by David P. Greisman
The only good thing about Alexander Povetkin’s non-fight against Hasim Rahman is that it didn’t last long.
No one with a sound mind and without an allegiance to any particular participant wanted to see this one-sided mis-mandatory indefensible defense — featuring a limited but younger and much more capable Povetkin facing the aged, damaged shopworn shell of Rahman.
No one but the most sadistic wanted to see a one-sided fight last longer than necessary.
For years this heavyweight division has been defined by the two brothers atop it, whose continued domination make them the men to meet in order to make money, and the men to defeat in order to make a name for yourself. The first is feasible, the second improbable. Any winnings taken in by the losing challenger are the price he is paid to pay the price.
The Klitschkos have faced nearly all challengers and beaten them. That has left a rotating pool of mostly middling heavyweights vying for title shots, all while various prospects work their way through the ranks until they get their own chance. This is why we’ve seen a cast of not quite ready for prime time pugilists interspersed with those far past their primes.
Though Wladimir and Vitali hold the four major world titles between them, one belt does remain — the World Boxing Association’s “regular” trinket. Its owner, Alexander Povetkin, years ago had his own mandatory shot at Wladimir Klitschko, but never took it. First, he suffered an injury that canceled a 2008 fight with Klitschko. Then he declined a bout with Klitschko and instead later entered a back door into a world title. He has done little to distinguish himself despite owning it.
He won the vacant belt in 2011 by beating a former titleholder in Ruslan Chagaev, who was two years and three fights removed from losing to Wladimir Klitschko. He defended it last December against Cedric Boswell, who was 42, then retained it in a controversial decision in February over cruiserweight beltholder Marco Huck.
That led him to Hasim Rahman, who at 39 is younger than some delusional heavyweights but whose time had nevertheless long ago passed him by. Rahman had briefly held the lineal heavyweight championship when he knocked out Lennox Lewis in South Africa. That might’ve been his last truly notable win. That was more than a decade ago. In the 11 years since, his only other quality victory had been seven years ago, in 2005, when he topped Monte Barrett. That earned him an interim belt that transformed into a heavyweight title after Vitali Klitschko retired (Vitali returned in 2008).
But heavyweights don’t truly need to earn their title shots anymore. Often all they need is the fading public recognition of their past accomplishments and a modicum of patience. Shannon Briggs had done little beyond facing four lower-tier opponents — each bout lasted less than a round — before receiving a shot at Vitali Klitschko in 2010. Rahman himself had merely been available as a late replacement when he was trotted out for Wladimir Klitschko in 2008. Briggs took a brutal beating. Rahman lasted less than seven rounds and offered little resistance, landing a total of just 30 punches, including just 15 power shots.
Briggs hasn’t fought since. And that should’ve been it for Rahman in 2008 after what, given his nickname, could justifiably have been described as “rock bottom.”
Who knew it could get any lower?
Rahman didn’t fight again for more than 17 months after losing to Klitschko. Between March 2010 and June 2011, he followed a similar path to that which had landed him and Briggs title shots in the past, rebuilding while facing far, far lesser foes. This time for Rahman, that meant a run through men whose records read 9-15-1, 16-4, 46-13, 22-17 and 35-16-1.
By last year, that had somehow earned Rahman a mandatory shot at Povetkin.
The WBA’s vice president, Gilberto J. Mendoza, justified Rahman’s ranking last year on Facebook with questionable logic. Mendoza noted Rahman’s record and history as a former heavyweight champion and titleholder. Rahman, he said, had fought four times in 2010, winning all by knockout or technical knockout, and had fought once in 2011 and won that time by TKO.
Rahman was “the most active heavyweight contender [in] the year 2010,” Mendoza wrote, and had entered the WBA rankings in August 2010 at No. 14, “taking into consideration his record and activity.”
