When Alexander Povetkin rocked Dillian Whyte’s world in Eddie Hearn’s back garden last August, he put a lot of the heavyweight division on hold.
Well, it wasn’t Povetkin’s punch so much as Whyte’s rematch clause.
The Londoner was eager to prove it was a blip, a fluke, and immediately wanted to rectify what had happened.
He’d been on top, moments from victory in the first four rounds, and then he got cracked and was flat on his back.
That long-held and much-talked about mandatory status was taken from him but he wanted to show the loss was only a loan and tried to lure Povetkin back as soon as he could.
The idea beforehand had been that Whyte would tick over in his mandatory spot in a competitive fight, staying in shape.
Then disaster struck.
A rematch was agreed for November 21, which seemed overly ambitious not to mention risky given the violent nature of their first bout. Then Povetkin caught coronavirus and that date evaporated. Then a January date came and went. Then March 6 was announced but with Whyte training in Portugal the hotel/travel quarantine issues with a return to the UK ahead of the fight saw that date go by the wayside as promoter Eddie Hearn looked further afield.
It’s landed in Gibraltar and it’s being called The Rumble on the Rock.
And this time roles are reversed. Povetkin – no longer just the veteran with name value – is now the one with the X on his back, the man holding the keys to the championship kingdom and it’s become the biggest fight of Whyte’s career. If he’s beaten again, he will drop down the ladder and won’t be in the conversation with Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua until Povetkin has his shot and maybe Whyte collects another big win or two.
If Dillian rights the wrong against the Russian, he’s bang in the picture again. But he won’t be able to take his eyes of Povetkin for a second.
Maybe he was already envisioning the post-fight firework display in Hearn’s back garden when he was caught by the rocket from Povetkin’s left hand.
Having twice downed the former Olympian in the fourth, Povetkin seemed likely to come apart. Maybe Whyte told himself he simply had to go through the motions to finish the job but in the fifth Povetkin crept inside a right hand and used his positioning to turn in a left hook that left wreaked no little amount of havoc in the heavyweight picture.
Apparently both fighters, never far from controversy, have been tested by VADA around 20 times each in camp for this return. Hearn said UKAD testers have even also shown up in Gibraltar to test Whyte, too.
The period between the bouts probably favors Whyte. The egg-timer on 41-year-old Povetkin’s career is nearer the end and one can’t be sure if Whyte would have managed a full camp if the November date had happened due to the heaviness of the defeat he suffered last time.
If it was simply a lapse in concentration that caused his undoing previously, then he needs to stay focused.
Perhaps that is why he’s drafted Harold Knight into camp. The likeable man they call “Shadow” was with Lennox Lewis back when Lennox corrected aberrations against Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman. His presence in Team Whyte can’t be underestimated, but last time Whyte had Dave Coldwell in an advisory role and he’d recently split with Mark Tibbs.
Has he found the recipe now, or is he missing some ingredients?
Would consistency have been key all along?
What he was doing was working well enough, however, until it didn’t. Then the inquests began, basically with Whyte wanting to get Povetkin straight back in and get is old spot back in the rankings. For many, he was considered the fourth or fifth best at the weight, behind Fury, behind Deontay Wilder and Joshua and possibly behind Andy Ruiz.
As things stand, he’s behind Povetkin and the onus is on him to prove that it was a one off, a lapse, a mistake. He sounded convinced it was and has been adamant ever since.
If that’s the case, you can be sure he’s given himself a hard time for suffering such a damning defeat, clutching a loss from the jaws of victory.
Promoter Hearn is convinced it ends with a knockout, but that’s his job, to talk up the violence he’s pedalling. But it should deliver again.
Whyte may focus his energy on hunting Povetkin’s body but you can be sure Povetkin will be eyeing up the right side of Whyte’s head. Don’t blink if he steps to the side and cocks his left hook.
It might not be Fury-Joshua – the big one – but this is big enough and the stakes are incredibly high.
It’s hard to make a certain pick when one punch has and can change everything, but a disciplined and patient Whyte should prevail. A statement is not necessary. Victory is compulsory.