Ibragimov, Chagaev to unify heavyweight titles in October
There hasn't been a recognized world heavyweight champion since the retirement of Lennox Lewis in January 2004, but titleholder Sultan Ibragimov and Ruslan Chagaev hope to change that.
Heavyweight Champions• WBA: Ruslan Chagaev
• WBC: Oleg Maskaev
• IBF: Wladimir Klitschko
• WBO: Sultan Ibragimov
They will meet on a date to be determined in October in Moscow, Leon Margules of Ibragimov promoter Seminole Warriors Boxing told ESPN.com on Tuesday. He was about to board a flight for Moscow, where the fight will be formally announced Thursday at a news conference at the President Hotel.
"It's a done deal," Margules said. "We're doing a unification fight, which is what everyone is crying for. The fighters wanted to fight each other and we made a deal, and when it's over, there will be one less heavyweight champion."
It will be the division's first unification fight since Lewis became the undisputed champion by defeating Evander Holyfield in their November 1999 rematch.
A Fistful of Firsts
In the case of Sultan Ibragimov vs. Ruslan Chagaev, their October bout will be ...
• The heavyweight division's first unification fight since Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield in November 1999.
• The first heavyweight unification fight that won't involve an American.
• The first heavyweight unification bout held outside the United States.
• The first defenses for the southpaw titleholders.
It will also be the first heavyweight unification fight that won't involve an American and the first heavyweight unification bout held outside the United States.
Ibragimov, 32, of Russia, won the WBO version of the title on June 2 with a lopsided unanimous decision against Shannon Briggs in Atlantic City, N.J. Chagaev, 28, a native of Uzbekistan based in Germany, won a majority decision to lift the WBA belt from Nikolai Valuev on April 14 in Germany. The southpaw titleholders will both be making their first defense.
"After the Briggs fight, Sultan told us he wanted to unify and his marching orders to us were to try to make a unification fight," Margules said. "That's what we did."
There had been a lot of discussion about Ibragimov making his first defense against former four-time champ Holyfield provided Holyfield defeats Lou Savarese on Saturday. But when the unification fight with Chagaev became a serious possibility, Warriors pursued it.
"It was a simple deal to make," Margules said. "In fact, it was the easiest deal I have ever made in my life."
Margules and Universum Box-Promotion's Peter Kohl quickly hashed out a deal over the weekend.
"They sent me a contract, I tweaked it, sent it back, and it was done," Margules said. "Chagaev is flying to Moscow for the press conference. We made a deal Friday evening, the contracts were done over the weekend and finished on Monday. Everybody is ecstatic. They can't wait to unify."
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Wladimir Klitschko, widely regarded as the best of the four heavyweight beltholders, defends his IBF belt July 7 against Lamon Brewster in Germany and WBC titlist Oleg Maskaev is due to make a mandatory defense against Samuel Peter on Oct. 6 at New York's Madison Square Garden.
The winner of Ibragimov-Chagaev, however, will emerge from the fight with the leverage of having unified titles.
According to Margules, the date for the fight will be Oct. 6, 13 or 20, but it will be determined by ZDF, the German television network that has a contract to televise Universum-promoted fights.
"ZDF controls the date," Margules said. "Chagaev is locked into them."
Margules said there is no deal for the fight to be televised in the United States, but he said he would talk to HBO and Showtime to gauge potential interest. If they pass, he said he will make the fight available to American fans via pay-per-view.
"The fight is made and the contracts are signed," he said. "The fight will happen with or without American television."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.