He was then moved up to No. 6, “[taking] into consideration his activity and caliber,” Mendoza wrote. Rahman moved up to No. 5 in November 2010 after Nicolay Valuev was moved down in the rakings. Rahman was moved up to No. 4 in June 2011 “due to activity,” then moved up to No. 3 in July 2011 when Denis Boytsov was moved down due to his own inactivity.
Rahman was moved up to No. 1 in August 2011 when Povetkin became the so-called regular heavyweight champion (Wladimir Klitschko is the WBA’s so-called super champion). Ruslan Chagaev, who lost to Povetkin, was moved down in the rankings.
Rahman was essentially rewarded based on what he did a long, long time ago, and due to what other fighters weren’t doing (winning, or even fighting at all).
Rahman sat on that mandatory shot, unwilling to compromise a potential paycheck, in what was initially scheduled to be a July fight with Povetkin, later postponed until September because Rahman had a cyst on his wrist.
By the time Rahman stepped into the ring on Saturday night, he had waited more than 15 months to cash in.
It took him far less time to crash out.
This time it wasn’t necessarily for lack of effort, but for lack of chin. Rahman was never gifted with the greatest punch resistance, but now his legs were wobbling from the first clean right hand. Against Klitschko, the failure had been in what Rahman could no longer do. Against Povetkin, it was in what Rahman could no longer take.
He couldn’t take the left hook that followed a Povetkin jab early in the second round. Rahman stumbled back to the ropes, looking like a bloated deer flailing away on an icy lake. Rahman covered up as Povetkin closed in with heavy shots, gaining a momentary respite after holding on and forcing the referee to break them apart. Rahman remained on the ropes and soaked up more punishment, then grabbed Povetkin once more.
Rahman needed his right forearm draped over the rope to keep himself standing, though he was an open target, a wounded animal resigned to his fate and waiting to be put down. Povetkin lunged in with two flush left hooks, and only then did the referee step in, stopping the punching long after the fight had become a punch line.
Afterward, Rahman said he’d been in the hospital the night before for dehydration.
In reality, his well had gone dry a long, long time before then.
The 10 Count
1. It is far, far, far, far, far past time for Alexander Povetkin to step up his level of competition. That’s a “far” for each of the nearly five years it’s been since Povetkin topped Eddie Chambers in January 2008 to win the International Boxing Federation’s four-man mini-tournament, earning a mandatory shot at Wladimir Klitschko.
Povetkin was supposed to face Klitschko at the end of 2008, but he suffered an injury while training. Later, when Povetkin could have exercised his right to face Klitschko, his then-trainer, Teddy Atlas, advised against doing so because he felt his fighter wasn’t ready.
It’s no surprise that Povetkin is now interested in facing Klitschko. Evander Holyfield must be asking for too much money…
2. It’s been so long since Povetkin earned his shot at Klitschko that, back then, Bryce Harper still couldn’t drive a car, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was a prospect still able to make the junior middleweight limit with ease.
Povetkin has fought 10 fighters since then. Wladimir Klitschko has fought nine times, including twice against Tony Thompson. Vitali Klitschko was still retired at the time, and even he has fought 10 times since then.
3. Speaking of historical comparisons — and of fighters who gain a massive amount of weight between the weigh-in and fight night — how ridiculous is it that a super middleweight such as Edwin Rodriguez can step on the scales at 166 and then step in the ring at 186?
Rocky Marciano won the heavyweight champion at less than 185 pounds and never was more than 190 pounds during his reign.
Floyd Patterson was less than 183 pounds when he won the heavyweight championship.
4. Rodriguez has a pair of names on his record who are the sons of famous fighters: James McGirt (Buddy’s son) and Aaron Pryor Jr. Given their styles and sizes, we might as well see Rodriguez face Chavez Jr. next.
We won’t, of course, and not just because of Chavez’s likely suspension due to his testing positive for marijuana.
I’m okay with the prospect of Rodriguez facing Kelly Pavlik in a crossroads fight. That’s much more likely to be purchased by a television network than the one bout that would show whether Rodriguez is a true contender at 168 or just another untested prospect:
Edwin Rodriguez vs. Sakio Bika.
