By Michael Nashed: Boxing's equivalent of the dinosaur, the heavyweight division, presents us with a rare opportunity to pay attention on Saturday, October 5th. Unified champion, Wladimir Klitschko (60-3) will attempt to make Alexander Povetkin (26-0) his 19th consecutive victim. Povetkin has received more acclaim than any Klitschko opponent since David Haye, and there has certainly been a modicum of demand for this match.
So, again we watch and wonder if a significantly smaller man can effectively tussle with the Ukrainian champion, and in-so-doing, restore a shred of competitive balance among the heavyweights. The division, which was thought to be on life support after Muhammad Ali's retirement, and then again when Mike Tyson was imprisoned, now leaves fans yearning for even those days of relatively moderate excitement. The brothers Klitschko have had an utter strangle hold on 200+ pound fighters for several years, to the point where their contests are lopsided and unwatchable to some. Long ago seem the days when Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster exposed vulnerability in the younger, Wladimir, and, perhaps more impressively, Vitali has not been challenged since Lennox Lewis gave him a run in 2003.
Present day contenders are few and far between. Tomas Adamek, David Haye and Chris Arreola have already tried their hand and failed against a Klitschko. Seth Mitchell's jaw couldn't take a straw weight's punch, ditto to a lesser extent for Tyson Fury, and Bermane Stiverne is hoping for his first title shot at 34 years of age. The most promising candidate may be Deontay Wilder, but he will be fighting his 30th consecutive soup can in October (Nicolai Firtha), rather than testing himself in preparation for higher level competition.
With that less than stellar backdrop, comes interest in a fight that has an outside chance of not being a boring blowout. Povetkin, who was a decorated amateur and gold medalist in 2004, has amassed 26 wins in his eight years as a professional. He was slated to fight Wladimir in 2008 before an injury derailed that plan. Nearly five years later, he finally has his date with “Dr. Steel Hammer” and will even have the advantage of fighting in his home country of Russia. In 2012, Povetkin scored a second round destruction of Hasim Rahman, whose name many will recognize, even though his last meaningful success came more than a decade ago. Povetkin can also claim Ruslan Chagaev, Chris Byrd, Marco Huck, Eddie Chambers and Larry Donald on his resume, amongst many other relative unknowns. The 34 year old is clearly a skilled, volume-punching heavyweight with knockout capability and with some pedigree. As an opponent for Wladimir, however, he is smallish and is still relatively untested.
UK boxing observers will recall that David Haye, in his 2011 bout with Klitschko, found it difficult to get inside to hit the tall, lanky Ukrainian champion. Haye’s height (6’3”) and reach (78”) compare favorably to those of Povetkin (6’2” and 75” respectively). The tale of the tape would seem to indicate that Povetkin, despite his accomplishments, seems like easy pickings for Klitschko who stands tall at 6’6” and long at 81.” The reality is that the younger Klitschko has been dominant since legendary trainer, Emmanuel Steward, coached him to utilise height and reach. His fights may be less than exciting, but the results have been consistently in his favor. To think that Wladimir will succumb to a smaller man, would be to think that he will have an off night or that Povetkin will capitalise on the proverbial “puncher’s chance.” It is possible, but unlikely.
All of the above having been laid out, we should watch because Povetkin has the fortitude to swing at Wladimir even if it proves futile. Others have had their will broken by the persistent at-distance jab of the champion, only to meet their demise with a late round stoppage. Povetkin has the makeup to keep pounding away, where others have sought to simply survive. Sure, he may end up on the canvas or in the arms of a referee for his trouble, but the display of effort should be worth watching.
The truth is that the Klitschko’s dominance goes beyond the ring. For years, the brothers have seen fit to fight whomever and whenever they please, regardless of public demand or sanctioning body orders. Vitali, seemingly, has little if any regard for the WBC mandatory with Bermane Stiverne. Instead of showing proper respect for the sport which has promoted him to a place where he can conceive of running for president in his home country of the Ukraine, he continually thumbs his nose. Vitali and Wladimir seem bored with their boxing careers, but each is happy to take full advantage of the rewards.
Many have speculated as to the Klitschko’s place in history, with respect to the heavyweight division and in comparison to other notable champions. Some have argued that they have been as dominant as any man or men in history. Others have said that their business-like approach, in tandem with an otherwise less than competitive talent pool, has sunk the division to depths never before seen. It is matter of opinion, but what is certain, is that if one of these brothers were to catch a live dog on the wrong night and lose, the boxing world would be interested. The Klitschko’s have developed the sort of mythological immortality, that if torn down, would captivate the world.
Can Alexander Povetkin shock the world? Who knows, but at least we are asking the question. Tune in.
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