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Thursday, June 11, 2009
Hustlin' Chagaev

An Attempt to Unravel the Confusion Surrounding the Cancellation of the Rematch Between WBA Heavyweight “Champion in Recess” Ruslan Chagaev and “Champion” Nikolay Valuev

On May 30, 2009, Ruslan Chagaev, 25-0-1 (17 KOs), the former Uzbekistani amateur sensation and undefeated World Boxing Association (the “WBA”) heavyweight champion was scheduled for a rematch with boxing’s own “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the seven foot, 300 plus pounds Nikolay Valuev, 50-1 (34 KOs), in Helsinki, Finland. Their first bout ended with Chagaev winning the WBA world heavyweight championship by shutting down the physically imposing Valuev with smart boxing. Had their second bout taken place as scheduled, Chagaev would have had the opportunity to repeat his accomplishment in the first world heavyweight title fight ever held in Finland. However, the Finland Professional Boxing Federation declined to sanction the fight after the weigh-in, after the blood tests submitted by Chagaev purportedly tested positive for hepatitis B. It was the third time that Chagaev had cancelled a rematch with Valuev.

In the aftermath of the cancellation, the WBA Medical Committee held a hearing on the hepatitis B test and its implications. In the balance was whether Valuev should now be regarded as the one and only WBA world heavyweight champion and whether Valuev should then be compelled to defend against the top available challenger, John (The Quiet Man) Ruiz. Valuev won the “vacant” WBA world heavyweight championship with a split decision win over Ruiz on August 30, 2008. The title apparently became vacant after Chagaev was adjudged a “champion in recess” following an Achilles tendon injury after his first defense of the title on January 19, 2008 and before the first scheduled date for his rematch with Valuev. However, both Chagaev and Valuev have successfully defended the WBA title since that time, with Valuev winning a decision over Evander Holyfield on December 20, 2008 and Chagaev winning a six-round technical decision over Carl Davis Drumond on February 7, 2009.

If the above synopsis seems confusing, little additional clarification can be provided from a WBA ruling on February 2, 2009 which stated, in part, that “[i]f Chagaev should incur another injury or impediment that would prevent him from defending against the Champion [Valuev], he will vacate whatever title he may hold and will be correspondingly lowered in his ranking.” To put the ruling another way, whatever title Chagaev may have had as of February 2, 2009, he had to defend it against “champion” Valuev without any further injury or medical problems or he would lose whatever title that he had and would be lowered in the WBA rankings...

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Paul Stuart Haberman, Esq. is an attorney at the New York law firm of Heidell, Pittoni, Murphy & Bach, LLP. He is also a New York State licensed boxing manager and the Chairman of the Sports Law Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association. ©


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