5. I never thought I’d refer to Roy Jones as the voice of reason, but that’s what he was on Saturday during HBO’s broadcast of the junior featherweight bout between Vic Darchinyan and Luis Del Valle. Darchinyan was winning handily, and commentator Max Kellerman began to call for the bout to be stopped, arguing that Del Valle was taking too much punishment.
I’m OK with erring on the side of safety — I erred myself during HBO’s main event, feeling as if Edwin Rodriguez vs. Jason Escalera should have been stopped after the first round. But I didn’t see Del Valle taking a dangerous amount of punishment, even though he was losing clearly. The commentary began to sound like when HBO’s crew insisted that Paul Williams should think about retirement while Erislandy Lara was pummeling him with left hand after left hand.
And then Del Valle landed shots that hurt Darchinyan. The kid was outmatched, but he was never wholly out of it. Darchinyan won with his advantages in experience, both with his boxing skills and, well, skills that had less to do with boxing. His unorthodox style gave Del Valle fits, as did his feints and head feints, as did his footwork. Del Valle also had to be concerned about Darchinyan leading with his head — one clash of heads opened up one particularly gruesome gash on Del Valle’s chin.
It was a nice win for Darchinyan, but I hope this doesn’t lead to a rematch with Nonito Donaire. I’d rather see the 36-year-old in with the 37-year-old Rafael Marquez.
6. One amusing side note from Darchinyan’s win is this, via Adam Abramowitz of Saturday Night Boxing: “I love it when Australian-based Armenians win North American regional belts.”
7. Boxers Behaving Badly update: Undefeated former lightweight titleholder Paul Spadafora was sentenced last week to four days of “alternative confinement” after pleading guilty to two counts of driving under the influence and one count of driving with a suspended license, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The arrests came from two incidents last year; one in September 2011, the other in October 2011, according to The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Spadafora, whose history of legal troubles has sabotaged his career, will then be on probation, the Post-Gazette article said.
The 37-year-old last fought in August — his first bout since 2010, part of an ongoing comeback that began way back in 2006. In his most recent outing, he outpointed Humberto Toledo over eight rounds to improve his record to 46-0-1 with 19 knockouts.
8. Orlando Salido’s injury last week, which knocked him out of a scheduled bout with Mikey Garcia, made him the second major fighter in recent memory to hurt his hand in a car door.
Zab Judah is still the only one to use a shower door.
9. Given the number of fights to be canceled or postponed this year, I’m crossing my fingers and saying my prayers and hoping that Nonito Donaire, Toshiaki Nishioka, Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado are kept in bubble wrap for the next 12 days.
10. The Sept. 23 shooting death of Corrie Sanders saddened me as much as did the premature deaths of some of boxing’s greater stars. Sanders was fleetingly famous, but it was because his success was such a long shot that he became that real-life “Rocky” we love to root for.
It wasn’t so much that he was an overachieving underdog, but rather that he was both underrated and understated, a power-puncher who could’ve done more in boxing had the Sweet Science been his true love.
Many had seen him before in his famous firefight with Hasim Rahman in 2000. My introduction to him, however, came in 2003, when my father and I sat down to watch Sanders face Wladimir Klitschko.
I wasn’t yet a boxing writer then. I could barely even be considered a casual fan. But Sanders won me over in the way he summarily dispatched Wladimir Klitschko, and I waited on the proverbial edge of my seat to see him again. It was a shame that, barely a year later, he was removed from the spotlight, and the heavyweight title scene, with his loss to Vitali Klitschko.
Sanders fought intermittently afterward: once more in 2004, once in 2006, once in 2007 and once in 2008. He was 46 when he died, and from what reports are saying about him being shot while trying to protect his daughter, it becomes clear that Sanders truly was outside of the ring what we had made him during his brief time at the top of the sport:
“Fighting Words" appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter at @fightingwords2 or send questions and comments to [email protected]