Saturday's fight actually has implications

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

ZURICH, Switzerland – Wouldn't it be the ultimate irony if the spark to ignite boxing's punching-bag division was a fight some considered to be one of the darkest hours to befall the stricken heavyweight category?

More combinations of verbal uppercuts have been thrown at the current crop of heavyweights than even the most skilled defensive fighter could possibly hope to parry.

Saturday's WBA title contest between champ Nikolay Valuev and fallen legend Evander Holyfield has been typecast as further fuel to the inferno of anger within the boxing community at the way its former marquee division has disintegrated into farce.

Yet incredibly, the battle between Man Mountain Valuev and four-time champion Holyfield could just be the start of machinations which conspire to unravel some of the twisted mess the division has tangled itself into.

If, in 12 months time, we are looking at the heavyweight scenario with some long-awaited clarity and genuine interest, then the impending fight at Zurich's Hallenstadion could well have played its part.

An upset victory for Holyfield against a man 40 percent bigger than him would mean more than a record-breaking fifth title and the scrubbing of George Foreman from the annals of history as boxing's oldest champion.

With a strap to his name, Holyfield would again be a hot commodity instead of the sad relic most now view him as.

The queue to face him would be long and hungry. Few heavyweights worth their salt would balk at the chance to fight an old man for a world title and a whole load of money.

Holyfield, for his part, isn't going to run from the big fights, not even at 46, thanks to his diminished financial situation.

And who knows, events might even conspire for the division to be cleaned up and allow a turgid era of mediocrity and confusion to end.

Saturday's winner will become one of four heavyweights who matter in 2009, allowing for the potential of a semi-final-style shootout which may just end with an undisputed champion.

With Vitali Klitschko and David Haye set to meet in London next summer for the WBC belt, there is the opportunity for Holyfield or Valuev to take on WBO and IBF champ Wladimir Klitschko with three straps on the line.

Haye has muscled himself into the equation just months after stepping up from cruiserweight. He may or may not be ready to rub shoulders with the division's elite, but his looks, personality and big British fan base lend him significance.

Big Wlad has already set his sights on the WBA title – or more accurately he has targeted Valuev, not believing Holyfield has any chance in Zurich.

Valuev has been accused of running scared from the Klitschkos and patience with him is wearing thin among his support base in Russia and central Europe.

Europeans like to see the Beast from the East fight, but they're sick of him not fighting anyone interesting. He is quickly running out of excuses.

If the Klitschkos end up with all the belts between them then there will be no undisputed champion until one or both retires, as the brothers will never fight each other. But at least there is some potential there for things to clear up, just a little bit.

Of course, it is fully possible that the heavyweight division will again deliver itself a low blow and that 2009 will provide more meaningless fights and frustration for fans.

Let's hope that Saturday night's contest, instead of being the circus act or freak show it has been described as, is instead the unexpected beginning of a brighter heavyweight future.