Syrian-German Manuel Charr takes on Russia's Alexander Ustinov in the world WBA heavyweight title fight this Saturday. The match-up pits together two journeyman fighters hungry for a late shot at glory.
The WBA regular heavyweight title will finally find a home on Saturday night when veteran fighters Manuel Charr and Alexander Ustinov face-off in Oberhausen.
Lebanese-born Syrian-German Charr is the strong favorite to claim the belt, though Russia’s Ustinov — nicknamed “Alexander the Great” thanks to his enormous 2.02m stature — will provide stiff opposition in a match-up between fighters with 69 bouts between them.
Organizers hope the outcome will end an administrative headache which originated last summer, when newly-crowned champion Lucas Browne was stripped of the belt after failing a drugs test. It was offered to its former champion — the defeated Ruslan Chaegev — who rejected it, insisting he had entered retirement.
After challenging the decision, Lucas Browne was offered the chance to fight for the vacant belt against American Shannon Briggs in November 2016, only to fail a second drugs test weeks before the showdown. Briggs failed his own drugs test before he could be paired with a new challenger. After a series of embarrassing setbacks, the WBA has opted for a pair of veteran fighters with no history of doping.
USA's Shannon Briggs was convicted of doping by the WBA.
While neither fighter has ever really been considered an elite contender in the division, they boast respectable records; Ustinov’s 34 wins from professional 35 bouts, of which 25 were knockouts, eclipsing Charr’s 30 from 34, with 17 KO's.
Charr’s only previous world heavyweight title fight came in 2014, when the 33-year old was knocked-out in the seventh round by Russian Alexander Povetkin. His record since then has been patchy, with two losses from his last four bouts, including a brutal KO from Latvia’s Mairis Briedis.
Ustinov, 40, has only recently rejoined the circuit. He returned in May of this year, following a 17 month hiatus to knock-out Brazil’s Raphael Zumbano Love in the first round. His only career loss came against Hungary’s Kubrat Pulev, in 2012, for the European and IBF heavyweight titles.
Despite an inferior height, reach and weight, Charr is the more nimble boxer, with age also likely to be a deciding factor when the pair clash in Western Germany on Saturday evening.