by Johnny Walker
You could say they put the “heavy” in heavyweight.
The camps of WBA “regular” heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin (24-0, 16KOs) and his challenger Hasim “The Rock” Rahman (50-7-2, 42KOs), have been trading insults ahead of their rescheduled title bout, now set for September 29 in Hamburg, Germany.
Things got off to a (ahem) “rocky” start last week at the initial press conference, when Rahman flew to Germany only to find himself an afterthought in the promotional material for the fight.
Instead of posters featuring Povetkin and Rahman, the American veteran saw the face of the Russian WBA champion along with that of the European champ, Bulgarian bad boy Kubrat
Pulev, who defends his title on the same card against another Russian, the giant Alexander Ustinov.
A surly Rahman was nearly mute during the presser, except to say that, “obviously, I am not being respected over here. For that, I will punish Povetkin inside the ring and take revenge. This is all I have got to say.”
Povetkin’s camp–specifically manager Vladimir Hyrunov–then decided to try and goad the former world heavyweight champion with a reference to Rahman’s much-documented problems with his weight (“The Rock” crushed the scales at 284 pounds at 6′ 2 1/2″ tall for his last fight).
“The greatest impression that Rahman made on me [at the presser] were his physical dimensions,” Hyrunov said.
“He looks like he has a contract with a famous American fast food restaurant chain.”
While Hyrunov didn’t go as far as to say that Rahman must have hired Ronald McDonald as his fitness coach, his point was clear enough.
Some might find Hyrunov’s remarks about Rahman’s weight a bit ironic, considering the fact that Povetkin himself looked soft and out of shape in his last ring appearance, when he got battered around the ring by Marco Huck, yet still somehow emerged with a split decision win.
One of those who feels this way is Rahman’s promoter Greg Cohen, who soon fired back: “Those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. [Hyrunov] should look in the mirror. He doesn’t look so good. Hasim looks a lot better than him.”
According to Cohen, “The Rock” is now around 258 pounds for what figures to be his last shot at any kind of major title, after flirting with the 300 mark recently.
Not one to be outdone, Hyrunov fired off another verbal volley:
“This was the problem with the posters. All we had were old photos of Rahman. But you have to realize that he got so fat now, that nobody would have recognized him from his current photo. We asked him to take off his shirt to take a photo and he refused. If we would have placed his old photo on the fight posters, and then the fans would look at him now – we would have been called liars and the fans would have asked for refunds and said ‘that’s not him, Povetkin is fighting a different guy.’ We offered to take his photo but he refused to take his shirt off because his belly was sagging down to his knees.”
All of this carping over weight adds a bit of spice to what figured to be a rather listless affair, with Povetkin and his questionable title (the rightful WBA champion is Wladimir Klitschko) going up against a guy who hasn’t had a meaningful win in years.
Povetkin has actually seen his stock falling recently, with the poor outing against Huck (after a split with temperamental American trainer Teddy Atlas) and his continual reluctance to face the younger Klitschko brother denting his reputation.
In an attempt to get back on track, the Russian has hired former great Kostya Tszyu as his new trainer. And so far, he says, things are going swimmingly.
“I am very happy with my new coach, we have a great relationship,” says Povetkin.
“I can learn a lot from Kostya Tszyu. I have already improved my stamina while training under his supervision in my hometown of Chekhov.
“I am feeling really good. I promise you that I will be in great shape and will deliver an amazing fight in Hamburg.”
Let’s hope so.