06.10.06 - By Markus Stepin: Thirty-three year old Nikolay Valuev, (44-0, 32 KO's), a man, a giant, King Kong... Perhaps, more than any other heavyweight boxer, Valuev causes mixed opinions from boxing fans and critics. Yet rarely has anyone bothered to do a thorough technical analysis of it all. Why? Well, because with a boxer like Valuev, it is very quick and easy to form an opinion about him, even without having seen him in a fight. On Saturday night, he will be taking on Monte Barrett (31-4, 17 KO's) at the Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois. Also, the fight will be shown live on HBO.
Article posted on 06.10.2006
Many statements have been made about Valuev. For example, he's too slow, he can't box, he only wins because of his size, he was exposed by John Ruiz, he doesn't deserve the undefeated record, that he would be beaten by the other heavyweights due to poor ring movement. So letís slow it down for a second and analyze his style, his past and his future.
Valuev's boxing style
Up until now, Nikolay Valuev has really utilized his size and reach to his advantage. He has primarily fought opponents who struggled against his size and found him to be extremely awkward to box against.
Valuev seems to rely mostly on his jab. His reach allows him to keep his arm extended to hold his opponents at bay. His regular jabs are extremely slow, but you can see that Valuev isnt looking to do any damage with them. They are simply a means of keeping his opponents from doing work on the inside. What many people fail to notice is among these slow jabs Valuev tends to throw, there are some reasonably quick jabs with a fair bit of bite. However, he only throws them once every so often and usually catches his opponents off guard (as they are expecting the slow, rather avoidable jab). Nevertheless, the sheer momentum of his large heavy arms, cause these jabs to be as potent as a right hand from one of the less powerful heavyweights in the division.
Another thing that happens with Valuev, is that all opponents seek to fight him on the inside, end up in a clinch rather quickly. This is, again, attributed to his awkward size and long arms, which, when a fighter gets inside, encages the fighter by the sheer weight of his arms. Most opponents get only one or two punches delivered before the referee breaks up the clinch.
When Valuev does throw a right, they come at a fighter from a very high angle. As a boxer these are very hard to avoid because as soon as fatigue kicks in they are near impossible to block with the gloves, which means dodging is the best option. Of course, this has an adverse effect as it increases the rate at which his opponents tire.
A guy at 2.13m tall weighing 320lbs is extremely difficult to throw off balance. Many fighters have utilized balance as a tactical advantage to land shots, however this is unlikely to happen against Valuev.
Has Valuev really been tested? Lets explore: Valuev, on his record, has not fought many tactical fighters. This is an important thing to note, as it never allowed for the opportunity to expose whether Valuev really had any weaknesses. So, in light of this, Valuev had very little to work with in terms of seeking to improve his own game. His tactic was: keep doing what you're doing since you're winning very comfortably anyway. Even though his fight with Bidenko was a little closer than the others it was still a comfortable win. It wasn't until his fight with John Ruiz that he had to reconsider his own game plan. Yes, Ruiz DID expose Valuev in this highly controversial fight, but he did not do enough to win it (though with right tactical decisions in the last 4 or 5 rounds he very well could have...). Finally, his weaknesses became visible and Valuev's team had some material to work with. Now that he had a title his team began to take things very seriously. Much work has now been done with Valuev to patch up some of these weaknesses. As we all know, Valuev has also extensively improved his overall fitness and endurance in recent months.
I feel we can all expect a much improved version of Valuev in this next fight with Barrett. We can only hope that Barrett picks up his work rate if there is any chance of an interesting fight.
It is also said that Wladimir Klitschko will be the one to expose Valuev and steal his title. This needs to be examined a bit more closely, I think. Klitschko, much the same as Valuev, employs his size and reach very effectively. Klitschko utilizes the Jab in a similar fashion to Valuev and keeps his opponents at a distance. He is very comfortable fighting in this way and struggles when he can't. Which is where a fight with Valuev would be very interesting. No longer will Klitschko have that reach advantage that he uses so effectively. Valuev would make it very difficult for Klitschko to attack him from the outside. Which, following Ruiz's example, would force a fight on the inside. Valuev is a poor fighter on the inside, but Klitschko isnít exactly the best inside fighter, either, and Valuev's awkward clinches would also prove to be problematic. Letís all hope this fight happens one day.
So, as much as it seems like it, this analysis wasn't an effort to support or promote Valuev, but rather provided the technical analysis that has been lacking at times. Valuev is a good fighter, but I feel he will one day be beaten. It will be important to take advantage of his weaknesses while they are still there and unimproved.
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