The fight between top Heavyweight contenders Dillian Whyte in August of last year took place during the initial stages of the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic. While the bout, which headlined a Boxing card held under Matchroom Boxing’s “Fight Camp” banner, taking place on the grounds of the home of Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, was part of a process of the sport’s top promoters making the best out of what remains a difficult and uncertain situation to navigate, what took place on August 22nd of last year was for some unexpected, but should serve as another in an ever growing list of reasons why you never know what will happen when two fighters square off in Boxing and by extension all combat sports. Such anticipation of the unknown is only one reason why Boxing, despite its many faults, is so great.
On that August evening the Boxing world was treated to an intriguing battle of styles. Whyte a fighter known for his punching power and for engaging in entertaining bouts against the longtime contender Povetkin, a former two-time world title challenger, who is a boxer puncher that some felt at forty-one years old was in decline. The clash of styles did not take long to materialize as Povetkin looked to place his shots strategically while looking to control distance. Whyte meanwhile threw some combinations of his own, but as most fighters known for their punching power tend to do, he looked for openings to set up those power shots. It appeared as though Whyte’s tactics were working for a time as he was able to stagger Povetkin with a flush right hand in the early rounds of the fight as well as scored two knockdowns of the veteran in the fourth round. First with a glancing left hook to the head, then with a counter left uppercut.
Although the momentum was in Whyte’s favor, it was Povetkin who would bring the fight to a sudden and dramatic conclusion in the fifth round knocking Whyte out cold with his own left uppercut to the head. One might argue despite Povetkin’s status as a longtime contender in the Heavyweight division that it was this fight that was perhaps the marquee win of his career thus far. A victory that some might not have expected in addition to the way the knockout occurred, created the ideal scenario for a rematch.
Despite the opinion of some including this observer that Whyte, who lost his interim championship designation in the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) ratings in the loss to Povetkin, was seeking a rematch too quickly after suffering a severe knockout, the rematch was initially aimed for November of last year. As most know however, the rematch did not take place as intended due to Povetkin becoming ill with the COVID-19 virus. The rematch was then scheduled for earlier this month in London at the Wembley Arena where like the first encounter, it was set to take place behind closed doors without fans in attendance. This also would not happen as the decision was made by Eddie Hearn to move the fight from London to Gibraltar where the rematch will take place on March 27th at the Europa Point Sports Complex.
There are two obvious questions that surround this rematch which will be televised globally by digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN. First, what type of condition will Alexander Povetkin be in after a bout with COVID-19, a virus that has dominated much of the world’s focus over the last year and one that questions regarding the long-term effects still are not well known. Povetkin was hospitalized for a time due to the virus. This in addition to Povetkin’s age is a question to ask as this rematch approaches. Although there were some who also wondered if he was in decline going into the first fight and the fact that he was knocked down twice Povetkin was able to score the victory and did so by knockout.
While obviously the question of whether Povetkin can do it again also surrounds this second encounter, it is important to keep in mind that as devastating as Povetkin’s knockout of Whyte was, one punch knockouts do not always occur and this should be viewed not only by fans and experts, but also and more importantly by the fighters themselves as a different fight. Alexander Povetkin is nevertheless a fighter who is capable of making adjustments and it would not surprise this observer to see him attempt to implement what worked for him in the first fight while also looking to avoid what led to the two knockdowns he suffered in the process. Despite the end result of the first encounter, Povetkin must be as tactical as he has been throughout his career and not expect to win this rematch with one punch.
For Dillian Whyte the question is whether or not he is taking this rematch too soon. Although it can be viewed as a positive depending on one’s perspective to see a fighter want to get back in the ring as soon as possible against an opponent that defeated them, it is important to remember that the knockout that Whyte suffered at the hands of Povetkin was severe. The obvious question is what effect did the knockout have on him. To expand on that, will Whyte’s approach be different, will he hesitate to throw his punches as he did get caught last time and that knowledge can cause hesitation in a fighter’s approach, particularly against a fighter with a mix of hand speed and power as Povetkin has.
The one benefit that Whyte has going into this fight that some were critical of when this rematch was originally announced is he has had more time to recover due to the postponement that moved this bout from its original target of November to March. Whyte still does have punching power and if there is no hesitation in letting his hands go, he is just as capable of ending a fight as quickly as Povetkin was able to do in the first fight. Whether or not he can do it if the opportunity arises remains to be seen.
While the rematch on it’s own is intriguing, what is also at stake for the winner is a potential mandatory challenge of the winner of the upcoming Undisputed Heavyweight world championship bout between world champions Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. The Fury-Joshua bout, which could take place later this year will likely be the first of two bouts between the two with the undisputed championship at stake. This in addition to the uncertainty of COVID-19 means that the winner of the Povetkin-Whyte rematch will likely have to wait at least a year if not longer before their opportunity to challenge whomever the undisputed champion will be amongst several mandatory challengers in Boxing’s respective sanctioning organizations.
Nevertheless, there is significant opportunity that will be ahead for the winner of this fight including a possibility of potentially fighting for a vacant world championship down the line depending on whether the politics that be in the sport will allow the Heavyweight world championship to remain fully unified in the post Fury-Joshua period. While all of that should be viewed as the long-term picture, what matters in the short-term is who can emerge victorious in the second chapter of Alexander Povetkin vs. Dillian Whyte. We will see on Saturday night.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Povetkin vs. Whyte II takes place on Saturday, March 27th at the Europa Point Sports Complex in Gibraltar. The bout as well as its full undervalued can be seen globally on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN (Excluding the United Kingdom) beginning at 2PM ET/11AM PT (U.S. Time.) For more information about DAZN including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices, platforms,Smart TVs, availability around the world, and to subscribe please visit: www.DAZN.com.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the card can be seen on a pay-per-view basis on Sky Box Office at 6PM (Local UK Time) for £19.95. For more information about about availability in your area and to order please visit: https://www.sky.com/boxoffice/povetkin-whyte. Check your local listings for availability and start times internationally.
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