By Francis Walker
Updated: January 16, 2007
NEW YORK — Jameel McCline faces undefeated WBA heavyweight champion, Nikolai Valuev in Switzerland this week. McCline (38-6-3, 23 KOs) is considered a step-up in class for Valuev (45-0, 33KOs), who is five fights away from breaking the late Rocky Marciano’s heavyweight record of 49-0.
Valuev will be making the third defense of the WBA title. He defeated John Ruiz in a close fight in December 2005 to win the title. Ruiz is the first Latino to win a heavyweight championship twice.
McCline will be no easy task. McCline showed excellent boxing skills when he knocked out 6-foot-7, 250-pound Michael Grant in July 2001. McCline also has victories against Lance Whitaker and current WBO heavyweight champion, Shannon Briggs.
McCline is also a former world title challenger. He lost a bid to win the WBO title in December 2002 when his fight against Wladimir Klitschko was stopped in the tenth round.
McCline appeared to be on the verge of knocking out Chris Byrd for the IBF heavyweight title in November 2004, but Byrd swept the second-half of the fight to win a close split decision.
McCline also dropped a pair of 10-round decisions to Zuri Lawrence and Calvin Brock in 2005. However, McCline has won his last six fights 6-0, 3 KOs.
McCline is obviously the underdog. He’s a big 6’ 6,” 270-pound heavyweight, but he will have many disadvantages. Valuev is 7’ 3,” 325 pounds and has never lost.
Valuev is fresh off his tenth round knockout win against Monte Barrett in November. Also, McCline’s conditioning has been questioned on many occasions in the past. Conditioning will be a marquee asset if McCline hopes to full off an upset.
Heavyweight Championship Unification
A discussion about unifying the world heavyweight championship is one of the hottest topics in boxing. Valuev (WBA), Klitschko (IBF), Briggs (WBO), and Oleg Maskaev (WBC) are on impressive win streaks and all are scheduled to fight soon.
Aside from Valuev-McCline, Briggs has a mandatory defense against undefeated southpaw, Sultan Irbragimov. Briggs will fight in his hometown at Theater of Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 10.
Wladimir Klitschko is scheduled to face IBF No. 1-ranked, Ray Austin in March. However, Klitschko could finally face Maskaev in an IBF/WBC title unification match in April or May.
If that doesn’t happen, Maskaev will have his hands full with WBC mandatory, Samuel Peter. On Jan. 6, Peter won a repeat 12-round decision against former three-division champion, James Toney.
Friday Night Fights Returns
On a recent edition of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights, Walter Wright (13-2, 7 KOs) jumped on undefeated light heavyweight prospect, Dan Wallace with left hooks and overhand rights. Wright forced a TKO of Wallace (8-1, 3 KOs) at 1:22 of round 8.
Wallace, a native of Adrian, Michigan, fought for the first time outside of Michigan. Although Wright had lost as a professional including his pro debut in 2003, he was more experienced and fought better opposition than Wallace.
Once again, another young undefeated prospect became a suspect when matched against more experienced fighters too early in their development.
The main event at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, WA, featured ESPN’s “The Contender” reality show contestant Cornelius Bundrage (25-2, 14 KOs) winning a split decision against Chris Smith (20-3-1, 13 KOs) in a 10-round welterweight contest.
Bundrage is best known for winning the bronze medal fight on “The Contender” by knocking out Noberto Bravo (TKO 7). Bundrage’s losses include a decision to Steve Forbes in the semifinals of “The Contender” and a first round TKO at the hands of junior middleweight prospect, Sechew Powell in 2005.
Bundrage’s loss to Powell featured a rare double knockdown when both boxers hit each other simultaneously. Bundrage boxed well enough to win the decision.
But Bundrage kept his hands below his chin and brought them below his chest after he counterpunched. Bundrage was nearly out on his feet in the sixth round when Smith stunned him with a barrage of punches.
Luckily, Smith didn’t have the punching power to end matters.
Two judges at ringside scored the fight 97-93 and 96-94 for Bundrage. Smith was ahead 96-94 on the third scorecard.
Undefeated super middleweight prospect, Roger Cantrell (9-0, 5 KOs) proved to more fortunate as he escaped with a four-round split decision win against Marcus Pernell (12-2, 6 KOs).