Sunday in Russia, at the Ahmat Arena in Grozny, the World Boxing Association’s number three and four ranked heavyweights square of for the vacant WBA heavyweight world title when Ruslan Chagaev (32-2-1, 20 KO’s) and Fres Oquendo (37-7, 24 KO’s) meet in a scheduled 12 round contest.
The bout was at risk until Oquendo’s promoter Bobby Hitz confirmed just a short time ago that the fight was still on. Promotional issues between Hitz and Oquendo had put the fight in question for the Chicago heavyweight, as Hitz had earlier sought an injunction to stop the contest. He told Fightnews.com, “There were some differences but at the end of the day everybody came to amicable resolution. Fighters fight their whole life for this type of opportunity. Our objective is for Oquendo to win the heavyweight championship of the world.” Alexander Petkovic and the come-backing Shannon Briggs were both rumored as possible replacement opponents for Chagaev, though the WBA Championship Committee had only sanctioned Chagaev and Oquendo for the title bout and had not been officially contacted about any change in the fights participants.
Current PABA and WBA Continental title holder Chagaev is looking to become world champion for the second time. In 2007, the undefeated “White Tyson” scored a close majority decision over Nikolay Valuev, also undefeated at the time, to win the title Valuev had held for 16 months. He made two defenses, but this is where the title picture gets murky; between his two defenses Valuev fought twice for the same title while Chagaev was given the ridiculous title of “champion in recess”. Valuev lost the belt to David Haye while Chagaev lost to Wladimir Klitschko in a bout where “his” WBA strap wasn’t on the line. Eventually Chagaev was stripped altogether, and his chance to regain the belt was spoiled when Alexander Povetkin beat him by comfortable 12 round decision in 2011.
Chagaev has since worked his way back into WBA contention with five straight wins over subpar opposition. His most recent contest in October of last year was a 12 round decision over Jovo Pudar that earned him the PABA and WBA Continental heavyweight belts. He hasn’t fought any top competition in years; Valuev, John Ruiz, and Matt Skelton being the biggest names on his record but those were bouts that took place over six years ago.
Oquendo is in his 17th year as a pro, and is looking for his first world title. He lost back-to-back title tries in 2003 and 2004 against Chris Byrd and John Ruiz, but has held a number of lesser titles, including the NABF, WBC and WBO Latino, and WBA Fedalatin belts. Taking on the top names in the division, he’s never flourished against upper tier opposition; losses to Evander Holyfield, James Toney, Oliver McCall, and David Tua are scattered in his record along with wins over B level opponents like Maurice Harris and Joey Abell. His most notable win was over former heavyweight champion Bruce Seldon 13 years after Seldons best days had left him. The 41 year old has only fought twice since 2012: a decision over Derric Rossy in 2013 and a second round TKO over Galen Brown In May.
While this is being billed as a heavyweight championship contest, the winner is simply walking away with “a title”, not the heavyweight championship. Wladimir Klitschko is universally recognized as “the” heavyweight champion. Bermane Stiverne, who recently won the WBC strap vacated by Wlad’s brother Vitaly runs a close second, leaving the winner of Sundays contest with what basically amounts to the bronze medal of heavyweight titles.