by Cliff Rold
It’s still the pinnacle.
No matter that US interest in the division is down for the moment. The king of boxing remains the same. Take all the pound for pound and laugh it off. The man who can be presumed superior in the ring to all others is the Heavyweight Champion of the World.
We have a pretty damn good one.
This weekend, he has a chance to all but clean out his era. There are new challengers rising, a new wave that will attempt to wrest his crown away. For now, there is one name remaining that has yet to test the king.
And the challenger has home turf.
These are the picks of the week.
Pick HBO Early: World Champion Wladimir Klitschko vs. #1 Alexander Povetkin (Saturday, HBO, 3:30 PM EST/12:30 PM PST)
We won’t know if it’s a good fight or not until the bell rings, but for now we know this: short of a brother no one sane could ever expect him to fight, Klitschko (60-3, 51 KO) has beaten all the guys he should have. He won belts from Chris Byrd, Sultan Ibragimov, and David Haye. He bested a Ruslan Chagaev who had a belt and never lost it in the ring, beginning what many regard as the current lineal reign over the division. Sam Peter, Tony Thompson, and Calvin Brock were all real challengers and all shunted aside. One man remains and he enters the big stage this Saturday, luring the Ukrainian champion to his turf in Moscow. A 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist at Super Heavyweight, Povetkin (26-0, 18 KO) looked early in his career like the big looming threat. Then he took his foot off the gas. At 34, it’s now or never. He’s as good as he’s ever going to be. Is that good enough? It might not be but he can be part of what for the last six years has been the biggest story in the division. Klitschko has come a long way since some earlier losses. Can he close this chapter before the next generation of challengers, the Pulev’s and Wilder’s, arrive?
Pick HBO Late: #3 Miguel Cotto vs. Delvin Rodriguez (Saturday, HBO, 9:45 PM EST/PST)
Those who miss the live showing of Klitschko will be able to catch a replay before getting to the evening’s main course. Former Jr. Middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto (37-4, 30 KO) attempts to return from consecutive losses to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout with a tricky fight. Rodriguez (28-6-3, 16 KO) is a capable foe with nothing to lose and the sort of foe he’s waited a career for. Where is Cotto at this point? After all the hard fights, is he ready for the push into the abyss or does he have one last run? The answers begin to unfold this weekend. Also on the broadcast, #10 Lightweight contender Terrence Crawford (21-0, 16 KO) gets a test against a fellow unbeaten in Andrey Klimov (16-0, 8 KO). It’s a full night (and day) of fights on HBO.
Pick Espanol: Matt Villanueva vs. Daniel Lozano (Friday, Telemundo, 11:35 PM EST/PST)
Before we get to the weekend, it’s 115 lb. hopefuls in what might be a fun clash. Villanueva (10-0, 8 KO) appears to be a little farther along than Lozano (11-0, 8 KO) but both have shown some pop early and have to see the sky as the limit. Will one be left staring into that sky? It’s late night Friday action with the little guys.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]