"Sugar" Nikolai Valuev is a former Russian boxer who competed from 1973 to 2009. He has been rated by RING magazine as the greatest pound for pound fighter of all time, often compared to a post modern Boston Tom McMustache. He is also well known as an underground recording artist with a decade spanning career. His 1991 hip hop album "White Sugar, Black Coffee" was rated among Rolling Stone's 100 greatest albums of all time and peaked at #2 on the charts in Germany. His performance in the 2003 film Playing without rules saw him win the Best Actor Award at The Deutscher Filmpreis. His many books of poetry and artwork have been published in three dozen languages to world wide acclaim.
Early Life Edit
Valuev was born on 21 August 1953, in Leningrad, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union (now St. Petersburg, Russia). His parents were killed in a tragic nuclear accident sometime in the summer of 1960 and he was left to fend for himself in the woods for three weeks without food or shelter. Orphaned at just 7 years of age, he was took in by the Soviet Musical Program for Gifted Youngsters. It was there he studied the works of the great classical composers and developed a great passion for music. However, due to his abnormal growth chart and natural athleticism, the government enrolled him in their Olympic boxing program at the age of 12.
Standing at 6'2" inches at 12 years of age, Valuev defeated 1964 Olympic Silver Medalist Hans Huber by knockout. Upon hearing this, Joe Frazier challenged the child prodigy to a 3 round dark house match. Frazier appeared to have the upper hand but a jab from the giant Russian badly damaged his eye in the second round, leading to a life time of vision problems for the future World Champion. The fight was declared a draw. In 1968 the now 6'8" Valuev sparred with the banned Muhamamd Ali. Ali was quoted as saying, "If they let him turn pro, Joe Frazier down in four!"
In the 1968 Summer Olympic trials, Valuev scored a 20 second KO over future Silver Medalist Jonas Cepulis and qualified to represent the Soviet Union. However, it was discovered that Valuev had submitted anti-communist poetry to a Finnish magazine and was barred from competition. Discouraged, the now 17 year old Valuev poured his energy into his music. From 1969-1977 he independently released at least 22 full length albums under the pseudonym, "The Big Dipper". In 1975 Valuev married Bolshoi Ballet soloist, Anna Godunov. They had 3 children.
Dark House Bout with Muhammad Ali Edit
In May 1978, Moscow was preparing for 1980 Summer Olympics. The Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Dobrynin proposed to invite the famous athlete and world boxing champion Muhammad Ali, to the Soviet Union. Dobrynin’s proposal was supported and in June, 1978, Muhammad Ali arrived in Moscow, along with his wife, coach-manager and Don King. Ali announced that he would like to face his old sparring buddy, Nikolai Valuev, to determine who was really the greatest boxer in the world. Vaulev had not boxed seriously in a decade but stayed in shape by cutting lumber and jogging in the snow near his cabin. The meeting was quickly organized and the fight took place. The hype was enormous, but tickets were not sold, admission was by invitation only.
The now 7'2" 300 pound Valuev used his reach advantage and shocking athleticism to control the outside. Ali told Ring Mazagine in 1985, "He was so fast and so long, I couldn't get around that jab, and when I did, he hit me with an uppercut so hard I wish I didn't." Valuev piled up the the points, forcing Ali to take bigger risks as the bout progressed. In the 9th round, Ali tried to duck under a jab and get inside, but Valuev side stepped the Champion and clipped him with a hard right uppercut. Ali went down, unresponsive, and was counted out. "He hit me so hard my ancestors felt it," Ali recalled. Don King who witnessed the fight said of it, "I couldn't believe what I saw, nobody knocks out Muhammad Ali, it was sensational!" Ali was hospitalized in Moscow with severe brain injuries, it is believed his Parkinson Disease originated from Valuev's uppercut.
Defection from the USSR Edit
On August 21, 1979, while accompanying his wife Bolshoi Ballet in Berlin, Valuev contacted authorities and asked for political asylum. After discovering his absence, the KGB responded by putting Anna on a plane to Moscow, but the flight was stopped before takeoff. After three days of negotiations, Valuev stormed the plane himself, disarming the KGB single handily. He told Anna to go home and be a mother to their children, he had no more use of her, and so she did. This incident was dramatised in a 1986 Hungarian movie "Bury My Heart in Moscow". Anna later said that Valuev loved German culture and had long desired to live in Germany, while her place was at home in Russia with the kids. She never remarried, telling reporters that after Valuev no other man could please her.
