For the first time in ring history, two Olympic super-heavyweight gold medallists collide for the world heavyweight championship tomorrow evening when Wladimir Klitschko defends his WBA Super, WBO, IBF and IBO belts against WBA ‘regular’ champion Alex Povetkin at Moscow’s Olympic Stadium. President Putin will be ringside.
With promoter Vlad Khryunov punting a colossal $23million winning purse bid to deliver Povetkin home field, the unbeaten Russian poses the biggest threat to Klitschko hegemony for years.
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One man who senses we could be in for a spot of giant killing is ‘Terrible’ Tim Witherspoon, himself a former two time world heavyweight champion. The 55 year old Philadelphia native now spends long periods resident in the UK so boxing writer Glynn Evans tracked him down to assess Saturday’s showdown.
“This should certainly be the most competitive and intriguing heavyweight match-up that we’ve had for a good few years.
Both Klitschko brothers always turn up for business in great shape. I’ll give them that. Wladimir’s got skills to a certain level but he’s not got great defence. He can’t block punches and his chin certainly isn’t the best. Even when lesser fighters press upon him, he isn’t the most assured, doesn’t really know how to react. The older brother (Vitali) definitely has a lot more heart.
Technically, I don’t see that Wladimir can do a lot of stuff that’s really special. There’s just not been a lot of competition around at present that’s capable of stretching him. Wladimir’s been blessed with really good size and he gets himself into great condition.
Business wise, the Klitschkos are phenomenal. They’re very, very thorough professionals. Like his brother, Wlad surrounds himself with a great back-up team of trainers, scientists and top quality sparring partners. He puts together a great program and great training camps. His superior fitness allows him to get away with stuff, technical deficiencies, that might have been exploited in my era.
The Klitschkos speak well and, though they’re not always the most exciting, they’re great advocates for our sport. They could do a lot more to sizzle against inferior opposition, to make more of an impact for themselves. But clearly they know how to win and have proved it over a very long time. You have to really respect both the brothers for that.
A big problem with today’s crop of heavyweights is that they’ve no longer got the great old time coaches to teach them all the slick stuff; the moves and grooves. There’s no longer the great teachers around capable of bringing talented young athletes to the top. I loved Emanuel Steward, who trained Wladimir for many years before he passed away recently, but Manny was a great offensive coach not a defensive specialist.
When I was coming through, I was very blessed to have ‘Slim’ Robinson. He taught me slick defence and lots of smarts. I had a lot of knowledge, and I’m very confident that, with the skills I possessed, I’d have been a dominant champion of this era. Unfortunately, once I started to feel I was being mismanaged, I opted to travel another road.
I was impressed with the way Povetkin handled Hasim Rahman. ‘Rock’ probably only came for a payday but it was a big opportunity for him to get back into the groove. He’d certainly have been dangerous for a few rounds but Povetkin done a real number on him. And if he wasn’t intimidated by Rahman, he ain’t gonna be scared of Klitschko.
They tell me that Povetkin has a great chin but I’ve not seen him put under severe pressure inside the ring yet. You need to witness that before you can really judge the true fighter. The same applies to these other young bucks like Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. We’ve not really seen them under pressure.
People talk about Povetkin’s lack of experience but he won the Olympics and he’s had 26 pro fights. I challenged Larry Holmes for the heavyweight championship of the world after I’d only had 15.Going into the Holmes fight, I was very apprehensive but old ‘Slim’ told me I’d kick Larry’s ass and that’s all I needed to hear. That gave me an explosion of confidence, a burst of energy to be the man on top, to become the new champion.
They robbed me (Witherspoon lost a contentious 15 round decision) but if someone can give Povetkin the attention and motivation that I had, he’ll enter as a real threat. All he needs is spirit. If he believes in himself, Wladimir could be in trouble this time.
I see Povetkin being a real threat to Wladimir, given that this fight is in Russia, his home country. That certainly gives him a big edge over the Ukrainian. The older brother (Vitali) would be less effected because, he’s tougher mentally, has more heart.
If Povetkin opts to stand back and box Wladimir, he’ll have no chance. But the Russian is naturally aggressive and, unlike most Klitschko opponents, he’ll be prepared to trade. Povetkin’s combinations are pretty impressive for a big guy. He can put the left hook and right hand together and if he’s able to put pressure on, bury his head into Wladimir’s chest round after round, it could be his day. Klitschko still hasn’t really been shown how to deal with that stuff. I could teach him!
We’ve not really seen if Povetkin can take a punch – Rahman never really hit him solid – but we do know that this Klitschko doesn’t take one too good.
Don’t ask me if it’ll be points or knockout but Povetkin can make this happen. We could have a new champion. I smell an upset!”