ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) – He is the largest heavyweight champion ever and is closing in on Rocky Marciano’s perfect record, yet Nikolai Valuev is boxing under a cloak large enough to conceal his massive frame.

Maybe now, he can discard it.

The 7-foot, 328-pound Valuev stopped challenger Monte Barrett in the 11th round on Saturday night to retain the WBA title and remain undefeated.

“It has been my dream to get a world title (fight) here in America,” Valuev said.

Promoter Don King has a different goal: to unify the heavyweight belts. And he reiterated that desire on Saturday.

He said IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko has a “weak heart and weak chin,” while praising Valuev, WBO champion Sergei Liakhovich and WBC titleholder Oleg Maskaev. He also said unifying the belts would give the division an identity it’s been lacking.

“The people and the public have to demand that each one of these champions fight each other,” King said.

Is Valuev at the level of the other three champions?

“Yes, definitely,” said Wilfried Sauerland, his manager and co-promoter.

Valuev is tentatively scheduled to fight Jan. 27 on German TV, but Sauerland was not sure where the bout would take place or who the opponent would be. If it’s part of a unification series, great.

For now, the only thing set is this: Valuev (45-0, 33 knockouts) plans to spend two weeks in Germany, getting therapy on his surgically repaired knees, then resume workouts in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“He doesn’t like to take long rests,” Sauerland said. “For him, it’s better if he keeps a rhythm.”

On Saturday, Valuev was somewhat out of sync.

Fighting in the United States for just the third time and making his first title defense in the country, he considered the bout a sort of introduction. And he was nervous.

Valuev, who won the belt on a disputed decision over John Ruiz last December and stopped Owen Beck in the third round in June, had not fought in the U.S. in more than five years.

“He was more nervous than he usually is,” Sauerland said. “I think for him, it was a big occasion.”

Those nerves neutralized one of Valuev’s best weapons – the jab – early on.

He landed a hard one in the seventh, though. And in the eighth, he knocked down Barrett for an eight count with a left and right hook.

He started to finish off Barrett (31-5) after the challenger tripped early in the 11th.

Valuev wasted no time knocking him down. He sent Barrett to the canvas again soon afterward, but the challenger got up.

The fight finally ended 2:12 into the round, when trainer James Ali Basheer jumped into the ring after Valuev connected with a left jab that left Barrett glassy-eyed and staggering against the ropes. Valuev is within four wins of Marciano, who was 49-0 and the heavyweight champion when he retired.

But the jab “wasn’t as loose as it was normally,” Sauerland said. “It wasn’t the same type of drive punch. It was more pushed.”

That didn’t surprise Sauerland because he knew his fighter was nervous, feeling the pressure. But Valuev performed well enough.

Barrett, meanwhile, struggled to scrape off the ring rust he accumulated during the layoff that followed his unanimous 12-round loss to Hasim Rahman at the United Center in August 2005. And it left him asking King to keep him more active.

“I do have a lot of heart,” Barrett said. “I come to fight.”

AP-ES-10-08-06 1533EDT

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