Pride, the Chamber of Truth, and Why Teddy Atlas won’t let Povetkin fight Klitschko!

By Dave Cacciatore - The biggest risk in life can be the one not taken. You might wonder if Teddy Atlas has ever heard this old saying. As it seems puzzling that his charge, a soon to be 31 year old, Olympic gold medalist, with an undefeated professional record is turning down a shot at the consensus World Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko and the largest payday of his career. To ask the question in Staten Island vernacular, what gives Teddy?

You have to doubt that even Alexander Povetkin has the answer to this question. After bursting onto the professional boxing scene his star has begun to wane.. Early victories over tough veterans and a streak of decisive wins in 2007 and early 2008 over a very good fighter in Larry Donald, a former world champion in Chris Byrd, and a top young contender in Eddie Chambers seem like a distant memories now. The career progression has fallen off. Povetkin has gone back to fighting the same solid veterans that he began his career fighting. Included in the Povetkin wane is the unexercised IBF mandatory challenger designation that he earned in January 2008.

Further Povetkin is no longer the new sports car speeding off the lot in the heavyweight division. Younger fighters like Denis Boytsov, Robert Helenius, and even Odlainer Solis are starting to make noise. But without question former cruiserweight champions David Haye and Tomasz Adamek have stolen Povetkin’s momentum. Even HBO with their recent anti-heavyweight stance has admitted that a potential Klitschko versus Haye fight would be a draw that they would be willing to open up the checkbook to see. While at the same time they were unwilling to even show a tape delay broadcast of the proposed Klitschko-Povetkin fight.

What can be done about it? Nothing! The clock is not going backwards for Povetkin. He had a long amateur career for a heavyweight and is now approaching his twentieth pro fight. Who Povetkin is as a fighter is set. Minor adjustments and strategy aside, this is as good as he is going to get. Povetkin is a normal sized 6’2 and 225 pound heavyweight. Those size fighters have shorter shelf lives at the top than the taller outside fighters who can control the action at distance. In the words of the great Emanuel Steward, he is a youth and aggression fighter. And someone needs to break it to Alexander that his youth is fading.

And while his youth is fading, so are his chances at big paydays. Aside from the Klitschko brothers, there are no other big money fights out there for him with the possible exception of the reluctant David Haye. If boxing is a business then you have to wonder about the management of Mr. Povetkin. The name of the game is to make money and win world titles (and in that order!)

To be sure, Povetkin’s odds of defeating either Klitschko would be long. However, this is as good it is going to get if you really want to be a world champion. There is nothing that additional fights against the likes of Javier Mora and Taurus Sykes are going to do to prepare him.

The true test of any teacher is not what they say but what they do. And when it comes to Teddy Atlas we seem to hear one thing and see another. How many times has the boxing public heard Teddy Atlas on TV bemoaning fighters that are not being stepped in class? If Alexander Povetkin were someone else’s fighter this would be that moment Teddy Atlas is so fond of talking about. It is the moment when you enter that chamber of truth with the number one fighter in the world and we find out how good you really are.

Yet recent history teaches us that Teddy is much more anxious about seeing other fighters make that big step up than his own. Elvir Muriqi never made the move to the big time under Atlas. Michael Grant fought a parade of clubbers before being knocked out by a solid fighter in Dominick Guinn. And now Atlas seems to have put Povetkin on the same steady diet of journeymen. Why is Teddy Atlas doing this?

If the answer is that it is clearly not best for Mr. Povetkin, then the only conclusion is that it must be what is best for Mr. Atlas. A man whose ego is as fragile as it is opinionated. A man who was the son of a prominent New York doctor. A man who has spent the better part of his life trying to prove that he is a tough guy from the toughest city in the world. The decision not to fight Wladimir Klitschko has everything to do with protecting the psychological health of the man with towel over his shoulder and not the one with the gloves on his fists. The myth of Teddy Atlas sage trainer and tough guy must be protected at all cost even if that means that Alexander Povetkin loses the biggest opportunity of his life.

Article posted on 25.07.2010

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