Just one week until Nikolai Valuev, the biggest and tallest heavyweight champion of all time, will be stepping over – not through – the ropes to face fellow giant Jameel McCline in Basle, Switzerland. The third defense of his WBA belt will be the toughest fight of his career, he said in an interview with Boxen.com. The Russian Giant also shared his thoughts on a potential showdown with Wladimir Klitschko.
Boxen.com: Nikolai, in one week’s time you will defend your WBA heavyweight title against Jameel McCline. How has the preparation been going so far?
Nikolai Valuev: We are right on course. The foundations have been laid with Manuel Gabrielian in St. Petersburg. At the end of December, I started sparring in Berlin and everything has gone according to plan so far. The finishing touches ahead of the fight will then be made in Switzerland.
Boxen.com: You also reportedly did not even take a break for the Russian Christmas celebrations on January 6/7, is that correct?
Valuev: Yes, that is right. I didn’t have any time for that. It was important that I stuck faithfully to my training schedule with two weeks to go before the fight. I did get to celebrate a little with my family for New Year, though. They came over to Berlin especially from St. Petersburg. But on New Year’s Day, I was back in the gym sparring.
Boxen.com: It seems you are taking your third title-defence very seriously. Is that because Jameel McCline is your opponent?
Valuev: I take every opponent seriously and prepare for every fight with a high level of concentration. However, McCline is a special case.
Boxen.com: Why is that?
Valuev: He is more experienced, bigger and heavier than all my previous opponents. He is a good boxer and I have a lot of respect for him. The fight will be very, very interesting.
Boxen.com: So how will the fight go?
Valuev: We will have to see, but I will certainly leave the ring triumphant.
Boxen.com: Rumour has it that your sparring partners are frightened of you.
Valuev: There are people who say sparring with me is suicide. You would have to ask them whether that is right, but I could find other sparring partners anyway.
Boxen.com: You recently had an extra special visitor at your evening training session.
Valuev: Yes, my wife Galina and I brought my son Grisha along to sparring, but it was all a bit too much for him. He was very nervous and always came to give me water and the towel during the breaks. Then he said to me “Dad, let him fall”. Otherwise he would have done it. He is still too young for this. He will not be at the fight in Basle.
Boxen.com: A heavyweight contest has never been staged in Switzerland before. Are you looking forward to making Basle the boxing capital of the World for a night?
Valuev: Definitely. That is something really special. I am really looking forward to Basle. The people there were very kind to me at the press conference in December and I hope it will be like a home fight. I like the countryside and would like to see the mountains and forests.
Boxen.com: Three of the four heavyweight World Champions come from the former Soviet Union. A lot has been said of a new Russian revolution. What do you think about that?
Valuev: This development does not surprise me in the slightest. It is simply the case that the time has come – it is our turn now. Since the breakdown of the Soviet Union, many boxers have taken the opportunity to head west and have trained there. By doing so, they have gained valuable experience. On the one hand, we are influenced by the Russian school, but on the other hand we can implement this newfound knowledge. That is the secret of our success.
Boxen.com: How do you asses the heavyweight situation at present?
Valuev: All four champions have worked hard and deserve their title. They have made many sacrifices for success and time will tell who is the very best.
Boxen.com: The whole boxing world is hoping to see the Valuev – Klitschko fight. Do you want to fight against him?
Valuev: I have said it many times before: If Wladimir wants to get it on, then I am ready at the drop of a hat. But at the moment, all I am thinking about is McCline. Then we will see what the mandatory defense brings. If I manage it, then we can think about Klitschko. That would definitely be a stern test for me and I would be proud to win it.
Boxen.com: Where should such a fight take place?
Valuev: Preferably on neutral territory.
Boxen.com: You are just four wins short of equalling the record set by Rocky Marciano.
Valuev: That would be fantastic, but I am just looking from fight to fight. That is quite interesting, though. First I want to equal the record, and then smash it – that is my aim.