By Alexey Sukachev
For all those years, when Alexander Povetkin was on the verge of fighting Wladimir Klitschko for the ultimate heavyweight supremacy, skeptics – as always, numbered in throngs – have doubted his character, mental power and willingness to fight the king of the division, often claiming that Povetkin was too afraid of a stature and power of the Ukrainian. Even after his spirited, if successful, showing against the champion, Povetkin hasn’t been praised for his mental toughness – and rightfully so, as he lost the fight with a record 15-point margin, which cannot be an indication of anything but the total domination of Klitschko.
With two of his victories this year, the Athens 2004 super heavyweight gold medalist (and the only one to win the highest Olympic honor for either Soviet or Russian boxing team) has proven much in both positive and negative departments. One thing, which has become evident though, is an ultimate mental toughness of the Russian. Facing adversity in both of his clashes this year, Povetkin went through hard challenges to score eye-popping knockout wins immediately after suffering a humiliating loss from Klitschko. But where Manuel Charr was though to be torn apart (as it was the case), Carlos Takam seemed to be a considerably tougher nut to crack.
Coming with a five-year long undefeated series (including wins over famed veterans Michael Grant and Francois Botha), a win-like draw against Mike Perez in January and a one-sided unanimous decision over veteran Tony Thompson in June, Takam was rated #5 by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and was thought to be a viable challenge for TBRB #2 ranked Povetkin.
And he started as if he was continuing his best performances against Grant or Thompson. Being a heavier fighter for almost 25 pounds the France-based Cameroonian looked to be also a faster of the two. He utilized a correct tactics in the first couple of rounds, working on the inside, landing his lean left jab to the face of Povetkin and adding sudden right hands on Povetkin’s way in. The Russian struggled to find a proper distance and just couldn’t let his engine going in the opening stanzas. Takam’s advantage wasn’t seen clearly but he landed two-to-four more power punches, which have visibly brought Povetkin’s attention.
WBC #3 and WBO #12 ranked Russian fighter mounted a slight comeback in the third round, when he began to use his jab more consistently and also connected with a couple of well-placed liver shots to the body of the Cameroonian and with a series of right uppercuts. However, when it seemed that Povetkin had finally started to deliver, Takam had by far his best round in the fourth, rocking Povetkin with some of his counters. Povetkin was also eating a steady diet of Takam’s jabs.
The fight was out of the hands of the Russian, as he was trailing (39-37 and 39-38) on two of the judge’s scorecards, while being unjustly ahead on the third (39-37).
BoxingScene had it 39-37 – for Takam after the fourth, when the official scores were disclosed to the audience along with the rules of the World Boxing Council. Little had changed in the couple of rounds after that as they were seemingly split between both participants.
Round seven was fought quietly with a slight advantage to the Russian. It looked like Takam had taken a round off but he also seemed lethargic during the next stanza, while Povetkin, 35, with a puff around his right eye dug deep to find some extra energy. He had seemingly sapped this power out from Takam, who has shown clear signs of fatigue with a reduced punch rate and poorer balance in the eighth. He was even with Povetkin on two of the scorecards after that (76-76), and was slightly behind him on the third score (77-76).
No one knew that it was the end. The only person, who knew it perfectly, was Povetkin. He increased his punch output and the quality of his punches in the ninth. Fighting through fatigue and redness of his own, Alexander was able to somehow outrumble Takam in close quarters in the ninth. Late in the round, he connected with a wicked right hand (after a series of smaller unanswered blows), which wobbled Takam and threw him between the ropes in a helpless condition, prompting Hall-of-Fame referee Kenny Bayless to issue a standing eight count.
Takam, 33, was clearly hurt and failed to recover during the break between rounds nine and ten. Feeling the pain and smelling the blood, Povetkin initiated tough exchanges. Takam tried to respond but – zounds! – was laid down cold after eating a major equalizer – a left hook to the chin. Kenny Bayless started counting but almost immediately waved the fight off as Takam was in no condition to continue.
