Even though the main event at Saturday’s Universum show at the Color Line Arena of Hamburg will be the WBA middleweight championship between Felix Sturm and Maselino Masoe, there is another duel on this card that draws almost as much interest. It’s the heavyweight clash between Ruslan Chagaev, 19-0-1 (16), off the Universum stable and Spotlight fighter Vladimir Virchis, 20-0 (17).
The two fighters posses imposing physics as well as fearful punching power. Chagaev, standing 6-foot-1 and weighing about 106 kg, has an 80% knockout rate. Virchis, standing 6-foot-4 and weighing about 110 kg, knocked out even 85% of his victims.
Because of the high significance of this WBA/WBO intercontinental championship coach Michael Timm gave his charge Ruslan Chagaev a very intensive preparation.
„Ruslan is taking this fight extremely serious. It’s his first great championship in the professionals”, Timm said. “He knows exactly what a strong opponent will be in front of him. Virchis is fighting unorthodox and he can punch incredibly hard. We are prepared for the full twelve rounds. Virchis has knocked out Bidenko in the twelfth round, which means he is dangerous until the final bell. According to this we set up our preparations and game plan. We worked on Ruslan’s upper body movement and his guard, and we built up on his jab. He can’t win this fight with just one punch. He has to rely on his boxing skills.”
Timm knows that against Virchis it is necessary for Chagaev to not only use punching power but also variability.
„Ruslan must use all of his skills: Offensive and countering”, the coach explained. “We worked a lot especially on his counter technique and made it more variable. We made his foot work more perferct and also improved his counter attacks. In sparring against Alfred Cole he could put this into action pretty well and he hit this tall guy a lot with his jab. We know that Ruslan can hit hard with his left hand. But in order to beat Virchis there is more variabilty needed to succeed.”
Timm believes that the size advantage of Virchis will be not a decisice factor even though the Ukrainian is almost four inches taller than Chagaev.
„Of course it’s beautiful to have long arms. On the other side it’s hard for a tall man to fight a variable and speedy opponent who is small”, Timm believes. “You are always as strong as your opponents lets you.”
Chagaev will be the first southpaw opponent to Virchis in the professionals. A problem for the man from Kiew or and an advantage for the Hamburg based Uzbekian?
„Certainly it’s mostly difficult for a boxer in normal stance to fight someone who is southpaw. But Virchis had a lot of time to prepare, just like we did. I’m sure Virchis adapted to fighting southpaws by hiring the apropriate sparring partners.”
Chagaev and Virchis both enjoy solid top-15 ranking positions [Chagaev is WBO #6 and WBA #14; Virchis is WBA #15, IBF #13, WBO #9]. In case that Chagaev would beat Virchis he could be in line for a world title shot in the close future.
„Ruslan’s great aim is the heavyweight world championship“, Timm said. “But first we have to look and see how he is doing in the fight on Saturday. After that we know whether he is ready for a title fight.”
You can find an exclusive video of the public workout in Hamburg, featuring among others Chagaev, Virchis, Sturm and Masoe, on www.boxing.de