by Cliff Rold
Alexander Povetkin has gone from being the hottest young heavyweight in the world to facing him.
The 2004 Olympic gold medalist at super heavyweight burst into the upper echelon of the professional ranks in only his fourteenth fight, stopping veteran former titlist Chris Byrd. In his very next fight, he won a decision over undefeated Eddie Chambers and appeared on a rocket towards a crack at Wladimir Klitschko.
Things stalled from there. Povetkin’s team was in no hurry to pursue Klitschko. We finally got an indication as to why in 2013 when Povetkin was dropped five times, and clinched into oblivion, for twelve rounds.
There was never going to be enough seasoning to win that one. In the years since, Povetkin has had only ups in the ring but a big down in a PED test that led to the collapse of a shot at WBC titlist Deontay Wilder in 2016. He hasn’t had a chance to truly redeem himself in the ring since.
That changes Saturday (DAZN, 4:30 PM EST). In what is likely his last major chance to win a major title, Povetkin heads to Wembley Stadium to face the biggest live gate phenomenon in the sport. Joshua, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist at super heavyweight, isn’t just the hottest young heavyweight; he’s the hottest fighter in the sport in terms of ticket sales. Outside Saul Alvarez, he’s the biggest financial draw in the sport period.
Can Povetkin write a finish to his career that replaces the failure of the Klitschko challenge with a memorable late career upset?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: IBF heavyweight (2016-Present, 5 Defenses); WBA heavyweight (2017-Present, 2 Defenses); WBO heavyweight (2018-Present, 1stDefense)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 245 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Watford, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Record: 21-0, 20 KO?
Press Rankings: #1 (TBRB, Ring, ESPN, Boxing Monthly, BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 6-0, 5 KO
Last Five Opponents: 165-10-1 (.940)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Charles Martin KO2; Wladimir Klitschko TKO11; Joseph Parker UD12
Previous Titles: None; WBA sub-title only 2011-13
Weight: 222 lbs.
Hails from: Chekhov, Russia
Record: 34-1, 24 KO
Press Rankings: #3 (Ring, ESPN, Boxing Monthly, BoxRec); #5 (TBRB)
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-1 (5-1, 3 KO including WBA sub-title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 140-14 (.909)
Current/Former World Champions Faced: Chris Byrd TKO11; Ruslan Chagaev UD12; Marco Huck MD12; Hasim Rahman TKO2; Wladimir Klitschko L12
The Case for Joshua: Joshua enters this fight for the first time knowing he can win even without a knockout. For him, that’s not a bad thing because he’s facing arguably the second most accomplished opponent of his career. While Povetkin never won a full title of his own, he’s faced a wide range of contenders over the years, has been a steady presence in the top ten for over a decade, and he’s never been stopped. Joshua could change that. Klitschko put Povetkin down repeatedly and Joshua has the power to do the same and possibly keep him there. His jab, size, power, and physical strength are all advantages here. Joshua also has good feet for a man his size, which should help to keep range against an often flat-footed Povetkin. Joshua is also the younger man, which could matter if both men are hurt in the fight. Younger legs seem to get the rubber out quicker when danger looms. As unwatchable as it was, Joshua can also draw on some of Klitschko’s tactics, leaning on Povetkin in the clinches and stifling the short right hands and hooks Povetkin will need at close to medium range to have a shot.
The Case for Povetkin: Povetkin can hope to rely on a veteran’s patience against a fighter who doesn’t tend towards the clinch as often as Klitschko did. Joshua has a fairly offensive mindset but he’s been hurt and Povetkin can use that against him. Povetkin has a sneaky jab, can work well inside, and can land some explosive stuff in close. Povetkin doesn’t appear all that dynamic but his fundamentals and steadiness are underlined by plenty of athleticism and his stamina has been an asset. In fights like Chambers, he was able to erase a deficit by being better later in the fight. If he can hurt Joshua, and catch him in between first and second wind, he has to do what Klitschko failed to do against Joshua. Povetkin has to go for broke if the opportunity arises and not hope for two chances to close. Povetkin’s best chance to win is a knockout. If he hurts Joshua and doesn’t go all in, he’ll likely regret it.
The Pick: Povetkin isn’t without chances here and the scale was encouraging. Joshua is back in the 240s two fights in a row, where his stamina seems better and he lumbers less, but Povetkin is the lightest he’s been in years. It indicates he trained to be as quick as possible and that won’t hurt his chances. The problem will be getting inside consistently. Joshua’s jab is hard and consistent and Povetkin may be open to his uppercut in close quarters. Povetkin can sometimes be too measured in his pace and limit the exchanges he will probably need to catch Joshua with something he doesn’t see. Joshua has too many advantages in too many categories and is the pick here to be the first man to stop Povetkin.
Rold Picks 2018: 30-13
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]