By Johnny Walker
After watching the “mega-dud” middeweight “fight” between Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez put most objective boxing fans to sleep last weekend, this weekend HBO picks up –this time with no pay-per-view charges!-a fight that at least has the possibility to be exciting: former Olympic heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin and current world champion Wladimir Klitschko facing off against each other in Moscow, Russia.
This is a fight that was supposed to happen long ago, and the excitement around it has now dissipated after a couple of last minute pull-outs by Povetkin (once, Wlad showed up for the initial presser to find only a cardboard cut-out of Povetkin waiting for him).
Now, after such a long period of boxing domination by Wladimir (his last loss being to Lamon Brewster in 2004), Wlad–along with his brother Vitali–has mowed down one opponent after another with seeming ease, with Povetkin seeming to have lost stature, to have become just another bowling pin ready to be knocked down by a Klitschko.
Povetkin, meanwhile, who seemed to be on the path to superstardom, somehow got lost along the way. Perhaps most bizarre was a change to American trainer and Klitschko-hater Teddy Atlas (also a boxing analyst for ESPN), who nixed a big money Povetkin fight with Wlad–who Atlas always insists is easy to beat. Atlas talked Povetkin out of fighting Klitschko, and then decided that a steady diet of tomato cans (Teke Oruh, Nicolai Firtha) was just what the former Olympic champ Povetkin needed to get himself ready for Wlad.
When it was clear that his latest trainer relationship wasn’t working out, Povetkin switched to former Nikolai Valuev coach Alexander Zimin, and then got a beating from cruiserweight king Marco Huck after it appeared that Povetkin and Zimin spent most of his training camp eating Russian perogies and drinking vodka. Povetkin escaped with what many observers considered a very fortunate split decision win over a dejected Huck.
All of this has actually led to less interest in the Wlad-Povetkin fight, at least in North America. Outside of Wlad getting back together with an American actress girlfriend (Hayden Panetierre), the world champion appears to have pretty much given up on the North American demographic. After all, he’s rich, he’s got a hot girlfriend, he’s the heavyweight champion of the world: things could be worse. Povetkin now appears to be a mere minor distraction in the life of the world heavyweight champ. Who needs to be fighting Rocky Cold War stereotypes all the time?
The real wild card here is Povetkin himself.
When most of the media fight speculation centers on which round you’re going to get knocked out in, things aren’t looking so good. But then, this is a guy who almost got KO’d by a cruiserweight two fights ago and who more recently fought a crippled former champ (Hasim Rahman) who looked ready to go down before the opening bell even rang. So it’s really hard to gauge just where Povetkin as a fighter is at.
WBA “regular champion” Alex Povetkin is tough, for sure, and he does have above average talent — but one big problem in this fight is his lack of arm length (at 75 inches, six inches less than the champion), which will make it tough for him to get close enough to Klitschko without getting his face jabbed into a pizza by the “Super Champion.” But given the erratic nature of his career lately, it’s very hard to predict just what we are going to see across the ring from Wladimir Klitschko anyway. Povetkin may even appear in a clown suit, who knows?
The likelihood, however, is another dominating win for Klitschko, who is putting the pressure on himself for an early knockout to impress both his girlfriend and the Kronk gym buddies who have taken over for the late trainer Emanuel Steward.
That may be all the inspiration that is needed to make it an early night for the WBA “Super Champion” — at least in the boxing ring.