By Jake Donovan
A hectic schedule awaits the winner of this weekend’s heavyweight clash between Ruslan Chagaev and Francesco Pianeta. With a secondary title at stake, the victor will have to honor not one but two mandatory challenges as ordered by the World Boxing Association (WBA).
Waiting in the wings will be former title challenger Fres Oquendo and unbeaten contender Lucas Browne.
Saturday’s bout—which takes place in Magdeburg, Germany—will mark the first defense of the title Chagaev (33-2-1, 20KOs) claimed under dubious circumstances just over a year ago. His vacant title win over Oquendo was mired in controversy both before and after the bout, spawning protests and lawsuits as Oquendo sought an immediate rematch.
The Chicago-based heavyweight didn’t quite get his wish, but was assured by the WBA that he will be next in line. Saturday’s winner will have to immediately enter negotiations with Oquendo and his handlers—which includes co-promoters by Square Ring and Hitz Boxing and manager Tom Tsatas—to secure a fight by no later than November 11, unless such assurances are made that both sides agreed to a fight to take place after such deadline.
From there, unbeaten Lucas Browne will receive the next crack at some version of the WBA title. However, the Aussie slugger has been out of the ring since last November, and is presently angling for a showdown with undefeated World Boxing Council (WBC) titlist Deontay Wilder, if only to prevent from growing stale on the sidelines.
Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that the winner from this weekend’s showdown in Germany shouldn’t plan a post-fight victory tour. That said, both fighters are fine with the path that lies ahead.
"Ruslan will be very busy in the next months", says Chagaev’s promoter Timur Dugazaev (Akhmat Promotio/Terek Box Event). "Of course, we believe that he will beat Pianeta, Oquendo and Browne. It might very well be that we promote all three fights before the end of the year."
Carrying out such a level of activity seems like a stretch, considering Chagaev—who turns 37 in October—has only fought twice since April ’13. Of course, there is the theory that the road ahead will help make up for lost time for the Uzbekistan southpaw, whose lone two career losses have come to Wladimir Klitschko (with their June ’09 clash—which Klitschko won by 9th round knockout—reestablishing heavyweight championship lineage) and Alexander Povetkin.
"I will defend my title against whoever crosses my way,” Chagaev insists. “I don't care who my opponent is - if it's Pianeta, Oquendo, Browne, Wilder, Fury or Klitschko. I respect every opponent but I am not ducking anybody. Right now all that counts is the Pianeta fight. We can talk about everything else after that."
Similar sentiment is shared by his challenger this weekend.
Pianeta (31-1-1, 17KOs), 30, comes in riding a three-fight win streak following the lone loss of his career, a 6th round stoppage versus Klitschko last May. His post-title fight level of opposition hardly sparkles, but the 6’5” southpaw and his team are confident that he will rise to the occasion this weekend and in subsequent title challenges.
"Francesco is well prepared and ready for this huge fight", states Uli Steinforth, Pianeta’s promoter. "Being the Champion is not only an honor, it also means a big responsibility. So we will, of course, follow all orders by the WBA (when) Francesco brings home the belt.
“But to be honest we are not thinking too much about that right now. We are fully focused on Saturday night and the big event."
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox