by Cliff Rold
In a mandatory defense that appeared ridiculous from signing, 33-year old WBA Heavyweight titlist Alexander Povetkin (25-0, 17 KO) of Chekhov, Russia, a distinction without much meaning in a Heavyweight division where Wladimir Klitschko also has a WBA belt, made his third title defense with a second-round stoppage of 40-year old former lineal World Heavyweight Champion and former WBC titlist Hasim Rahman (50-8-2, 41 KO) on Saturday night at the Sporthalle, Alsterdorf, Hamburg, Germany.
It was Povetkin’s first fight under the tutelage of Hall of Fame former Jr. Welterweight king Kostya Tszyu but it will take real opposition to gauge the merits of the marriage. It is at least off to a winning start.
Povetkin came into the bout at 229 lbs., a quarter pound lighter than in his controversial points win over Cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck in February of this year. Rahman scaled 256 lbs., 32 pounds lighter than is his last bout but 22 pounds more than when he defeated Lennox Lewis for the Heavyweight title in 2001.
The referee was Gustavo Padilla.
Rahman came out behind a left jab that has been the best weapon throughout his career but had little else to offer. Arms high to guard, Povetkin found a hold in Rahman’s guard anyways with a quick left hook that buckled Rahman’s knees. Povetkin landed another couple of lefts just inside the final minute, Rahman responding with a stiff jab. Rahman missed a slow right hand attempt in the closing seconds, Povetkin adding one more left hook before the bell.
In the first minute of round two, a Povetkin left hook had Rahman in deep waters. His legs troubled, Rahman all but sat on the middle strands of the ropes as Povetkin stepped in to finish. Padilla kept a close eye on the action as the punishment mounted, Rahman blasted with a volume of leveraged power shots. Initial attempts to fire back were replaced with a clinch.
Povetkin stepped out as Rahman turned sideways to lay his right elbow over the top rope, seeking balance as he waited for Povetkin to lay in the kill shot. Povetkin obliged with a final salvo, Padilla mercifully stopping the slaughter at 1:46 of round two.
The fight ends a pedestrian five-knockout win streak for Rahman and results in the sixth defeat of his career inside the distance. Rahman’s last defeat was a seventh-round knockout loss versus Wladimir Klitschko in 2008. Rahman stated he felt “weak and dehydrated” in the fight and claimed he’d been in the hospital to take fluids overnight prior to the fight. Asked if he plans to retire, Rahman sounded ambivalent and stated he’d want “someone in the top five” to see where he’s really at.
Based on what was seen Saturday, the last thing Rahman needs is any more tough opposition. Rahman hasn’t posted a notable performance since a draw versus James Toney in 2006.
Interviewed in the ring after the bout with the aid of a translator, Povetkin said he sought to play the role of counter puncher in the fight, something that worked for him. Asked if he will look to face Klitschko, Povetkin said he’s ready to fight anyone and, when the fight is made, he’ll be honored to take the challenge and plans to continue his work with Tszyu to prepare for the challenge.
Whether Povetkin, a 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist at Super Heavyweight, will really take a crack at Klitschko remains to be seen. It is something he has seemingly avoided for the better part of four years, despite being positioned as a mandatory contender twice. As displayed Saturday, there are certainly easier ways to make a living but one wonders if there comes a point where Povetkin’s professional pride will leave him personally demanding to be more than just a beltholder.
While the main event indeed saw a belt on the line, the televised support bout featured a pair of fighters looking for a chance to face the true kingpin at Heavyweight.
31-year old Kubrat Pulev (17-0, 9 KO), 249 ¼, of Sofia, Bulgaria, is the man who moved to the head of the line. Specifically, Pulev earned a mandatory title shot from the International Boxing Federation with an eleventh round knockout of previously undefeated 35-year old Russian Alexander Ustinov (27-1, 21 KO), 305 ½, of Minsk, Belarus. The referee was Phil Edwards.
Aired on tape delay in the U.S., only select rounds were shown but fans were able to glean a good idea of the action. Despite giving up a few inches to the almost 6’8 Ustinov, along with over fifty pounds, the quicker hands of Pulev told the tale. Using an effective left jab, solid range, and intelligent right hands, Pulev exhibited solid boxing skill and patience. The punch output, according to displayed punch stats, was not overwhelming but favored Pulev.
The visage of Ustinov favored Pulev as well. His nose bloodied from early on, Ustinov struggled to chase down the relatively smaller man. An occasional big shot from Ustinov kept Pulev’s attention but never stole away control from the Bulgarian.
Late in the tenth round, a left hook and right hand stunned Ustinov, setting the stage for a finish. Swelling showing around both eyes, Pulev continued to batter Ustinov with jabs in round eleven. Cut over the left eye and exhausted, Ustinov was stunned by a clean left hook. Taking a step back, he ate a final left jab and elected to take no more. Dropping to a knee, Ustinov stayed there as Edwards tolled the count of ten, waving the action closed at 1:21 of the eleventh.
Pulev scores his third consecutive knockout and can look forward to the difficult task of facing the lineal World Champion. Klitschko, who holds the WBA “Super,” IBF, and WBO belts, is currently scheduled to make a defense against Mariusz Wach (27-0, 15 KO) on November 10 in Hamburg, Germany.
Wach is a decided underdog and fans will feel free to begin speculation now about a Klitschko-Pulev fight in 2013.
The card was televised in the U.S on Epix and webcast on EpixHD.com, promoted by Germany’s Sauerland Events.
Cliff Rold is a Managing Editor at BoxingScene, and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]