By Alexey Sukachev
On Monday night, Teddy Atlas, world-known boxing coach and TV commentator for ESPN, conducted an open workout for fans and non-fans alike at Boxing Academy Gym near the legendary Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia. As always, Atlas was accompanied by his long-time assistant Saul Avelar as well as by the top-notch Russian manager/promoter Vladimir Hryunov, cruiserweight power hitter Denis Lebedev and 1988 Seoul gold medalist Vyacheslav Yanovskiy.
Atlas received a silver glove from Yanovskiy and Lebedev in honor of his achievements in and outside the ring and for his impact in development of Alexander Povetkin, a supreme Russian heavyweight power. Teddy Atlas, aside from signing autographs and being pictured by local admirers of the sport, also addressed the audience with an emotional speech about the way a young boxer should conduct himself in and outside of the ring, showed some feints and moves for starting boxers and di a few demonstrations with some new boxing equipment, which is useful for the gym work.
On Tuesday, Team Povetkin will head to Germany to finish Alexander’s preparations for the most important fight of his career so far. On Saturday night, WBA #2 Povetkin (21-0, 15 KOs) faces the WBA #1, and former two-time heavyweight champion of the world Ruslan Chagaev (27-1-1, 17 KOs), for the “regular” title (the “super” trophy being owned by Wladimir Klitschko). This battle can be named the biggest intrinsic event for the former USSR fight zone since June 2009, when the younger Klitschko forced Chagaev into submission to (de facto) complete the second unification of the heavyweight regalia.
BoxingScene sat down with Atlas to discuss his feelings about the upcoming fight.
- Teddy, having seen a number of Ruslan’s fights, I failed to find one specific feature, a single distinction, which makes him so special. He is smart, his cleverness is beyond any dispute, but otherwise his strengths aren’t that evident. What do you consider to be Chagaev’s best skills?
- His strength is what I have told young fighters [about] during my speech. His biggest strength is his ability to behave like a fighter at all times and no matter what, to be consistent and to be dependable under fire. His most important ability is not to fall apart. He has what it takes to be a fighter, and he behaves like a fighter at all time.
He is physically strong, he is aggressive. He understands what he is; he understands what his identity is. His best weapon from a tactical and a physical standpoint is his left hand.
He likes to use his left hand, his power hand when he fights from the southpaw stance. He throws it to the head, he throws it to the body; he mixes it up with uppercuts. That is his best physical strength, which is obvious because Ruslan is a southpaw. This gives him an advantage too, as the orthodox fighters aren’t very familiar with the lefties. But the most important thing about him is that Chagaev is a tough guy, a determined guy, and he is a former world champion, so he knows what it takes to be a champion.
- Which fight of Chagaev’s career do you consider to be his best performance and the best possible example of his true power?
- In many of his fights, Chagaev delivered his A game – against John Ruiz, against some other fighters. Against Nikolay Valuev he showed his cleverness, his ability to box and to make adjustments, which makes up his experience. And this is another of his strengths. He is very experienced. To be honest with you, he is even more experienced than my guy (Alexander Povetkin). And his consistency all night long will make him believe he can go the way he tries to follow.
- What will be the primary key for Alexander to defeat Ruslan Chagaev?
- Despite a relatively short period of preparation, which is a slight concern for us, Sasha is in his best physical shape possible and he is ready to go. I think that he is fully prepared to fight Ruslan. The most important thing for Alexander is to be consistent all night long, to follow his old style and his old identity, to be aggressive.
He needs to avoid Chagaev’s left hand, to move to his (Povetkin’s) left to avoid Ruslan’s power, his left hand. I think we can have a spot when we can hit him with our right hand. We need to find those right spots. I think there’s an opportunity inside to land certain punches. But, again, we need to make sure these are right opportunities to fill in the spots. Alexander has tons of amateur experience, and he needs to use it well. For some reasons, he wasn’t specifically active later on but he has what it takes to become a champion, and he has been here for a long time. His experience and his time will help him much.
- Being here, in Chekhov, you has been quoted recently (during the ESPN broadcast) that Alexander Povetkin is very much the next champion of the world in the sport’s glamour division. The title is indeed at stake, the WBA regular belt. Meanwhile, the super belt (as well as two other major belts – WBO and IBF) is being worn by Wladimir Klitschko. Almost every expert in the world considers him to be, together with his brother and the WBC heavyweight titlist Vitali, the two-headed undisputed heavyweight champion. What do you think; will Alexander Povetkin be treated on the same terms with the Klitschkos even after his possible victory on the next Saturday night?
- Look. The Klitschko brothers deserve to be called the top guys in the heavyweight division as world champions and for all, what they have achieved in their past and in their present. Their reign just can not be disputed. Now it is up for us to do what we can and to use the opportunity which we have. I’m not thinking about Klitschkos. I’m not doing that. At this point, that would be foolish, that would be irresponsible and that would be ridiculous to do that right now. Less than a week from this date we have a guy, named Ruslan Chagaev, a very strong, tough and determined guy, who knows what it takes to be a champion just cause he was a champion, and that is all what I’m concerned about at this point. That’s enough to worry about.