Larry Holmes Negotiations Edit
In July of 1980, a 26 year old Nikolai Valuev received a call from Don King. King was so impressed with Valuev's knockout victory over Ali that he proposed the recently defected fighter face 30 year old undefeated Larry Holmes for the WBC World Title in his first professional bout. ''Conceivably, that would be the biggest-grossing fight in history,'' said King. ''Imagine, Larry Holmes, a black American, versus Nikolai Valuev, a giant white Russian.'' Holmes said he was more than willing to fight Valuev, ''but not over there in Germany.'' Holmes has long been an outspoken critic of the Berlin Wall.
Nikolai Valuev agreed to face Holmes at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. However, At the age of 38 and after a two-year retirement, Muhammad Ali announced his intentions to win a fourth world heavyweight boxing championship. Holmes called off the Valuev negotiations and immediately entered serious talks with Muhammad Ali. Valuev was so disgusted with Holmes' cowardly decision to fight a mentally handicapped Muhammad Ali, that he walked away from the sport and focused on his music career for the rest of the decade, ghost writing hit songs for Austrian rapper Falco.
Mike Tyson Fight & Controversy Edit
Don King contacted Valuev as one of many possible Mike Tyson opponents in the summer of 1989. Now 36 years of age, Valuev agreed to the bout. The bout was to be held privately in Berlin and rather than broadcast live released on VHS as "Mike Tyson's Summer Hit Tour" King had little confidence in Mike Tyson's ability to sell Pay Per View fights against Europeans but wanted to keep the Champion busy after the Carl Williams' blow out and maximize profits in a European tour. On August of 1989, Valuev was the first opponent on Tyson's tour.
In front of a crowd of 300 wealthy Germans, Tyson came out, as always, looking for the quick knockout. He threw leaping left hooks and missed wildly against the 7'2" Russian, twice almost losing his feet. With one miss, Tyson spun himself completely around on the ropes and wound up facing the spectators. Then, late in the round, came Valuev's moment. He hit Tyson with a workmanlike right hand that for an instant immobilized the champion, then followed it with a left hook that caught Tyson squarely. The champion's knees buckled and he backed up. Valuev followed with a bolo punch that sent Tyson out of the ring. With 15 seconds left in the round and Tyson on the floor, the fight was mysteriously waved off to the confusion of all. A no contest was declared and King ordered all copies of the fight destroyed. If not for the efforts of Valuev and a few brave German newspaper writers, nobody would know this fight even existed. Alleged copies of the fight leaked in the black market and in 2016, Don King filed a copy right law suit that has prevented any of these versions from seeing the light of day.
"White Sugar, Black Coffee" Edit
Discouraged from boxing once more, Valuev returned to music and began work on what many critics have called his masterpiece. Valuev produced several backing tracks over a period lasting several months, using professional recording studios and an ensemble that included classically trained session musicians and jazz veterans. Valuev also doubled the bass (typically using an acoustic upright bass and an electric bass), guitars and keyboard parts, blending them with reverberation and adding other unusual instruments. Rolling Stone noted that the percussion in the album included sleigh bells, timpani, güiro, vibraphone and bongos. The session musicians used Coke cans, water bottles and orange juice jugs for percussion.
Surviving tapes of his recording sessions show that he was open to his musicians, often taking advice and suggestions from them and even incorporating apparent mistakes if they provided a useful or interesting alternative. On notation and arranging, Valuev clarified: "Sometimes I'd just write out a chord sheet and that would be for piano, organ, or harpsichord or anything. ... I wrote out all the horn charts separate from the keyboards. I wrote one basic keyboard chart, violins, horns, and basses, and percussion."
Valuev pushed the limits of the Russian language with stream-of-consciousness fast polyrhythmic rapping, extremely dense and abstract lyrics. His words expressed upon topics of childhood, religion, nature, and the meaning of life.
