Boxing: Skelton has the bulk and skill to shock Chagaev

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The Independent Online

Matt Skelton is not sure if he is fighting the worst heavyweight champion in the sport's history or the saviour of a desperate division in Dusseldorf tonight.

Skelton, meanwhile, has been portrayed as the latest skilled challenger for one of the four heavyweight belts and also as a meaningful contender for a title that was once considered sports' golden prize.

Ruslan Chagaev is the man causing Skelton confusion and it is understandable that so few people have a clear idea of just how good or bad the World Boxing Association heavyweight champion really is.

"Chagaev boxed in two Olympics, won the amateur world title twice and conceded a foot and five stone and still beat the so-called best champion out there," said Skelton.

"But, I keep hearing that he's nothing special. I know I am fighting away from home, against an unbeaten southpaw but I am not going in there for the pay day like so many recent challengers.

"To be honest, it's not much of a pay day – this fight is about opportunity," insisted Skelton who is the Commonwealth Champion and gained sweet revenge for his only defeat in 22 fights when he beat Danny Williams in 2006.

At present, the four recognised world heavyweight champions come from Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. Nigeria's Samuel Peter holds the interim version of the World Boxing Council title, because the champion Oleg Maskaev was forced to withdraw from a couple of fights last year. Maskaev and Peter will finally fight next month.

Skelton is one of the very best challengers for a long, long time and deserves his opportunity tonight, and he has a chance. Too many people think that Skelton has nothing but bulk on his side but in several fights the man from Bedford has used his boxing skills brilliantly and that is the only way to beat Chagaev.

Chagaev would be a far bigger star now had his unification fight with the World Boxing Organisation's incumbent Sultan Ibragimov last October not been postponed when Chagaev revealed he had hepatitis B.

Skelton is fighting the best heavyweight in the world tonight and a win would be quite incredible, but he has the skills to somehow pull off a major shock.