Boxing: Valuev needs bigger test to convince America of value

It took Nikolai Valuev four rounds to overcome his nerves on Saturday night, at the AllState Arena in Rosemont near Chicago, in his second defence of his World Boxing Association heavyweight title.

Valuev, who is 33 years old, weighs 23 stone (146 kilos) and is seven feet (2.13 metres) tall, finally pulled away from the American Monte Barrett in round five and dominated until the 11th round when Barrett was saved from his own bravery by his concerned cornerman, James Bashir.

"I made a lot of mistakes because I was nervous,'' Valuev said. "This was my first big American fight and I wanted to look good. I want the American people to love me.''

Valuev won for the 45th time to retain his WBA title, though his battle for acceptance by America's fight public may be more difficult. Barrett, 35, played his part perfectly and repeatedly caught the towering Russian in the early rounds before succumbing to Valuev's bulk and persistence.

"He's too big, he's too strong and he can fight,'' said Barrett, who completed a hat-trick of defeats with this result but insisted that he will continue to fight.

Valuev took control in the sixth round and methodically started to ruin Barrett's resistance. The American was knocked down in round eight and was sent tumbling heavily to the canvas twice in round 11 before the encounter was brought to an end.

The future for Valuev, who is now being skilfully marketed by Don King, is uncertain but there is no shortage of potential contenders for future fights. However, what is lacking are heavyweight showdowns and to be brutally honest, Valuev will need to find an opponent that brings something to the ring before he has any chance of converting a fight public that has grown disillusioned with a mediocre heavyweight division.