ESB Exclusive: Alexander Povetkin, the Future of Boxing!

20.01.06 - By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza: By 2004, during the Olympic games in Athens, I had decided to get rid of my television and try and focus on other pursuits of entertainment as well as self-development. Of course, seeing as I was also an avid boxing fan, it seemed inconceivable to miss the Olympic gold medal matches set to be televised during the closing days of those games. It was a conflict of interest that, thankfully, I was able to solve.

One of the hot names being thrown around the boxing forums at the time was Russian “super” heavy Alexander Povetkin. Coming of outstanding boxing pedigree, he also overcame the tougher half of the brackets in his quest to the final and there was really little doubt as to who would finish on top, as his opponent from Egypt was considered a severe underdog even by severe underdog standards. This fight would effectively, if based on all the in print information available online, be a showcase for the Russian who was known for knocking guys out despite the helmets and extra padded “pillow” gloves. So it was with a heightened curiosity that I asked an acquaintance to watch the gold medal round matches on his TV.

The Cubans performed as expected, to the great disappointment of boxing fans of different nationalities around the world (Britain especially), and to the delight of Cuba’s proud tradition of Olympic boxing dominance. The Dark Horse, Russian Alexei Tichtchenko, who was saved from elimination via disqualification in the quarterfinal, seized the gift opportunity by the proverbial throat, dominating both his semifinal and finals opponents. Andre Ward captured the only American gold, and gained some measure of respect for a faltering US amateur program. The only matter to be decided was that of Povetkin’s bout which was coming up last on the second day of the two allotted for the gold medal matches.

Although I was excited about seeing what the Europeans were clamoring about, the only fight of Povetkin’s that would have been televised on American TV, ended in a walk out as the Egyptian failed his medical exam earlier that day. Here was the new Olympic champion in the heavyweight division, the successor to Foreman’s, Frazier’s, and Lewis’s Olympic crown, and yet, I don’t think he was shown once during those games (not even the medal ceremony).

While most fans shrug this of for what in essence it was, an unfortunate coincidence, the appendix to this sad story is, the kid didn’t get a chance to sell himself. Traditionally, fighters like Roy Jones, Lennox Lewis, and others of that, and even lesser, pedigree use the Olympic stage as an initial starting point, for their professional career. As they enter the pro ranks they already have some measure of TV exposure and thus it is somewhat easier to get “promoted” in the default capital of boxing the United States.

Still, that glitch in advertising did not stop the Russian from turning pro last year, like other amateur greats before him, and racking up 5 wins in 05. Recently, Alexander answered some questions for us regarding himself and his future:

S.K: Hello Alexander! Happy holidays to you. Tell us how did you spend the New Year?

Povetkin: I spent it at home with my family, it’s a tradition we have.

S.K.: Tell us a bit about your family.

Povetkin: I have a wife, Irina, and a four-year old daughter named Arina. My brother Vladimir, who holds a degree as “master of sports in boxing,” as well as my father Vladimir Ivanovich, president of the regional boxing federation, are also very close and support me a great deal in my career.

S.K.: Do you know when your next fight will be and against who? Perhaps who are some of the potential opponents and how many times do you plan to fight this year?

Povetkin: In the near future, I plan to go to the Russian national team’s training camp in Kislovodsk (southern Russia near Black Sea), and cover the physical conditioning aspect of my training. My opponent is still unknown, but will probably be selected by February. If everything goes the way it should, I will fight five times this year.

S.K: I am often told or read that the choice of opponents is solely based on the promoter or manager. Is it the same with you or do you have a say about who you will fight? In that sense what plans do you have for your future?

Povetkin: Unquestionably, the promoter and manager find opponents for me, but I am the one who has the final say every time. As a rule we have an agreement between us, that I receive as much information on my opponent as possible. For instance there is always a tape with his fights and so on.

However, it doesn’t always work that way. In October, I had a fight for instance, where the opponent we were aiming for fell through, because they told us he was sick, but in reality, fought in Hamburg a day later. So we had to fight Castle. The result of that fight, I think you already know. Before the fight, though, when my manager asked his manager, if he had a southpaw or orthodox stance, the reply was: “put on the gloves and enter the ring then you’ll see.”

There is a plan for my future, of course, but nothing can be concrete as the example above illustrates. We will try to develop in stages. However, what we are really aiming for, besides the ultimate, which is obviously a major title in the pro’s, is less controversy, and rather more substance in the wins that get us there. I don’t want my victories to leave a shadow of a doubt, neither in the minds of fans, nor the news media, which often uses that to stir up negativity in the sport. I know it’s a huge task, not only for me, but also for my team. It’s not just a goal, it’s our own personal dream. Hopefully, we are not the only ones who share this dream. Fan support is extremely important.

S.K.: Like former WBC champion Vitali Klitschko, you also had a good deal of success in Kickboxing. Do you think success in one helps in the other and if so, how? How else, besides the obvious, does Kickboxing differ from boxing? What was your overall record?

Povetkin: I don’t think anybody would be surprised if I said that there is a lot of benefit to studying kickboxing. If considered in terms of career development for a professional boxer. Basically in kickboxing, there are a lot of instances in a bout, where as I can best describe it, you have to be quicker and more explosive. That helps in boxing obviously. As far as my career in the sport, I won all the tournaments I took part in and I also became world champ.

S.K.: You were also a great amateur boxer, winning many titles, including a gold medal at the last Olympic games. Of course, your opponent was MIA in the finals and even though you were now the Olympic champion, I don’ t think you were shown once on TV here. Winning a gold is probably the highest achievement in amateur boxing, but were you upset that you couldn’t prove yourself, particularly in the final?

