By Cliff Rold
Put aside the phony belt on the line in the main event. It’s total nonsense. There is only one true Heavyweight Champion. His name is Wladimir Klitschko. The next man down the chain is his brother Vitali.
Alexander Povetkin? He’s the guy who twice got into position to be a sanctioning body mandatory for Wladimir and wasn’t ready to pull the trigger. Apparently, his camp sees value in paying WBA sanctioning fees so someone will call them champ while trudging along the path of least resistance.
Funny thing though…Povetkin’s path of least resistance also works out to be, on paper, potentially the toughest fight of his career. Could the same be true of the man in the spotlight on the undercard? Robert Helenius is trying to follow up a knockout of former titlist Samuel Peter with another beltholders scalp. Will his blades be sharp enough for the task?
Let’s go to the report cards.
Title/Previous Titles: 1st Title Fight
Weight: 232.5 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 226.2 lbs.
Hails from: Chekhov, Russia
Record: 21-0, 15 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #5 at Heavyweight
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1 (Chris Byrd)
Previous Titles: WBA Heavyweight (2007-09, 2 Defenses)
Weight: 232.5 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 228.85 lbs.
Hails from: to Hamburg, Germany (Born in Uzbekistan)
Record: 21-1-1, 13 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #7 at Heavyweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 3-1, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 2 (Nicolay Valuev, John Ruiz)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Wladimir Klitschko)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Povetkin B; Chagaev B
Pre-Fight: Power – Povetkin B; Chagaev B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Povetkin B-; Chagaev B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Povetkin B; Chagaev B+
As is too often the case these days, weight is an issue. This is Heavyweight. It doesn’t have to be HEAVYweight. Povetkin scaled the highest weight of his career and one wonders if the wheels are coming off. Povetkin looked like a coming storm when he was getting through good fighters like Chris Byrd and Eddie Chambers in 2007 and 2008. Then he fell off the table a bit, got with trainer Teddy Atlas, and his weight indicates Atlas has been telling the press the truth.
When he showed up in Russia, even under conditions that forced a short camp, Povetkin wasn’t in the best shape. Chagaev appears to be in good shape and, as a southpaw with an educated jab and solid chin, that could make a long night. If the fight goes late, and Povetkin is pushed, this could get interesting. In a year of upsets particularly hard on the undefeated, Povetkin might be in the crosshairs.
If his conditioning is okay, and his head movement continues to improve under Atlas, Povetkin has all the tools to win here. He goes to the body well, is accurate with the hook upstairs, pops a solid jab, and has less wear despite the closeness in edge. Chagaev, alternately, has seen bigger men and better men as a pro. Experience goes to the tough former titlist.
Povetkin showing up in less than his best form is depressing but par for the course. We might get a good scrap anyways. Will a highlight reel knockout open the show?
Title/Previous Titles: None
Height: 6’6 ½
Weight: 243.75 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 239.1 lbs.
Hails from: Berlin, Germany (Born in Sweden)
Record: 15-0, 10 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #3 at Heavyweight
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 2 (Lamon Brewster, Samuel Peter)
Previous Titles: WBO Heavyweight (2006)
Weight: 232 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 238.15 lbs.
Hails from: Scottsdale, Arizona (Born in Belarus)
BoxingScene Rank: Unrated
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-1, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1 (Lamon Brewster)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 2 (Shannon Briggs, Nicolay Valuev)
No grades for this one as Liakhovich has been so inactive (only three fights since 2006) it’s just not possible to say for sure what fans will be getting. One thing that is worth noting: his weight indicates his best shape in a long time. Liakhovich is up against it, fighting in the sort of last chance fight that so many before him have encountered.
Helenius is positioned to get his third win over a former beltholder in his last six starts. A knockout here wouldn’t be as impressive as the Peter finish earlier this year, but it could only enhance what is apparent: he appears to be the next real threat on the horizon. That, by no means, is to say he will one day dethrone Wladimir Klitschko.
But we’ve got to want to see someone try, right?
If Chagaev could faithfully be believed to be the same fighter he was before an Achilles injury and a beating from Klitschko, the upset pick would be easier here. Instead, Povetkin remains the safe pick but the how matters. This fight could well see Povetkin with a lead after eight rounds but sucking air to get the final bell. Chagaev doesn’t press hard enough, or throw enough, to drown Povetkin. Look for the Russian former Olympic Gold Medalist to scrape by and get himself back on track to being the serious threat he looked destined to be a few years ago.
As to Helenius, he has a chance to steal the buzz no matter the result of the main event. Liakhovich is tricky, and skilled, but he just hasn’t been the same since his 2006 epic win over Lamon Brewster. Some wars mark a certain end for a fighter, their bodies only able to give so much, and much less, than that night allowed. That appears to be the case and Helenius should be able to use that towards a knockout in the first six rounds.
Report Card Picks 2010: 25-10
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]