by Cliff Rold
The purse bid made it all sound like it might actually, finally, happen. Russian promoter Vladimir Hryunov’s $23 million dollar bid was over three times higher than the next highest bid made, all for a fight most wondered if they’d ever see.
Twice previously, Alexander Povetkin (25-0, 17 KO) rose to become a mandatory challenger to Wladimir Klitschko only to pull out of those fights. The second time, Povetkin’s then-trainer Teddy Atlas made clear he didn’t feel his charge was ready yet.
Russia’s Povetkin, the 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist at Super Heavyweight, forged a different path. One month after Klitschko added the WBA’s “Super” belt to his collection with a win over David Haye in July 2011, Povetkin fought for their vacant sub-belt, defeating former titlist Ruslan Chagaev to begin a hollow reign…and buying critical additional time to develop.
Or at least make easier money with a strap around his waist.
The WBA’s sub-belt, for those who aren’t familiar with this situation, is a sort of mandatory in wait. The “Super” champ is allowed more time than might normally be the case and the WBA collects a few extra fees. Ultimately, it still ends in a fight.
In making three defenses, whether or not Povetkin has really improved from where he was in 2011 is debatable. There were many who felt Cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck did enough to defeat him last year. This Saturday, he’ll attempt to run his defense total to four against Poland’s Andrzej Wawrzyk (27-0, 13 KO).
Win, and Povetkin will have cleared the final hurdle to what has appeared to be for many years his destiny.
Some will see the word destiny and see it as hinting Povetkin has a big chance to beat Klitschko. It’s not meant that way. Destiny can be a lot of things. Strictly defined, it can mean simply “a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency.”
Klitschko-Povetkin has held a sense of destiny for a long time.
In fact, there was once a point where Povetkin looked like the eminent threat to the Klitschko dynasty. Povetkin was a prospect to get excited about. Handled like a blue chipper from early on, he had evolved to taking on solid veterans before his career was ten fights old. At 12-0, he started an impressive string of wins that saw him decision former title challenger Larry Donald, stop former titlist Chris Byrd, and win on points against then future title challenger Eddie Chambers.
Then it all sort of slowed down. As contention beckoned, Povetkin seemed to stop developing. The excitement a new face at Heavyweight can create abated.
But he never went away. He has yet to lose. Povetkin is, in this generation, the last of the realistic hurdles for Wladimir Klitschko to clear. Others may yet develop before the lineal king of the division hangs up his gloves. Kubrat Pulev is almost ready. Deontay Wilder may get there in a year or two. The only other major name Klitschko hasn’t fought is also named Klitschko and, well, that’s not happening.
And let’s be clear: it shouldn’t happen and those who say otherwise are arguing in the absurd. This isn’t tennis. Wladimir vs. Vitali is not Venus vs. Serena. This is a sport where one of the primary objects, the one most people pay to see, is the infliction of bodily harm on another. People die in boxing. Those who love the sport should never want to see two brothers in a high profile fight because, in a worst-case scenario, the fallout would be catastrophic.
There have been a lot of prominent fistic families. The Marquez’s, Zivic’s, Baer’s, Spinks’s, Galaxy’s, and Penalosa’s are just a few of them. They managed their careers without playing Family Feud.
As it should be.
So in lieu of a ghoulish blood clash, it is Povetkin who is ready and who has remained in contention for years. All he has to do is get to 26-0.
If, and when, he does, boxing will have a fight that may be more intriguing for what it represents than what it might produce in the ring.
Klitschko and Povetkin both share the same Olympic honors, Klitschko’s coming in 1996. Boxing has a long tradition of Olympic greats going on to be professional rivals in all weight divisions. Heavyweight has been particularly memorable in that regard. While all did not win their Gold Medals specifically at Heavyweight, Muhammad Ali bested Floyd Patterson, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, and Leon Spinks while Frazier and Foreman mixed for additional drama of their own.
That mixing and matching reflected an American dominance of the sport’s premiere class from the sports cradle. While the shift of the Heavyweight power pole to states of the former Soviet Union has been ongoing for most of the last decade, the monetary worth and sense of inevitability around Klitschko-Povetkin marks a full realization of this Heavyweight era.
It will mark a cradle to cash out stamp of dominance.
Whether it remains this way for generations to come remains to be seen. Cuba is opening itself to pro-am fights for money in the near future and the possibility of even more diversity in the Heavyweight pool looms. China is taking baby steps into the sport and sooner than later will find a Heavyweight of note in their population of one billion and change. The post-Soviet era at Heavyweight may one day be seen as the bridge to the most global Heavyweight class ever seen.
That is all speculative. For now, we deal with the reality in front. That is likely to be Klitschko-Povetkin later this year.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]