By Alexey Sukachev
…His knees suddenly buckled, his face being strangely distorted by a grimace of astonishment, WBA regular champion Alexander Povetkin went down momentarily, when a short left hook, maybe a jab more than a hook, landed flush on his whiskers on the Russian’s way in at the end of round two, which was clearly his.
The first downfall was just an omen of a brutal and methodical beating, the challenger, who Povetkin was, would be taking for another ten rounds. He has never come close enough to hurt the almost invulnerable champion, was floored himself three more times in the seventh and looked like a badly beaten man after the fight. Wladimir Klitschko, if you wonder, sported just a bruise on his right cheek and no other war marks. Official scores confirmed the Ukrainian Master’s total domination, being read as almost a clean sweep: 119-104 – thrice.
The victory was the champ’s 15th defense of the IBF/IBO heavyweight championship, 11th – of the WBO and the 5th – of the Super WBA titles. It cannot be better than that: a local milestone has been reached in Wladimir’s biggest fight since his win over David Haye. Unlike Haye and Ibragimov fights, the younger Klitschko was forced to battle on his opponent’s home turf in front of a roaring local crowd in a glow of stagnating relationship between two fraternal Eastern Slavonic nations. Like a true champion he is, Dr. Steelhammer rose on the occasion and eliminated another of his would-be-successors in quite a brutal fashion during “Klitschko vs. Povetkin” Gala at Olimpiyskiy Palace of Sports in Moscow, Russia.
Make no mistake. 2004 Olympic gold medalist Povetkin (now 26-1, 18 KOs) was in top shape and delivered the fight of his life, when most needed. He pressed the action throughout the first half, threw numerous power punches and has never been discouraged. When he was fresh, and he was fresh during the first five stanzas, he gave Wladimir a run for his colossal fee, even despite a bitter knockdown in round two. The Russian was jumping forward with a trademark left hook, forcing the champion to use his mass advantage in clinches. His punches were wide but fairly dangerous as was his constant movement. Clinches were numerous and weren’t anywhere near legal tactics but referee Luis Pabon, who was named an X-factor long before the fight by some foreseeing experts, failed to deduct any points from the constantly fouling champion up until the eleventh round.
As much as clinches sapped energy from the local boxer, they weren’t decisive in defining the winner of the fight. As soon as Klitschko took control of the bout in the sixth stanza, Povetkin has been forced to follow the route of previous Klitschko’s victims – eating jabs (not as often as usual) and left-right quick combos (Wladimir used them rarely but dodged the subsequent question during the post-fight presser, saying he will use his right hand more in his next fight). The finish has been almost reached in the seventh round, when Povetkin suffered three consecutive knockdowns and was very lucky to hear the bell for the end of the round. He still was competitive, though, and it resulted in a nightmare for the local fans, because the Ukrainian legend simply didn’t allow his hands fly in order to prevent any unnecessary harm to be realized.
The final rounds of this clinchfest were still marred with multiple fouls, holding and pushing – to the extent, where the Ukrainian was severely booed after the fight, even though there were no debates of who will be its winner. BoxingScene had it much closer: 114-109 – for the Klitschko, giving Povetkin benefit of a doubt in several close rounds but this benefit didn’t result in anything bigger and it wouldn’t have.
Not everyone was pleased with the flow of the fight, even not bearing in mind the final outcome of the action.
“I spent quite a sum to get into the arena as a casual fan of the sport with the intent to go unrecognized with the fans”, said ex-WBO middleweight champion Dmitry Pirog afterwards. “I was totally unimpressed with the main event. For me Grigory Drozd delivered a much better fight and pleased the fans with his extraordinary effort. As for Wladimir, I understand now, why his fights are being aired so rarely overseas”.
“I heard booing indeed”, confirmed the champion in a post-fight quickie. “I paid little attention to that, because I knew I haven’t done anything wrong. Povetkin was bowing all the time from his waist, and I was unable to show my best quality in this situation”, answered Klitschko.
Local booing and the opinion of a semi-retired fellow champion don’t mean much in case of Wladimir. His goals are far from delivering another boxing clinic to another worthy or even unworthy title challenger. Alexander Povetkin has been written in as yet another chapter of the Klitschko’s golden book. We have definitely passed the equator of it, and all viable antagonists have been more or less eliminated by the main protagonist.
