Gentle giant should head for Hollywood

Forget David and Goliath. For most movie fans watching the heavyweight title fight between David Haye and Nikolai Valuev on Saturday, the first mythical conflict to spring to mind was Rocky and Drago.

Not since the 1985 showdown between Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren have we seen such a mismatch of plucky Western underdog and Eastern bloc fighting machine.

Admittedly, you have to make some allowances, like the fact that Haye is British, not American. And Valuev’s training routine probably didn’t involve working out in a top-secret muscle lab while Soviet technicians monitored his readouts.

But he was praised by Vladimir Putin as a “national hero”, so there’s at least a frisson of Cold War tension. Nor could you mistake him for a male model, like Lundgren. But with his hulking 2,20m, 146kg frame, cro-magnon facial features and prodigious body hair, Valuev is surely the stuff of fantasy.

Haye himself had similar thoughts, if a different set of movie metaphors: “I have watched Lord of the Rings and films with strange-looking people, but for a human being to look like he does is pretty shocking,” remarked the Hayemaker in a typically offensive pre-match build-up. Talk about adding insult to injury.

So, as Valuev tends to his battered ego and torso, he could do worse than take Haye’s words at face value: get a career in the movies, Nikolai!

You’ve got what it takes. Holly­wood has always had room for former sports stars—from Johnny “Tarzan” Weissmuller to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to Vinnie “Mate of Guy Ritchie’s” Jones. That mix of athleticism and public recognition is the raw meat Tinseltown’s dreams are made of.

Valuev is already close in size to renowned screen giants such as Richard Kiel or André “The Giant” Roussimoff. Kiel (2.17m) became a household name as James Bond’s nemesis, Jaws; Roussimoff (2,24m) graduated from the wrestling circuit to movies such as Conan the Destroyer and The Princess Bride. But both have retired, leaving the market wide open.

The roles practically line themselves up: Frankenstein’s monster; Lurch, from the Addams family; the Incredible Hulk.

There are no more Lord of the Rings movies but there must be room for him on the forthcoming Hobbit. And he’d be the perfect successor to Kiel in a Bond movie. You can already picture the climactic fight scene, with Bond struggling to defuse a nuclear device implanted in Valuev’s skull, the off button located just inside his left ear.

But it would be wrong to typecast Valuev as a mere movie monster. His appearance might suggest that the only thing that’s been going through his mind lately is Haye’s fist, but by reputation he’s a gentle giant and a sensitive soul. He was never really cut out to be a boxer. He writes poetry, reads Tolstoy and listens to Chopin. That’s not quite on a par with Lundgren (a Fulbright scholar with a master’s in chemical engineering) but it indicates Valuev could easily memorise a line more challenging than “Raaaargh!” or “Time to die, Meester Bond!”

But what’s this? Valuev already has a movie career. He can be seen in a German fairy tale spoof which references, among other things, The World Is Not Enough. The Bond producers better snap him up before someone else does.—Guardian News & Media 2009.



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