By Frank Warren
It’s a heavy night tonight, with boxing being dominated by three former Olympic super-heavyweight champions.
At the Olympic Stadium in Moscow, Russia, 20,000 fans – including President Putin and former Olympic and World Champion Lennox Lewis- witnessing Wladimir Klitschko, gold medallist at Atlanta in 1996, defend his four versions of the world heavyweight crown against unbeaten local Alex Povetkin, who topped the rostrum in Athens eight years later.
This is the first instance of two champions from the heaviest Olympic weight category colliding in a title fight since 1964 Tokyo king Joe Frazier was smoked in two rounds by 1968 Mexico City champ George Foreman in Kingston, Jamaica in January 1973.
Tonight’s action, which is televised live and exclusive on BoxNation in the UK, represents easily the stiffest test to Klitschko dominance for many years.
For a start, it is the first time King Wlad has been forced to fight on a rival promotion, after Povetkin’s promoter Vlad Khryunov’s group tendered the second highest purse bid in history – a whopping $23million – to provide his fellow Russian with home advantage. Those sitting ringside will have stumped up $9000 per brief for the privilege!
In addition to his Olympic gong, Povetkin bagged gold at two European and one world amateur meet. Thus far, he has been victorious in all 26 professional outings, with 18 stoppage wins. Teak tough, he is yet to taste the canvas in either code.
Though four inches shorter, the Kostya Tszyu trained Povetkin is three years younger at 34, and far fresher. He has had the nuts to attempt to rile Klitschko. He has audaciously requested that Dereck Chisora – who spat water into Wlad’s face prior to challenging elder brother Vitali in February 2012 – serves as his representative in the Klitschko changing room to oversee the wrapping of hands! What comes around!
For once, Komrade Wlad is certainly going to feel a long way from home. However, I do expect him to come through. I almost signed Povetkin when he was amateur but he hasn’t developed as I’d envisaged.
The key to toppling this Klitschko is speed, to jab and to slip beneath his ramrod jab and be busy inside – which is easier said than done. Povetkin, I fear, lacks both the gears and variety to execute that game plan. They both are one paced but both, Klitschko, in particular, use their physical attributes to great effect.
Meanwhile on Sky, Britain’s Anthony Joshua, who makes his professional debut at the O2 Arena in south London tonight, had just a small fraction of the amateur contests that Klitschko and Povetkin shared.
In fact, ‘Big Josh’ didn’t even lace up until after his 18th birthday had passed, which makes his gold medal triumph at London 2012 all the more impressive.
It’s no secret that I was interested in signing him. At 6ft 6in tall, and with his 16st frame seemingly carved of marble, Joshua possesses all the physical hardware to compete on the very highest stage. He’s a natural athlete, laden with concussive punch power but what most impressed me is his temperament and desire.
Having been shafted against a local hero in the 2011 world amateur final in Azerbaijan, Joshua capitalised on home field to battle to victory in a couple of desperately tight contests to top the podium in London.
Despite his youth, he conquered several hardened men in the unpaid sphere. It’ll be fascinating to see how the 23 year old copes with the pressure but with his pedigree he should be fighting for a British title in ten fights.
Dereck Chisora, who had far less amateur grounding, was domestic champion in only his 13th fight.
Joshua certainly won’t be inconvenienced this evening. He enters 50-1 on with SkyBet to see off Italy’s Emanuele Leo, whose unbeaten eight fight card has been compiled against nothing opposition.
It should be interesting to see what sort of crowd Joshua can draw.
The formal headline act at the O2 sees Bury super-bantam Scott Quigg make a first defence of the WBA ‘regular’ world title that he was handed without throwing a punch.
The 24 year old Lancastrian meets fellow unbeaten hope Yoandris Salinas of Cuba, a silver quick veteran of over 300 amateur bouts. Though ex kick boxer Quigg had only a dozen unpaid outings, he enters as a 9-2 on bookies nap to be coronated.
The real WBA title of course belongs to Cuban ‘Super’ champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, a formidable two time Olympic champion. Don’t expect Team Quigg to be in any haste to clear up the ambiguity!
Still, hopefully Scott will emerge triumphant and set up the fight British boxing wants; against Belfast’s unbeaten European champion Carl Frampton.
Quigg’s already swerved ‘The Jackal’ once but, with a world title on the line, the money should be sufficient to finally make the fight but first he has to win, something tells me he will have to be at his very best to do so.
I was mystified by this week’s announcement that Darren Barker gave up making a home defence of his IBF middleweight title but money speaks.
On December 7th, ‘The Dazzler’ travels to Stuttgart, Germany to square off with mandatory challenger Felix Sturm, a three-time world champion who has lost just three of 44.
It’s unusual and could be risky for a Champion to open the defence of his crown abroad so the Barnet man is being handsomely rewarded with a reported £1million purse, for that he’d probably fight Sturm in his front room.
Though Barker captured his title in Atlantic City, USA, it was on neutral terrain against Australia’s Daniel Geale.
Sturm, a huge draw in Germany, promotes his own shows and, when champion, retained it with questionable decisions against Brits Matt Macklin and Martin Murray.
At 34, the German is probably on the slide.
Last Tuesday the good and great of British boxing packed St Alfege Church, Greenwich, beyond bursting point to pay homage to recently deceased matchmaker Dean Powell.
It proved a fitting if highly emotional send-off. Gone but never forgotten. Rest peacefully Dean.
After Devon Alexander signed to fight Luis Collazo in December, although nothing is signed expect Amir Khan to lace ‘em up next May against Floyd Mayweather.
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