Samuel Peter has been defeated twice – once as a fellow (undefeated) contender and a purposed terror of the division, another time as a faded veteran. The same is true for Tony “The Tiger” Thompson. Chris Byrd donated Wladimir his IBF crown. Lamon Brewster’s loss was well avenged in 2007. Top contender Eddie Chambers was laid out cold with a single left hook. Other champions, outside of the Klitschko family, were eliminated continuously in 2008-2011: firstly Sultan Ibragimov, then Ruslan Chagaev (who formally wasn’t a champion at the time of the fight), and finally David Haye. Povetkin has followed the same road as the later three, albeit this road was seemingly endless and very sinuous.
With his elder brother Vitaliy taking care of JC Gomez, Chris Arreola, Dereck Chisora and Tomasz Adamek over the same period of time, both brothers have little-to-nothing left to prove in the ring. Nothing but a scorched earth, populated by ruins of the past and youngsters, who still aren’t ready for an ultimate challenge (Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, and Bryant Jennings) or won’t be ready for such a fight in foreseeable future.
Clinches, dirty tricks, hellacious one-two combinations and satanic jabs are the vital parts of this ongoing warfare or it’s better to say a hunt-down for future and present prospects and challengers. Not very pleasant but extremely effective, those tricks will be forgotten in a couple of weeks after the fight, while the positive official result will remain solid and stable for a long-long time.
At 37, Wladimir is still in his prime but has no opponents left to re-define or to improve his already shining resume. Is there anything left to prove for his career to be finalized before his ticket to Canastota will be put on a five-year long ripening hold? Two ideas can be exciting enough to create some extra motivation for Wladimir.
Firstly, there’s an unaffected title in the picture of the heavyweight division. WBC belt is claimed by Wladimir’s elder brother Vitaliy. When asked directly today, the reigning champion neither rejected nor confirmed rumors of him taking part in upcoming presidential elections. If indeed true, Vitaliy will only fight once, twice at the very best.
That means, the green belt can be up for grabs midst into 2014.
While major sanctioning bodies usually didn’t allow other recognized champions to fight for their vacant belts, this time can very well be an exception due to an extremely big Klitschko’s political influence. Even if not instantly, Wladimir can take a part in a unification bout later on.
If everything is successful, the younger Klitschko can become the most titled champion in the history of the sport (in terms of a single division). Only three fighters held all four pieces of the world championships within the certain division during their careers.
Joe Calzaghe, a virtually eternal WBO super middleweight champion was de-facto an undisputed titlist after he had defeated WBA/WBC champion Mikkel Kessler and won that fight. He has previously owned the IBF title (he was later stripped off) after a beatdown of Jeff Lacy. The other two are Bernard Hopkins (who has collected all four viable titles at the middleweight division in 2001-2004) and Jermain Taylor (who has twice defeated Hopkins and took his belts only to lose them gradually during the next years.
Secondly, there are some major milestones in front of the Ukrainian. World (and heavyweight) record for the most title defenses belongs to a great Joe Louis – 25. This result can hardly be overcome in the nearest future – to do so Wladimir should fight three times in a year (for three years) but some nice numbers can be reached nevertheless – f.e. twenty title defenses.
The first reason, or the second reason or any other sort of solution will be welcome. At least, some oasis can be developed in a scorched desert, the heavyweight division has turned into since the mid-00’s.
The true gem of the evening, organized by Andrey Ryabinskiy with an assistance of “RosNeft’” and MIC, was a European collision between Grigoriy Drozd and Mateusz Masternak. The previously undefeated Pole was seen by many to be a clear-cut favorite even at his opponent’s backyard.
Yet Drozd (37-1, 26 KOs), who at 34, returned to the sport only to get another shot at title, was possibly in the best shape of his life. Fast and furious he went right after the highly regarded European champion (WBC #2, IBF #3, WBA #5 and WBO #7), and put him to the uncomfortable position almost immediately after the opening bell.
WBC/WBA #8, IBF #10 and WBO #14 Drozd almost knocked his opponent down in the second round, then took the next three pretty quietly, despite some efforts from Masternak (30-1, 22 KOs). In the sixth and in the seventh stanzas, Drozd wobbled Masternak again and in much more brutal fashion. The Pole then attempted a late comeback, and he has even got some success in rounds eight and ten, before Drozd performed a huge finishing surge early into the eleventh round and forced Italian referee Massimo Barrovecchio to step in for the good, saving defenseless Masternak on his feet from more punishment and awarding the blue belt of the European Boxing Union to the Russian fighter.