The win itself brought Povetkin Takam’s WBC Silver heavyweight title and a major prospective in the WBC ranks. Alexander is now 28-1, with 20 KOs. WBC #5 and IBF #9 Takam suffers his first career stoppage and his first loss since a unanimous decision to Gregory Tony in 2009. He is now 30-2-1, with 23 KOs.
The fight has also answered some questions about Povetkin:
1. He is mentally tough and will succumb to adversity as was proved tonight.
2. He has uncorrected lapses in his game and some huge blemishes, including his defense, his conditioning (at almost 230 pounds he hasn’t weighed as much since winning the WBA title from Ruslan Chagaev) and the jab of his opponent.
3. Will all of the weaknesses Povetkin has - the only fighter, clearly superior to him is Wladimir Klitschko.
Speaking on the latter during a post-fight quickie, Povetkin indicated that the younger of the Klitschko brothers is still on his radar. “Two or three steps ahead of me, and then I’ll aim a direct rematch against Wladimir”.
Who is next for Povetkin? His promoter Andrey Ryabinskiy of the world of boxing refused to name any one but underlined that each coming opponent will be tougher for Povetkin than the previous one.
Meanwhile, for Ryabinskiy 2014 is turning into a much better year than his debuting 2013. From a standpoint of the fan, the head of “World of Boxing” has already done two major things properly:
1. He provided a fair shake for the visiting fighters from the judges.
2. He organized some very intriguing fights for joy of the fans.
Added now is:
3. His fighters are starting to win in emphatic fashion – a point which was almost completely lost in 2013.
It’s called experience, which comes only through pain and setbacks of a rocky start. It’s twice as valuable.
Rakhim Chakhkiev may have very well ended the lengthy career of 45-year old former cruiserweight champion Giacobbe Fragomeni, scoring two knockdowns en route to a 4th round knockout in the evening's chief support.
WBA #4 lightweight Eduard "The Eagle" Troyanovskiy (19-0, 16 KOs) continued his crushing road to a title shot with a one-punch knockout of ex-WBA champion Jose Alfaro (27-9-1, 23 KOs) at 0:32 of the fifth round. Troyanovskiy is a new WBA international lightweight titleholder.
Alfaro tried to find a room for his powerful right hand but it was Troyanovskiy, who indeed has found one at the end. Before that the Eagle was more consistent as well. Alfaro was down in the third on a combination of punches. In the fifth round he ventured in only to be knocked out cold and for good with a left cracker.
WBC #15 German heavyweight Manuel Charr (27-2, 16 KOs) made a successful debut as the World of Boxing fighter, stopping faded veteran Michael Grant (48-6, 36 KOs) in five rounds.
Charr was throwing hooks and uppercuts in bunches, landing much. Grant was being wobbled several times but never went down. Charr's dominance was nevertheless quite striking. Grant retired in his corner after the fifth, being totally dominated.
Undefeated WBA #4 and WBC #14 Russian middleweight Arif Magomedov (13-0, 8 KOs) scored another career-bumping win with a shutout decision over fellow unbeaten Michael Zerafa (15-0, 7 KOs).
The fight was mostly even but Magomedov's aggression was a decisive factor in majority of the rounds. Zerafa fought hard, was cut over his right eye in the fifth but was slightly outboxed and outgunned.
Still the scores: 100-91, 100-91, 99-91 - all by the Russian judges - were surreal. Boxingscene had it 97-94 - for Magomedov, a new WBO Youth and WBO Asia Pacific 160lb champion.
Czech-based Cuban spoiler Miguel Velozo (17-3-2, 5 KOs) suffered his first career stoppage, being dismissed in five by undefeated Russian light heavyweight Sergey Ekimov (12-0, 6 KOs).
The fight was very dirty but Ekimov looked also better in boxing department - specifically with his right hand, which put southpaw Velozo down twice - in rounds two and five. The Cuban retired after the fifth.
Featherweight Evgueny Smirnov (4-0, 1 KOs) easily dominated 39-year old Kenyan veteran Michael Nyawade (12-3-2, 8 KOs) over six with a unanimous decision. Nyawade was down in the second round.