Povetkin: I was extremely well prepared for the Olympics. I don’t doubt that I would have won if that match had taken place. As far as American TV, lets say that, I think we shall meet more then once with it in the future. By they way, an interesting side note: Mohamed Ali was the name of the Egyptian fellow who did not come out for the final. My pro career started with a victory over a guy of the same name. As my manager Vladimir Hrjunov said: “A guy with a name like that in a boxing match may not be a …...”

S.K.: What was your amateur record and who were your toughest opponents?

Povetkin: My hardest fight would probably have to be the final at the world championships in Thailand against the Cuban (Pedro Carrion Sago). He was very aggressive and I had to break him down, as he was coming at me.

S.K.: What are the main differences, besides the gloves and so on, between the amateurs and the pros?

Povetkin: To me boxing, its greatness is such, that I don’t want to discuss the preferences or differences in that sense. The mechanics of it, like you said are the helmet, the different gloves but everything else……Its just a very demanding masculine sport is all.

S.K.: Did you have a chance to spar with anybody famous yet? Nikolai Valuev, perhaps? Maybe some of the more well-known Americans?

Povetkin: Nikolai and I are now part of the same club, that is we are under contract to the same promoter. We enjoy training together. As you know, Nikolai is now a part of history-our first Russian champ in the heavyweight division. As far as sparring, since its a part of the training, usually it is not discussed, seeing as the result of it, is what I want to show in the ring.

S.K.: I saw a photo of you with Evander Holyfield; Can you tell us under what circumstances you met?

Povetkin: We had our picture taken in Sydney during the Olympics. He was there as a guest.

S.K.: I believe you were at the opening ceremony for the monument dedicated to the legendary Soviet boxer Nikolai Korolev. Can you describe what went on?

Povetkin: I wasn’t at the opening of the actual monument seeing as I had a fight scheduled then, but Nikolai Korolev was one of my earliest childhood heroes. The monument itself is in the courtyard of the “Vityaz” boxing gym/club, which I think is one of the best in the world in terms of preparation and conditioning for boxers. I invite you guys to come and look at it. By the way this is also why I prepare for my fights at home, and only do the sparring portion of my training in Germany.

S.K.: Who were some of your most favorite national and international fighters as a child, besides Korolev? Also why did you like them? Who would you say your boxing style resembles?

Povetkin: To answer both of these I will say, in boxing you always have to be creative and think up something new. Unpredictability, if it is organized and uniform in a sense, becomes even more important as time passes. This is why I really enjoy watching the great Viktor Ageev’s old fights, as well as asking him for advice. He is like a father figure to any person who has anything to do with boxing in our country.

As far as the International fighters, it might sound a bit overused but, I like Tyson for his destructive power, and I like Muhammed Ali for his mental strength and for the romantic aspects of his career.

S.K.: Lets talk about your weight class for a moment. Do you think the people who criticize the lack of talent at this weight are right or wrong and why?

Povetkin: I think you have to look to America to find the answer to that. First off, where are the athletic big men who always used to set the tone? They are playing Basketball and (American) Football because there is less to worry about, nobody hits them, and the salary is more stable. This is going on for a few years now and this is why we see the exact same guys fighting over and over. Basically, professional boxing is a business the answer has something to do with that most likely.

S.K.: Why do you think it is so difficult to become a successful professional boxer, particularly in Russia? Can the situation change and if so, how?

Povetkin: I would say the situation is changing, especially in the last few years. What is really needed is time. Right now, the conditions for training in Russia, are some of the best in the world. The proof is in the (successful) results of our amateur teams. The business components, such as TV, and the sponsors, with their none boxing interests are an issue. Incidentally, I heard one manager, of a local Vodka brand, claim they have a monopoly on boxing. That person is mistaken, honestly. Boxing is history and, furthermore, its national history. Just as difficult, too. We always have issues to settle with somebody. (Alexander) Peresvet against Chelubey that sort of thing (historical reference -google it, its worth it). Boxing is above all.

S.K.: Who do you think will win between James Toney and Hasim Rahman?

Povetkin: I think Toney will win. I saw the Ruiz fight and he did a very good job, steroids or no.

S.K.: So what do you do in your free time? For instance, what type of music do you like, movies, books, perhaps?

Povetkin: I personally like Russian lounge type music. What I love to do is when I am traveling between Kursk and Moscow, which is about a 5-hour trip, I like to listen to Russian songs and enjoy the scenery. It’s all very beautiful and to me, it’s all very inspiring. As far as books, I like modern detective stories.

My favorite movie this year was Cinderella man. I think the main hero in many ways resembles our very own Oleg Maskaev.

S.K.: What is your entrance music before a fight?

Povetkin: It’s a track from the Russian hit movie “Shadow Boxing.”

S.K.: Provided you follow boxing outside the ring can you answer these classic questions: Knockout of the Year, Fight of the Year, and Fighter of the Year?

Povetkin: Knockout of the year was Corrales in the first fight with Castillo. Fight of the year was the same one, and fighter of the year was, in my opinion, Nikolai Valuev seeing as he became champ, even though he had his doubters.

S.K.: In closing, what do you want to say to the readers and your fans, Russians and Americans, who will see this interview?

Povetkin: Dream big. When we were deciding on who to pick as our promoter, I got a few equally generous offers. Then suddenly a guy with a fire in his eyes came to Chekhov- that was Kalle Sauerland. Now our job is what both of us have been dreaming about for so long. We have ideal conditions for this, for that I am grateful. Love Boxing Guys!

I want to thank Heiko Mallwitz, from Sauerland Promotions as always, and also Natalia Savalieva, Alexander’s team representative. I also want to thank Alexander for taking the time out to answer our questions. We wish him all the best success inside and outside the ring.

Article posted on 21.01.2006

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