In a year that promises to be filled with some of the most interesting heavyweight action in a generation, Ruslan Chagaev’s March 5 battle with Lucas Browne in the Chechen Republic’s capital city of Grozny is flying largely under the radar in the United States. But it’s definitely a fight I have circled on my calender.
The fight is being billed as a world title fight, with Chagaev’s WBA belt up for grabs. That is a confusing absurdity, though. Tyson Fury is the WBA champion. It’s one of the belts that he won from Wladimir Klitschko last November.
However, the WBA refers to that title as their “super” world title. Chagaev is their “regular” champion. I draw your attention to these facts, dear reader, in order to emphasize just how stupid life can get in our current, alphabet-soup boxing universe.
Belts aside, this is a relevant heavyweight fight. Chagaev is a tough, skilled veteran. He had an outstanding amateur career representing his native Uzbekistan and went undefeated in the first 26 fights of his career. During that streak he beat former champion John Ruiz and captured a legitimate version of the WBA belt in 2007, after beating the gigantic Russian, Nikolai Valuev. He lost that title to Klitschko in 2009. Aside from Klitschko, Chagaev’s only professional loss came against Alexander Povetkin, by hard-fought decision in 2011. I currently have Chagaev ranked NO. 10 in the division.
Nobody is ever going to confuse Browne with the second-coming of Joe Louis. But he is a big, tough guy who can scrap. He’s a former MMA fighter, a former bouncer, and he’s compiled a 23-0 record with 20 KOs as a professional boxer. He beat a 45-year-old James Toney in 2013 and beat previously undefeated Andriy Rudenko in August 2014. He also has wins over recognizable journeymen such as Travis Walker, Jason Gavern and Chauncy Welliver.
But Chagaev is definitely a major step up. Chagaev is the smaller man, he’s 37, with a lot of miles, and maybe not quite what he once was. But he’s also fresh off an impressive Round 1 KO of former title challenger Francesco Pianeta last July.
I expect Ruslan Chagaev to win this fight. But if Browne can handle a veteran of this quality, he’ll instantly become yet another interesting name to consider in 2016’s heavyweight drama.