Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why Alexander Povetkin gained more in defeat in loss to Klitschko

The journey to a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship has been a long one for Heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin. Povetkin, who was unbeaten in twenty-six professional fights leading up to his fight with unified Heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko had held interim/regular status in the WBA’s Heavyweight ratings for more than two years. Povetkin earned that status with a hard-fought victory over former WBA Heavyweight champion Ruslan Chagaev in August 2011.

Since his win over Chagaev, Povetkin has faced stern tests over opponents such as longtime contender Cedric Boswell and WBO Cruiserweight champion Marco Huck. Povetkin has also at times shown he can be dominant as he was in his fights against former two-time Heavyweight world champion Hasim Rahman and previously undefeated contender Andrzej Wawrzyk in bouts where Povetkin scored quick knockouts.

The run of twenty-six straight wins put Povetkin in position to challenge Wladimir Klitschko for the unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO crown. One may argue that this fight was one that had been several years in the making. Most boxing fans will remember that Povetkin was in line to challenge Klitschko in 2009 as a mandatory challenger. It was Povetkin’s then trainer Teddy Atlas however, who would not put Povetkin in the ring with Klitschko. Atlas’ reasoning for pulling Povetkin out of the fight was his belief that Povetkin was not ready to challenge Klitschko.

Although some may have criticized Atlas for his decision, it was the right decision in the eyes of this observer. In the years since Povetkin continued to improve and despite splitting from Atlas following his fight with Cedric Boswell, an argument could easily be made that Atlas’ decision allowed Povetkin to have a much better chance to be prepared for his challenge against Klitschko.

It goes without saying however, that no matter who challenges either of the Klitschko brothers, the odds are not necessarily in their favor. Despite being labeled as boring to watch by some; both Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko could make a very justifiable argument as two of the most dominant champions not just in their era, but rather in the history of the Heavyweight division.

Both have won versions of the Heavyweight title on more than one occasion and since Vitali came out of retirement and regained a piece of the Heavyweight title in 2008, the brothers have become what this observer likes to refer to as the “Two-Headed Heavyweight Championship Monster” due to both ruling over the division with two iron fists. Several fighters have tried to derail both, but no one has been able to stop either of them and end their current reigns atop the “Heavyweight Mountain.” In my opinion the Klitschko brothers do not nearly get the credit that they truly deserve for their dominance. What makes both Vitali and Wladimir so difficult to fight is both are very fundamentally sound and are tacticians. In regard to Wladimir Klitschko he has developed into one of the most difficult Heavyweights to hit. Earlier in his career, Wladimir was more susceptible to being hit and suffered two knockout losses to Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster. Wladimir was also floored in his first fight with Sam Peter and also in his fight with DaVarryl Williamson.

This has led to the belief of some that Wladimir does have a suspect chin. To Klitschko’s credit however, while under the guidance of the late great legendary trainer Emanuel Steward he was able to develop a style that allowed him to fully take advantage of his 6’ 6 frame and eighty-one inch reach. By putting an emphasis on his jab followed by his straight right hand, Klitschko has thoroughly dominated almost all challengers that have been placed before him.

The obvious question coming into this fight was whether the 6’2 Povetkin could bring the fight to Klitschko and if he could, would he be able to fight effectively on the inside without being tied up by the taller and heavier champion.  When the two fighters got in the ring on October 5th in Moscow, Russia, Povetkin made it immediately clear that his strategy was to be aggressive from the outset and look to get on the inside.  This was the only way realistically that I could see Povetkin having a chance in this fight.  In his current reign as champion, Wladimir Klitschko has been able to pick his opponents apart utilizing his reach to keep fighters at distance.  Most recent opponents have not been able to get past Klitschko’s offensive arsenal highlighted by his jab followed by his straight right hand.  

Povetkin needed to find a way to make the champion uncomfortable. It seemed in the early going that Povetkin’s strategy was having success as Klitschko was forced to fight at a higher pace than his norm. 

It was Klitschko however, who was able to neutralize Povetkin on the inside by tying him up and utilizing his weight advantage. In microcosm this is how the fight was fought. Povetkin coming forward looking to bring the fight to Klitschko by throwing power punches, then being neutralized and overpowered in close by the bigger fighter. Klitschko scored a knockdown of Povetkin in the second round with a jab. To Povetkin’s credit, the challenger did not go into survival mode and continued to attempt to bring the fight to Klitschko. Povetkin had established that he had come to fight and would be there for however long the fight would last.

Klitschko’s physicality allowed him to win rounds simply by neutralizing Povetkin’s aggression on the inside. It was that physicality however, that would also work to the champion’s benefit in the seventh round as he was able to floor Povetkin three times. Questions however, arose as to the validity of those knockdowns. Klitschko was able to stagger Povetkin with combinations in this round, after hurting the challenger however, it appeared that Klitschko would either lean or throw Povetkin to the canvas. Although there is no question that Alexander Povetkin was hit by clean punches and hurt before going down, Klitschko appearing to use his strength to put Povetkin down may have some questioning why Referee Luis Pabon would call those knockdowns.

The questions of the legitimacy of the knockdowns in round seven put the fight out of reach for Povetkin on the scorecards. There was probably not many however, who really believed that Povetkin would have much of a chance on the scorecards going into the fight. Despite being in his home country and his undefeated record, Povetkin was the underdog and some fans and observers alike did not give Povetkin much chance of winning the fight let alone going the distance with Wladimir Klitschko.

Although there is likely some criticism that will be pointed in the direction of Wladimir Klitschko for using his size and natural physical advantages to his advantage in this fight, it is important to remember that Klitschko was allowed to lean and use his body weight on Povetkin for the majority of the fight. Although it may not be entertaining, if a referee will allow you to fight your fight and allow you to make full use of your physical advantages and size, why not use it to your advantage?

Despite being allowed to lean on Povetkin for the majority of fight, Klitschko would be penalized a point in round eleven for pushing Povetkin down to the canvas. Even though there will be some who will question the performance of Referee Luis Pabon and although the ultimate result of this fight, a one-sided unanimous decision for Wladimir Klitschko ultimately became a formality as the fight went on. What should not be overlooked is how “Game” Alexander Povetkin was in this fight. Povetkin did have the right idea of how to to fight Klitschko. Povetkin was just not able to keep the bigger Klitschko off of him and was not able to land effectively on the inside.

Despite suffering the first loss of his career Alexander Povetkin proved that he is for real and still remains a top Heavyweight contender. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Povetkin could end up back in line for another shot at Wladimir Klitschko. Perhaps the WBA may offer Povetkin another chance to earn interim/regular status in it’s Heavyweight ratings in the not too distant future.

Although many will continue to question who may be able to derail either of the Klitschko brothers, Alexander Povetkin earned much more respect coming out of this fight with Wladimir Klitschko that he was given by some going in. Will Povetkin be the fighter who may take over the Heavyweight division in the post-Klitschko era? No one really knows, but after the valiant effort he put forth in this fight Alexander Povetkin has established himself as a legitimate player in the division.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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