The two will be contesting the lightly regarded WBC Silver title, yet the real prize is that this is a final eliminator to face newly crowned champion Deontay Wilder – who will make the maiden defence of his own title against the unfancied and unheralded Eric Molina on June 20th.
Former WBA (reg) champion Povetkin will rightly be most people’s favourite heading into the contest against Perez. His only defeat is a landslide points loss to Wladimir Klitschko 18 months ago, who – thanks to his sheer size – was able to negate Povetkin’s inside fighting style all night by keeping things at range on the back foot and smothering him up close when he did get inside – in other words, classic Klitschko.
The tough Russian hit the deck 3 times along the way (although the 2nd knockdown was questionable), but to his credit did not stop walking forward all night – even when he was evidently completely spent.
It’s hard to base any fighter’s performance on a Wladimir fight alone and in his last two fights we have seen solid performances that swing the momentum in Povetkin’s favour for me.
Standing in the pocket all night a year ago and beating Manuel Charr to a pulp, before finding the opening in the 7th to separate him from his senses and send him crashing through the ropes was certainly highlight reel stuff.
But to do it again it in last year’s fight with the dangerous Carlos Takam was something else and showed us what a danger man he really is. Another display of Povetkin at his bullying best, saw him picking his shots fantastically well on the inside, eventually finishing Takam off with a brutal left-hook in the 10th.
British fans may remember Perez from the International Prizefighter tournament that he won a four years back in May 2011. It did seem he was one of the prospects to keep an eye on in the division, yet we didn’t really hear much from him after that.
He didn’t truly re-surface until he fought an epic battle with Magomed Abdusalamov in November 2013, that tragically left the then unbeaten Russian with brain injuries – he will never fight again.
Nobody knows just how badly it affected Perez psychologically and physically but in his next fight, against Carlos Takam, he turned in a rather gun-shy and befuddled performance that comparatively was nowhere near as good as Povetkin’s own.
After a cautious start that saw him arguably nick the early rounds, he sustained a nasty cut battling to a draw after coming under a lot of pressure later on in the fight – in short he seemed completely out of sorts at times, especially when he tasted the power of Takam.
His close fight with Bryant Jennings last Summer – in which he was actually unlucky to lose – showed us one thing – he is far too hittable, even if he will have a speed advantage over the Russian and is the better mover. His guard is often too open in the fights I’ve seen. Against Povetkin, the holes will be found if he goes to war on the inside too often.
He had problems with his weight in that fight too and his hook-up with the normally tactically sound Adam Booth in the corner was slammed by many.
For me, there are more unknowns with Mike Perez than there are with Alexander Povetkin. How will he have trained? Will his weight be ok? How we he fare traveling to Russia in the bear-pit atmosphere that is sure to present itself? While certainly a traveled fighter he has never boxed in such an atmosphere.
Crucially, his last fight – a 2 round blow out of American journeyman Darnell Wilson, in which the American hit the deck numerous times – told us absolutely nothing.
Either way the winner will get Wilder next. Unless of course Al Haymon negotiates a step-aside deal to allow a lower ranked fighter in first. If Povetkin does win this then Deontay could well be in trouble in my humble opinion. He will without doubt be the best fighter Wilder has faced by quite a way.
Has Deontay got it in him to use his height advantages in a Wladimir type fashion? Will he be able to keep the marauding Povetkin off for 12 long rounds?
Who knows? I’m getting too far ahead and potentially counting out Perez which would be an extremely silly thing to do, especially if he comes in right. Povetkin is 35 now after all and has had a long career typified by many wars though as I said – it hasn’t been showing until now.
Either way this Friday will certainly give us an idea of what Deontay Wilder can expect from the winner in the near future. I just have a sense he could be in big trouble.
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