CHICAGO (AP) – Nikolai Valuev strode to the weigh-in for his WBA heavyweight title defense against Monte Barrett while a crowd watched outside the Sears Tower.

“He’s huge,” some bellowed.

“Whoa!” said others, as the 7-footer – the largest heavyweight champion in history – approached the scale outside the nation’s tallest building.

Valuev (44-0, 32 knockouts) kept on his black T-shirt and blue jeans as he weighed in at 328 pounds – about 105 more than his opponent – for Saturday’s defense at Allstate Arena in Rosemont. A stripped-down Barrett (31-4, 17 knockouts), looking fit and trim, was just under 223.

This will be the first defense and third fight in the United States for Valuev, who won the belt with a disputed decision over John Ruiz in Berlin last December. The Russian scored a third-round knockout over Jamaican challenger Owen Beck in Hanover, Germany, in June.

Valuev sees this fight as an introduction to American fans.

“I just want them to welcome me and treat me (well) not just because of my size or my eyes, but because of my boxing skills,” Valuev said.

Barrett has not fought since dropping a unanimous 12-round decision to Hasim Rahman at the United Center in August 2005, and his record against tall opponents is sketchy. He lost a split decision to the 6-8 Lance Whitaker in 1999, and 6-6 Wladimir Klitschko scored a technical knockout the following year.

“I’ll stick to my game plan, stay focused, stay sharp,” Barrett said.

“I can fight inside or outside, and that’s what you’ll see a lot of.”

The undercard features WBC light heavyweight champion Tomasz Adamek (30-0, 20 knockouts). He will be defending his title against Paul Briggs (25-2, 18 knockouts) in a rematch of their bloody bout at the United Center in May 2005, when Adamek claimed the then-vacant bout in a majority decision.

AP-ES-10-05-06 2033EDT

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