So there was nothing special about Povetkin.
He came. He (sort of) tried. And like virtually every other Wladimir Klitschko opponent for coming on a decade he was outclassed and beaten up.
The official scores were 119-104… one of the widest scorecards I can recall seeing and mirrored mine. The one blemish on Wladimir’s card was a point deduction when the referee finally got tired of his clinching and leaning but in the great scheme of things (much like the deduction in the Haye bout) it meant nothing.
The bout itself followed a simple pattern. Wladimir landed a few jabs, Povetkin charged in with a single punch or occasionally a one-two, those punches normally missed, Wladimir clinched, put his weight on Povetkin’s neck and waited. The referee split them up. Repeat with Wladimir now occasionally landing a right hand or a sneaky hook when Povetkin thought a jab was coming. Wladimir dropped Povetkin early with that shot and then dropped Povetkin three times in the 7th round using punches off the clinch. It was one-sided and vaguely embarrassing to watch; Wladimir has a tendency to turn his opponents, regardless of their accolades or skills, into a Joe Louis style “bum of the month” club. Let’s not forget, this was 12 rounds of Wladimir outclassing a fellow world champion, an Olympic gold medallist and a man who has been preparing for this bout for five years.
Despite that it wasn’t particularly entertaining, even for a purist. Wladimir’s clinch and grab heavy style is a low risk approach that sucks the life from an opponent but also much of the enjoyment out of the bout. And it certainly isn’t helped by Povetkin having no idea what to do once it became clear rushing in with a single shot wasn’t going to get the job done. Too much of the bout consisted of Povetkin aimlessly following Wladimir around having his head snapped back by jabs and then the referee having to separate the pair. None of the knockdowns were particularly impressive or hurtful, more a combination of Povetkin’s lack of balance and him tiring out by having to carry Wladimir’s weight.
Despite the wide score cards it wasn’t even Wladimir at his best. For much of the bout he looked a little off the pace and ragged compared to his usual smooth self, perhaps as a result of coming in much lighter than usual. In truth it was a pretty workmanlike performance from him and there will be better days to come. As for Povetkin, it was a dreadful performance. Not just because he lost… we always expected that… but because of the manner of that loss. He came in with one game plan, to wade forwards and land a big punch, and when it became apparent that wouldn’t work he made no changes. As I predicted in my preview, he could do nothing to take away Wladimir’s jab, nothing to prevent the right hand that occasionally came behind it, nothing to stop the rare hooks and uppercuts and nothing to stop the clinching. He couldn’t land to the head and he barely bothered to even attempt to go to the body. In fact, saying he did “nothing” is probably the fairest description; he threw single shots and walked forward without purpose or intent.
The question then turns to what’s next for the pair. Wladimir has no lack of challengers but what he does lack is challengers who we as boxing fans think stand a chance. Perhaps the best placed at the moment is Kubrat Pulev, the current European champion coming off a solid win over David Price conqueror Tony Thompson, but despite his good run of form and talent I can’t see him offering much in way of a challenge. Beyond that the field is somewhat empty… if Tyson Fury can win his recently rescheduled bout with David Haye he might well get a chance, Robert Helenius has been inactive but remains undefeated, Dereck Chisora has found some decent form and some interest due to his antics before his bout with Vitali and while in Ibiza, Bermane Stiverne won a one-sided but entertaining brawl over Arreola but may prefer to go after Vitali and Odlanier Solis remains a talented (but overweight and underwhelming) contender. But with the possible exception of Solis finally living up to his amateur pedigree it’s hard to see any of them even being competitive with Wladimir let alone beating him. Behind that there are a host of challengers with pretty records but little depth along the lines of previous victims Mariusz Wach and Francesco Pianeta. None of that is inspiring.
I think the truth is we have to accept we live in the Klitschko era and even when Vitali does finally retire Wlad will likely simply claim the one remaining sanctioning body belt. He may not be the most exciting boxer but he is a boxer with the talent to be an all time great who lives in an era without opponents on that level. He is a less entertaining version of Ali in the late 60’s prior to his suspension, of Louis in the late 30’s and early 40’s, of Holmes and then Tyson in the 80’s… a dominant boxer able to easily defeat the good ones who come against him
As for Povetkin, he continues to have options. Despite his poor performance tonight he remains a talented and dangerous boxer who will give anyone with the second name “Klitschko” a tough time. He may have an easy bout to regain his confidence but I can’t imagine it’s too long before he’s back in the title picture.
On the undercard Grigory Drozd scored a mild upset by stopping Mateusz Masternak. He cut Masternak badly early and while Masternak came back into the bout behind a sharp right hand Drozd eventually upped the pace, trapped Masternak in the corner and punched away until the referee stepped in. The stoppage itself was a little soft but Masternak looked like he didn’t want to be there by the end. Drozd can likely look towards a title shot now while Masternak probably needs a confidence booster or two.
Former heavyweight title holder Ruslan Chagaev got a win over Jovo Pudar but despite dropping the 42 year old twice he was fairly underwhelming. Since being diagnoses with Hepatitis B and losing to Wladimir it seems to me that Chagaev has lost interest in boxing, simply competing for the money rather than for the love and I imagine he keeps going facing a mix of limited opponents and contenders looking for a name to add to their record. As for Pudar it may be the end for him. He’s 42 and already took a long break from boxing between 2004 and 2010. If he does continue I imagine he’ll basically become a journeyman, beating poor boxers to keep his record looking pretty but losing when asked to step up. In the first undercard bout former cruiserweight title challenger Rakhim Chakhkiev knocked out the durable journeyman Giulian Ilie in 10 rounds. Chakhkiev lost an entertaining war with Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in his previous bout and I’d certainly look forward to a rematch while Ilie will go back to giving hard rounds to any prospects or contenders between light heavyweight and cruiserweight.