Klitschko vs. Maskaev: Is Oleg Next For Vitali?

20.06.05 - By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza: You cannot imagine how angry it makes me to read that Vitali Klitschko might possibly fight Oleg Maskaev. Klitschko had the chance to become the best heavyweight on the planet after his dominating performance against Danny Williams. He had that same chance after beating Corrie Sanders, and he definitely had a great chance after beating Kirk Johnson. However like any other belt holder, he has apparently decided to throw that chance out the window.

First of all, he had those nagging injuries, which you know as a fan I can understand, because injuries and boxing are almost synonymous, so, okay. However, the problem is, he's had injuries while holding a belt which is something I am seriously opposed to. See, when a fighter holds a belt, by default, they are preventing other fighters from holding that belt, and their job is to prove they deserve to hang on to it. So far, Vitali has not done so, or has not done this enough. Yes, Danny Williams was an acceptable defense, seeing as he was coming off a great win for him, and was not a King fighter. No problem, Vitali pulverizes him and agrees to fight Rahman, which is the right decision, by the way.

Is Rahman worthy of a title shot? Not in the least, in my opinion, or better yet, no more then about five or six other fighters in the division (including Maskaev but we will get to that). However, it is what it is, Kali Meehan's ability was artificially inflated by his close fight with Brewster, in an undeserved title shot even by WBO standards. When Meehan fought Rahman, it gave gullible fans the impression that it was some great victory for Rahman when he stopped Meehan in 4 rounds, however, it was obvious that Meehan is a two round fighter at best. Still, though, it helped take out another undeserving contender, so we will take Rahman as a contender, even though he isn’t anything great. Yes, he once knocked out Lewis, (and got knocked out himself very quickly by Lewis in the rematch) but he got his shot at Ruiz and lost, so how many title fights should he get off that one win?

So, the fight between Vitali and Rahman had been set to occur, but then the injury to Vitali's back happens and the fight is postponed. Okay, this is annoying but again, these things happen. In my mind, Vitali should get healthy, and fight Rahman, which seems like the right thing to do. For instance, look at Kostya Tzsyu fighting Mitchell. Kostya desperately wanted a Moscow fight, but he saw once he was injured, that even though its not his fault, he has to make concessions to stay regarded, and should focus even more on Mitchell than any other fighter. That is what a champion does, so the great Kostya took two years to do it, but once he came in there, he got the job done the way its supposed to be done. What does Vitali do instead? Calls out a string of opponents he has no right to call out while waiting to face the #1 contender and waiting to heal from injuries. Can we make a short list? First it was Brewster, then Toney, and now Maskaev.

Any of these fights would be acceptable if he did not state numerous times that he was fighting Rahman, who by this time has done the right thing, and agreed to face another half deserving contender in Barrett (i.e., Beck and Guinn are not enough to guarantee a title shot). So while Vitali is injured and calling out other fighters, Rahman is setting himself up correctly, to lay claim to the belt.

The problem, as I am sure the Vitali camp will say, is that Rahman is fighting on August 13th and the mandatory date of September 24th is too close for Rahman to be ready. In other words, there will likely be tune up fight for Vitali in between. No, Vitali, you do not deserve to, in my humble opinion, as a champion, especially coming off an injury, and agreeing to fight Rahman, you don’t deserve that luxury. Furthermore, Rahman has stated that he will be ready in five or six weeks, provided he wins, so why not take him at his word and fight him on that date?

Instead, we might be treated to an all Soviet Showdown between Oleg Maskaev and the champ Klitschko. Let me explain my stance on this. Oleg Maskaev, after his last knockout loss against the giant Corey Sanders, has gone on a streak piling up eight wins. Now does it matter that all of these (save perhaps Defiagbon, who was undefeated but untested) were hand picked opponents?

Apparently not because Rahman has gone on a 5 fight win streak against his own crop of hand picked opponents, and Brewster will be his lone real fight before a title shot. Same goes for Toney’s showdown with Booker, and the younger Klitschko’s fight with Castillo (which wasn’t his fault, by the way, since Byrd failed to agree to fight him), and so on for Barrett, and a few other fighters. Plus, Maskaev holds a huge win over Rahman. So, in retrospect, Maskaev is, in my eyes, not any less deserving than Rahman, Toney, Wlad, Brock, Barrett, or Valuev.

None of these guys have done anything special, but apparently winning is enough these days, so Maskaev from his end is not undeserving.

The problem is that as much as I like Maskaev, again, Vitali agreed to fight Rahman, and as an injured champion, Vitali is even more obligated to keep his word on that.

The obvious reason for choosing Oleg Maskaev as the target is because he has weak chin, which has been proven again and again. Part of the problem has also been Oleg’s management's choice of opponents. Oleg was seemingly sent out to the slaughter when in his 7th professional bout, he was matched up with ring veteran, Oliver McCall with disastrous results (McCall KO'd Maskaev in the 1st round). In Maskaev's 12th professional bout, he was put in there with the knockout artist, David Tua, who then stopped Maskaev in the 11th round. Maskaev rebounded from these defeats and ran off a string of 11 straight victories over some decent competition (Maskaev knocked out Hasim Rahman in the 8th round in 1999, and Derrick Jefferson in the 4th round in 2000. However, Maskaev was vicisouly knocked out in the 4th round by Kirk Johnson on November 7, 2000. In the very next bout, Maskaev was matched up againt the huge power punching slugger, Mount Whitaker, who promptly knocked Maskaev out in the 2nd round. In hind sight, the decision to put maskaev in with Whitaker, so soon after a devastating knockout loss, seems like poor career planning. Fortunately for Maskaev, he has passed the test enough times to be taken seriously, and has failed it enough times to see why Vitali chose him as an opponent. I think Maskaev's punch is a bit overrated because it is really based on the one big knockout of Rahman, which while spectacular, is not as heralded as say Tua’s arsenal, which has proven itself again and again. Don’t get me wrong, if Maskaev lands on the button, at the right moment, like against Rahman, he can knockout most anybody, but I think he doesn’t have the necessary pop to set up that one knockout punch, especially at this stage in his career. Which is precisely why this fight, if it is made, angers me so much.

I never thought that if two former Soviet fighters meet, I would take sides, and I always thought I would cheer for both guys and for the best man. However, in this situation, I really feel Maskaev is being picked on because he is a weaker challenge, which really lowers my opinion of Vitali Klitschko, and relegates him to be nothing more then any of the other belt holders.

If this fight gets made, I will be hoping for Oleg Maskaev to pull off the upset, and score the devastating knockout, because I feel with him as champ, we can sort things out much quicker. Oleg Maskaev has never been scared of anybody. He fought legendary Soviet Alexander Miroshnichenko in his first pro fight (Miroshnichenko held wins over both Lewis and Bowe as an amateur), he fought Oliver Mccall in his 7th pro fight (going by accepted fact. There has always been some dispute as to how many fights Maskaev has had as a pro. However, we can easily agree it was not many before fighting Mccall, David Tua in his 12th pro fight, or Rahman in his 20th pro fight. Maskaev has usually chosen the hard road, and only got on the handpicking train a few years back. However, with age knocking on his door, if the big “O” wins, he will look for the good fights because he doesn’t have that many years left, and because he is apparently a real fighter, in my opinion, something I am sorry I cannot say about any of the belt holders, including the older Klitschko.

Final Words: Go Maskaev!

Article posted on 20.06.2005

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