- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Can the Nikolai Valuev-Ruslan Chagaev heavyweight title saga get any worse? Well, of course it can. This is the WBA we're talking about.
Besides the back-and-forth news releases from each camp blaming the other side for the cancellation of last week's title rematch, and the inevitable lawsuits that will follow, how about this to depress you even more: If the WBA strips Chagaev of his laughable "champion in recess" title, which it should considering he tests positive for hepatitis B about every other day, like he did last week the day before his rematch with Valuev, guess who probably will get the next mandatory shot at Valuev?
It hurts to even write this, but, yes, it's John Ruiz, our old hug-loving friend who must have some compromising photos of WBA officials with the special treatment the organization has given him for more than a decade.
In the latest of the many Ruiz news releases that infect my in-box on a regular basis, I found this quote from him extraordinary:
"The WBA has to stand by its rules and order a purse bid for Valuev to fight me for the WBA heavyweight title and strip Chagaev. This is the third time he hasn't been able to fight for one reason or another. In baseball he'd be out. How many chances is the WBA going to give this guy?"
How many chances is the WBA going to give Chagaev? Excuse me? What about Ruiz? In Ruiz's past 18 fights since September 1998, 16 of them have involved the WBA, be it in world title fights, eliminators or regional title fights. And even though Ruiz lost five of them (it really should be six losses, but the result of his title bout with James Toney became a no contest when Toney tested positive for steroids after the fight) and received a draw in another, the WBA stupidly kept Ruiz propped high enough in its horrendous rankings to be in position to get another title opportunity he didn't deserve.
Forget about Chagaev. How many chances should Ruiz, who is 2-3 with that no contest in his past six fights, get? Now, he's demanding an immediate purse bid for a mandatory against Valuev, who beat him last summer. Oh, boy. The world is waiting for that one isn't it? And it just might get it because of a WBA ruling in February that said of the champion in recess: "If Chagaev should incur another injury or other impediment that would prevent him from defending against the champion, he will vacate whatever title he may hold and will be correspondingly lowered in his ranking."
That would open the door for Ruiz, whose fights stink so bad he's all but been banned by HBO and Showtime. It's impossible to take the WBA seriously anymore between the toxic disaster its heavyweight title has become and the avalanche of silly interim champions, regular champions, super champions and champions in recess it names seemingly almost every day. The next nail in the coffin is when it mandates Ruiz to fight for its heavyweight title yet again, which you know is coming. Isn't enough enough already?
By the way, it doesn't get better after that. The next guy in line for a shot? The not-so-legendary Kali Meehan, who has zero merit as a title challenger. Since the day Lennox Lewis discarded the WBA heavyweight title like the piece of garbage it has become so he wouldn't be forced into a fight with Ruiz, who was totally undeserving at the time, it has been an utter mess. The lone exception was when then-pound-for-pound king and light heavyweight champion Roy Jones moved up in weight and whipped Ruiz to win the title before quickly giving it up.
After Jones vacated, guess who got to fight for it? Ruiz, coming off that lopsided defeat, of course.
What did you expect?