By Jake Donovan
Veteran official Luis Pabòn has been appointed as third man for this weekend’s lineal heavyweight championship between Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin in Moscow, Russia.
Pabòn presides over a predominantly North American officiating panel. Two of the three ringside judges for the bout–Glenn Feldman and Ted Gizma–hail from the United States. The third of the three-person panel is Phillippe Verbeke, from Belgium.
Depending on which strand of lineage you follow, this marks either the eighth defense of the lineal championship for Klitschko (60-3, 51KO), or his first genuine World title fight. Boxingscene.com traces Klitschko’s claim to the lineal championship to his stoppage win over Ruslan Chagaev in June ’09.
The Transnational Boxing Ratings Board –which was formed last October to counter the relaxed championship standards adopted by Ring Magazine–opted to leave the heavyweight crown vacant. The theory behind the move was that Klitschko has yet to face the next highest leading challenger, which up until early Septeber was his older brother Vitali.
That stance changes since the elder Klitschko has been removed from the rankings due to having not fought in more than a year and with no definitive bout scheduled. The demotion left room for Povetkin (26-0, 18KO) to elevate from number three to number two in the rankings, thus creating a true #1 v. #2 matchup for the sport’s most historically prized crown.
The bout is also a rare matchup of Olympic Gold medalists squaring off in a heavyweight championship. The last occurrence came when Muhammad Ali faced Joe Frazier in their epic rubber match in Manila in Oct. 1975. The last time two Olympic Gold medalists fought in a heavyweight clash of any kind came in May ’96, when Lennox Lewis outpointed Ray Mercer in a 10-round non-title fight.
Klitschko and Povetkin have both performed with Pabòn as their referee before, heading into Saturday’s affair. The most recent instances for each came on consecutive weekends during the winter of 2012; Pabon was third man for Povetkin’s narrow points win over Marco Huck in late Feb. of that year, and then oversaw Klitschko’s stoppage win over Jean-Marc Mormeck one weekend later.
Oddly enough, Verbeke was one of the three judges for each of the aforementioned bouts. Verbeke scored Povetkin-Huck even at 114-114, the most respected of the three scores turned in that evening.
All but one of the major alphabet heavyweight belts will be at stake in this weekend’s encounter, the lone being the strap currently held by Vitali Klitschko, inactive since last September. Klitschko brings a slew of belts into the ring, having held at least one belt since his April ’06 stoppage win over Chris Byrd, making 14 defenses over that span. The reign for Povetkin has been far shorter and also far less distinguished, not creating a lot of noise since outpointing Chagaev in their Aug. ’11 vacant title fight.
The October 5 encounter, which will air on HBO, marks at least the third attempt to pair together the two highly ranked heavyweights. A planned Dec. ’08 clash was interrupted when Povetkin suffered an injury during sparring. Plans to meet less than two years later were thwarted when Teddy Atlas–Povetkin’s trainer at the time and a noted critic of the Klitschkos–advised his charge against taking such a fight at the time.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America.