If you think there will be a clean resolution to the heavyweight mess involving titleholder Nikolai Valuev and so-called "champion in recess" Ruslan Chagaev in the wake of the cancellation of Saturday's rematch, guess again.
Chagaev's team is threatening a lawsuit, so it could get awfully ugly.
In case you haven't been following the situation -- and I wouldn't blame you if you weren't, because it's so utterly maddening -- Valuev and Chagaev were supposed to meet in Helsinki, Finland in a rematch of Chagaev's title victory in April 2007.
It was the third time the rematch had been scheduled. On two other occasions, Chagaev had fallen out -- once with an Achilles injury and once because of Hepatitis B. Chagaev has battled issues with his bloodwork for years, but because he had pulled out twice and was facing another long layoff, the WBA handed him the nonsensical title of "champion in recess" and Valuev beat John Ruiz for the vacant belt in August 2008.
Finally, it appeared as though Valuev and Chagaev would meet again Saturday night to bring some closure to their rivalry from hell, once and for all. The fighters had even weighed in, and when a weigh-in takes place and the guys are on weight -- and this one was a formality because they are heavyweights -- fights are rarely called off. But not in this case. Finnish authorities claimed that Chagaev, who did make it to the ring for a tune-up fight in February against Carl Davis Drummond, had a problem with his blood test. Valuev, who is promoted by Germany-based Sauerland Event, was offered the option of going through with the fight if he was inoculated. However, according to Chagaev promoter Universum, Valuev never got back to the officials with a decision, so the fight was called off.
(Can you really blame Valuev for not wanting to take a chance by fighting a guy who tests positive for hepatitis? Obviously it was a serious situation, because by calling off the fight Valuev gave up a $1,547,928 purse; Chagaev lost out on $1,266,486).
Now, the WBA has said it will make a decision within a week on what happens next. But that didn't stop Universum from releasing a statement detailing its position, which included the threat of litigation, a prospect that might be more interesting in this case than the fight itself.
As far as Chagaev is concerned, he was fit and ready to fight.
"I'm healthy," he said in a statement. "I have no doctor attesting to any danger of infection. So I would box Valuev today, tomorrow or whenever. I'm very disappointed and can't understand this decision. I'm fit and ready."
Here is Universum's statement:
"Universum Box-Promotion has presented the WBA with medical proof that Ruslan Chagaev does not have the infectious disease hepatitis, but only a hepatitis antigen [a substance that prompts the generation of antibodies and can cause an immune response]. Ruslan Chagaev's blood values have been examined for many years regularly -- by measuring methods which are substantially more sensitive than that of the Finnish lab which carried out the blood test that the organizers used to support the refusal to fight.
"Universum also provided the WBA with evidence that Ruslan Chagaev's blood values are unchanged for many years and are safe. They are invariably below the international standard from which the hepatitis disease is considered infectious. Ruslan Chagaev's current blood values also correspond to those which he had in the first fight against Nikolai Valuev in April 2007. The fight at that time was promoted by Sauerland Event under the supervision of the Austrian Federation in Stuttgart and if there was any doubt about these blood values, it would have been mentioned then. Therefore, like the first time, there is no reason to call off the fight.
"The Finnish Federation explained in [Saturday's] hearing that they have not prohibited the fight, but wanted Nikolai Valuev to agree to a passive protective inoculation [immunglobuline] within 24 hours of the fight. A decision from Valuev was not communicated. Against this background, Universum Box-Promotion reserves the right to take legal steps."
Universum also offered a statement from Chagaev's physician, Dr. Michael Ehnert. I'll save you the scientific mumbo jumbo. Here's the important part: "It's clearly demonstrated that the Hepatitis B that Ruslan Chagaev recovered from in 2006 is currently not identified as infectious. There is definitely no danger for him or his opponents."