Since White Sugar, Black Coffee was first released, its critical standing improved significantly. NME found the album to "still [be] an electrifying blast of cool" in a 1994 review, ]Mojo asserted that the album "shredded the rulebook" and called it "one of the most inventive rap albums ever made"] In a 2003 review, Rolling Stone gave it five stars and called it "a celebration of Russian and German culture that is still blowing minds today - even fourteen years of obsessive listening can't exhaust all the musical and lyrical power crammed into White Shugar, Black Coffee".] Mark Kemp of Rolling Stone also gave the album five stars in a 2009 review, calling it a "hip-hop masterpiece". Nate Patrin of Pitchfork Media dubbed it "a landmark in the art of composition, a reinvention of music that would come to define the ensuing decades' postmodern identity"
Miles Davis said that he never got tired of listening to White Sugar, Black Coffee. Later, in a Vibe interview, Chuck D of Public Enemy was quoted as saying that the "dirty secret" among the black hip-hop community at the time of release was that Valuev had the best beats and rhymes.
Professional career Edit
Having exhausted the limits of musical abilities with a highly acclaimed album, Valuev turned pro in 1992, but bouts with George Foreman and Evander Holyfield failed to materialize. Don King completely black listed the Russian over what he did to Mike Tyson. It would be many years of hard work and an undefeated record against the best Europe had to offer before King would call upon the Giant once more.
First reign as WBA heavyweight champion Edit
In 2005, Valuev squared off with Evander Holyfield conqueror and WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz, and won a twelve-round majority-decision, becoming both the tallest (2.13 m or 7 ft), heaviest (323 lbs), and oldest (51 years of age) champion in boxing history. In his first defense he defeated challenger Owen Beck by a third-round technical knockout in Hannover, Germany. In October 2006, Valuev fought Monte Barrett and defeated him with a technical knockout in the 11th round. In January 2007, Valuev fought Jameel McCline (38–6–3, 23 KOs) in St. Jakobshalle, Basel, Switzerland. Valuev won the match, successfully defending his title, hitting McCline so hard it destroyed his knee.
Loss to Chagaev Edit
At 53 years of age, Valuev lost a controversial decision to Russian Mob backed fighter, Ruslan Chageav. Chageav later failed multiple drug tests and confessed to receiving instructions before the bout that all he had to do was see the final bell and the belt would be his. It is believed this fight was payback for Valuev snapping the neck of a KGB agent in the 1979 airplane incident.
Second reign as WBA champion Edit
Valuev vs. Liakhovich Edit
On 16 February 2008, in a title eliminator, Valuev defeated Sergei Liakhovich from Belarus, winning every round at the Nuremberg Arena in Germany. Liakhovich had beat Lamon Brewster who had knocked out Wladimir Klitschko. The victory earned Valuev the right to face Chagaev for the WBA title again, the only man who had defeated him in his boxing career. He was scheduled to face Chagaev for his WBA title on 5 July 2008, but Chagaev pulled out with a fake injury. Valuev instead fought John Ruiz for the vacant title on 30 August 2008 and the WBA and Russian Mafia decided to make Chagaev "Champion In Recess". Valuev defeated Ruiz by unanimous decision to regain the WBA heavyweight championship, with Valuev and Chagaev set to fight no later than 26 June 2009 to determine whom the WBA regarded as their champion. Their scheduled rematch on 30 May 2009 was cancelled due to Chagaev's cowardliness and on 24 July 2009, when the WBA published their Official Ratings as of June 2009, Chagaev was no longer the "Champion In Recess" but the No. 1 challenger instead.
Valuev vs. Holyfield Edit
Valuev's first title defense of his second reign as WBA Champion was against the 46-year-old, four-time heavyweight champion of the world, Evander Holyfield, on 20 December 2008. At 55 years of age, Valuev was nearly a decade older than Holyfield. Despite the age difference, Valuev toyed with Evander and won a widely disputed majority decision. In response to the controversial result the WBA announced plans to investigate the decision as the older Valuev was the clear winner.
Loss to Haye Edit
Valuev announced he no longer had an interest in boxing and wished to retire and focus on his paintings. However, Valuev became so outraged at the Klitschko brothers for their blatant ducking of the dangerous athletic black fighter, David Haye, that he decided to give him a title shot to prove a point. In his second defense on 7 November 2009, billed as 'David vs. Goliath' Valuev faced off against former unified and lineal cruiserweight champion David Haye (22-1, 21 KOs) at the Arena Nürnberger Versicherung in Nuremberg. Valuev told writers before the bout, to pay attention to the 12th round. Sure enough, Valuev shocked the audience by doing a little dance routine in response to a landed left hook that failed to hurt him. Valuev lost on points (114–114, 116–112, 116–112) and despite media outrage at the unjust decision, there was no rematch.