, Nicolay Valuev and Matt Skelton. His only loss was last June when he was outclassed by Wlad Klitschko. If being outclassed by one of the Klitschko brothers eliminates you from title consideration there would hardly be anybody left. He may not be a threat to the Klitschkos but David Haye could be quite another matter. He is rated #6 by The Ring.

Ruslan is only 31 years old and aside from some physical problems from which he appears to have recovered and the possibility that he may have suffered a loss of confidence after the Klitscho fight there is no reason why he should not be as good as ever. He never lost his title in the ring but had it taken away in suspicious circumstances by the WBA. After failing a physical in Finland where he was to meet Valuev in a rematch and after Valuev refused to fight him he passed his medical in Germany and fought Wlad a couple of weeks later after Valuev turned down that fight too.. Valuev's reward for turning down these two fights was a bout with David Haye for the vacant title which Haye won in a very dull match. Like I said earlier the problem is not Chagaev's qualifications, it is those of Kali Meehan. Chagaev was once considered the second best heavyweight in the world behind only Wlad Klitschko. Vitali was retired at the time. Meehan may be a very likable guy and even exciting to watch at his level but he is not a world class fighter and does not belong in an eliminator. He is essentially a very good domestic level fighter. It is this type of decision by the WBA regarding eliminators that has seriously discredited that organization in recent years.

Kali has an impressive sounding record of 35-3 with 29 KOs. He is 6 foot 5 inches tall. It sounds pretty good until you look closely at who he has fought. Talk about record padding and hype jobs!! He began his pro career way back in 1997. He was born in Fiji and he had most of his early bouts in Australia where he now lives or in New Zealand. He racked up 23 straight wins, 18 by KO while meeting the usual list of local suspects, trial horses and just plain stiffs. That is no different than most young prospects. Finally in June of 2001 he travelled to the UK to meet the always unpredictable Danny Williams for the Commonwealth heavyweight title. Kali lasted all of 32 seconds before being stopped by Williams. You would think this would have ended any talk of Kali making the big time but this was not to be the case.

He returned to Australia for 5 more tune-up wins against fighters with a total of 44 losses then he hit the jackpot. He signed with Don King. At this time and for a number of years Don King had pretty much of a stranglehold on the heavyweight division and usually most of the 4 alphabet titles. Except for Lennox Lewis and later the Klitschko brothers almost all the name heavyweights from around the world were signed with King. Remember most of the rated fighters were American back then. If you wanted a title fight you pretty well had to go through Don King to get it. Either you were a Don King fighter or you signed a three fight option with him in case you got lucky and won against one of his belt holders. That way it didn't matter to King who won, he would control the title either way. It was a great system for King if not for the fighters and it worked for years. Now Kali Meehan was part of that system.

It didn't take long for the plan to work. In April 2004 King brought Meehan to America where he stopped trialhorse Damon Reed in Nevada and wonder of wonders he was suddenly highly rated by the always observant WBA and then matched with Lamon Brewster for their title two months later again in Nevada. Lamon, always the good guy was a friend of Kali's and of course a Don King fighter. Lamon stated later that he didn't want to hurt his friend so he tried to outbox him instead of going for the KO. If you remember Brewster at his peak you will know that he could put a fearsome beating on you with his power punching but he was no technical boxer. His kindly strategy towards his friend almost backfired when the fight turned out to be very close and the decision disputed. Lamon escaped with the nod and his title intact but it was a close call and turned out to be the high water mark of Meehan's career.

Many fans at this point thought that maybe Meehan was for real. I know I thought it was possible but like many others I did not yet realize how easy it was for almost anyone to outpoint Brewster at least until he caught up with you and put the lights out. When Meehan was matched just 2 months later with Hasim Rahman in an eliminator for the WBA, WBC and IBF titles many thought Kali would win. Rahman was just going through one of his fat periods and appeared to be in decline but he showed up for this one in fine shape and destroyed Meehan in 4 rounds. It was a very decisive defeat and it looked like it was all over for Meehan. He returned to Australia and was promptly forgotten by most fans. In the six years since he has fought only six times.

But Don King does not forget and three years after the Rahman fight King who always loved old retreads dug Kali up again and brought him back to America to face another of his oldies, the faded 39 year old Davarryl Williamson. Now Williamson at one time had a pretty good skill set. His problem was that he was a bit undersized for a heavyweight and was never known for his sturdy chin. By now he was slower and Meehan who was much bigger had no problem catching him and won by KO in 6 rounds. Kali could always hit hard if he could catch you. This remains the only time Meehan ever defeated a name fighter and of course by this time Williamson was far from a top 10 fighter except in the eyes of the WBA.

Don King's magic was still working and this win propelled Kali right to the top of the WBA ratings but then a funny thing happened. Meehan remained at number one in the ratings for many months but he never got a title fight all that time. Chagaev who is not with King had won the belt from Valuev that same year and defended once against Matt Skelton the next January but a match with Meehan could not be made. I guess the WBA could not get any promoter to put up the money for such an unattractive bout and Chagaev was having his medical problems at that time too. At any rate the title is now in the hands of David Haye who will someday get around to meeting the winner of the Chagaev-Meehan eliminator. It could be a long time at the rate that Haye schedules fights. He has a contractual obligation to meet Valuev again and there is the off and on talk of a fight with Wlad Klitschko. It is a good thing Chagaev is only 31.

Meehan has had two fights in Germany since the Williamson bout. Both were tune-ups against fighters with a combined record of 39-20-2 and he has not fought anywhere since August of 2008. He turned 40 last March and is not rated by any other alphabet body or Ring Magazine or Eastside Boxing. Neither the IBO nor Boxrec have him rated in their top 100. His only three bouts against rated boxers in the past all ended in failure, two of them very decisive failures. Other than his phony WBA ranking is there any reason why he should expect to succeed now? He has never won over a legitimately rated fighter in 13 years as a pro. How can he do it now?

Kali Meehan is not a bum so do not expect an early KO. He is bigger than Chagaev, fit and reasonably rugged. Chagaev had to go the limit with every name fighter he has faced for he is not that big a puncher. I am not a Chagaev fan and I like Meehan a lot because he is an honest trier who always gives his best but barring a huge upset there can only be one winner in this fight. I think this one will go the full twelve rounds with Ruslan Chagaev an easy winner. You would have to be a very dedicated Meehan fan to see it any other way.

Article posted on 12.05.2010

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