News November 2017

Heavyweight Fiasco as Charr faces Ustinov for ‘WBA’ title


By Michael J Jones

BOXING FANS like me sound like a broken record when they say the heavyweight division is not what it was in its glory years. The general opinion this year, following several promising fighters climbing the ranks, was the division was set to recapture some of its magic. Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko put on a classic fight this year and that alone made the heavyweight market rise significantly.

Alas, these past few weeks have undone some of the good work and to top off a poor period for the big guys we now have a WBA heavyweight title fight scheduled for tomorrow in Germany and nobody even appeared to know the fight was happening.

Can anybody imagine a world heavyweight title fight of the last forty years featuring Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson or Lennox Lewis going ahead without ninety-five percent of fight fan’s knowledge? Yet this is where we find ourselves in the year 2017.

The WBA have seen fit to sanction a bout between Manuel Charr and Alexander Ustinov tomorrow night. The match is for the vacant belt and pits two fighters who are far from at their peak and who were not ever considered elite-level fighters even a few years ago.

It’s yet another sorry example of the way things are ‘organised’ by the sanctioning body.

Trying to piece together the last few years of the once-prestigious WBA heavyweight championship is akin to solving a Rubix cube, blind-folded whilst being attacked by a large Rottweiler…

Let’s go back a few years to when Alexander Povetkin was beaten in a unification bout against Wladimir Klitschko. The victory made Klitschko, a winner by unanimous decision, the WBA ‘Super champion’ and the actual WBA (normal) belt vacant.

Ruslan Chagaev became the WBA regular champion while Tyson Fury captured the ‘Super’ belt with a decision over long-time champion Klitschko. In the same time-period of 2015-2016, Cuban Luis Ortiz would claim the ‘Interim’ WBA championship meaning three men at the same time could claim to be the WBA champion of the world.

Chagaev would eventually lose his belt in an upset to Lucas Browne while the WBA ‘Super’ belt relinquished by Fury would be ‘won’ by Joshua knocking out Klitschko.

Is everyone following this so far? It gets worse…

Browne would be stripped of his title shortly after his win over Chagaev which meant the next two available contenders, Shannon Briggs and Fres Oquendo, would box for the vacant title with the fight scheduled for earlier this year.

The fight was scrapped when Briggs failed a drugs test leaving Oquendo in the wilderness and the farcical title bout taking place tomorrow night. Luis Ortiz has also failed a drugs test, scuppering his bout with WBC champion Deontay Wilder and is no longer the Interim WBA champion.

To the vacant WBA title bout tomorrow and it should be a fairly decent contest between two men at similar stages of their careers.

Manuel Charr, now 33-years-old and 30-4 (17), has been hovering on the fringes of world level for many years. Linked to separate bouts at one time with David Haye and Tyson Fury, Charr has suffered defeat in recent years to Johann Duhaupas and cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis and has lost three of his last seven. The German-based “Diamond Boy” has also been inactive for fourteen months following his last win; a unanimous decision over unbeaten, but largely unknown, Safer Saferi.

Charr, who lost his last world heavyweight title bout five years ago against Vitali Klitschko, picked up the WBA International title (dear God another one) that night which placed him high in the WBA ratings for his fight with Ustinov.

Charr was shot in the stomach in 2015 and also needed a double hip replacement earlier this year. Despite the out-of-the ring setbacks, Charr is poised to become a world champion but will have to beat a giant to do so.

The hulking Ustinov, now 40-years-old and 34-1 (25), is also a long-time fringe contender who’s only defeat came five years ago against Kubrat Pulev. Since then “Alexander the Great” has won all seven bouts though has only boxed once in two full years.

So there are your co-challengers ladies and gentleman; two guys who have been largely inactive, beaten every time they’ve stepped up to genuine world level and neither of which have any business calling themselves the world heavyweight champion.

Both men are twelve-year pros and nobody for one second blames either for taking their chance, even if it is another kick in the teeth for boxing.

Now for the amusing part…

A quick look at the WBA rankings and Ustinov is rated number two while Charr is sitting pretty at number four. Drug cheat Ortiz is still the WBA’s number one while Alexander Povetkin and Kubrat Pulev, knock-out winners over both of Saturday’s co-challengers, are below both Charr and Ustinov.

Both men’s best victories have come against a who’s who of shop-worn contenders such as David Tua, Danny Williams, Monte Barrett, Michael Sprott etc but, as said, it could be an OK fight while it lasts.

Neither boxer is considered to be a massive puncher but Ustinov, at 6’7 and around 300lbs, will be much the bigger man and most agree Charr doesn’t quite have the power of Kubrat Pulev.

Look for Russia’s Ustinov, whose last fight was in Bolton of all places, to be crowned the new champion of the WBA tomorrow night by a late-rounds stoppage. Charr may pinch the decision if it goes the full route and it’s close.

We’ll then hold our breaths and await the next development in the WBA heavyweight saga…

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