Ruslan Chagaev earned much more than the right to call himself the new WBA heavyweight champion following his superb tactical victory over 7ft 1ins Nikolai Valuev in Stuttgart on Saturday night.
The 28-year-old Chagaev has been bestowed with the prestigious Buyuk Hizmatlari Uchun order for great services to his nation after becoming only the second Uzbek in history to claim a world professional boxing title.
"A lot of people said Valuev would be too tall and strong for me, but I knew that while I was smaller I was much more insistent," said Chagaev after gaining a richly deserved majority decision victory.
For Chagaev, whose athletic and precise counter-punching style befuddled his cumbersome opponent, victory was the culmination of a quest which has also yielded two world amateur titles - one of which was later stripped.
For Uzbekistan, it was glorious vindication of the former Soviet tactic of aggressively seeking to boost national pride through sporting achievement.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov hailed Chagaev for his "great contribution to improve the authority and prestige of Uzbekistan in the international arena and bringing up youth in the spirit and love and devotion to the motherland".
Since gaining independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Uzbek boxers have claimed six Olympic boxing medals and four in the World Amateur Championships.
That number excludes Chagaev’s first Amateur Championships victory in 1997, of which he was subsequently stripped having been discovered to have engaged in two early professional fights in the US before reverting to amateur status.
While Chagaev’s victory over Valuev may have surprised many, his emergence as one of the prominent heavyweights of his generation ought not to have come as too much of a shock given his outstanding amateur pedigree.
Possessing a crashing straight left hand which earned him the nickname ’the White Tyson’, Chagaev won 82 of his 85 unpaid contests, and split four contests against the legendary Cuban triple Olympic champion Felix Savon.
For Chagaev the story is only just beginning in professional boxing. Next up could be a summer fight against the winner of the imminent contest between Matt Skelton and former foe Michael Sprott in London.
Then Chagaev may look to unify against one of the other three heavyweight title holders. On the evidence of his astute win over Valuev, he will by no means be the pushover many unfamiliar observers might try to have you believe.
Wladimir Klitschko, still widely regarded to be the world’s number one heavyweight despite Chagaev’s impressive show, will put his IBF title on the line in a rematch with Lamon Brewster in Cologne on 7 July.
Klitschko was stopped at the end of the fifth round by Brewster in their first fight in April 2004 after a dramatic battle in which Brewster scrambled off the floor to claim a famous victory.
Klitschko said: "This chance for revenge is a dream come true. He is without doubt an extremely dangerous opponent, but I always hoped for the chance to redeem myself."