World Boxing Association (WBA) World Heavyweight czar Alexander Povetkin walks the tightrope this evening when he puts his belt on the line against unbeaten Pole Andrzej Wawrzyk at the Crocus City Hall, Moscow.
The 6ft 2in Russian’s promoter Vlad Hryunov tabled a whopping $23.2 million winning purse bid – the third biggest ever – for a proposed unification spat with Wladimir Klitschko later this summer but that will all go up in cinders if he slips up against the 25 year old former European Junior champion from Krakow.
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Challenger Wawrzyk has won 27 straight since vaulting to the paid ranks in November 2006 and, at 6ft 5in tall, is an imposing physical specimen. However, despite largely unthreatening competition thus far, he has logged just 13 stoppage wins which suggests that, though undeniably strong and powerful, he doesn’t appear a naturally explosive puncher.
The most worthy entries on his CV are a September 2011 ninth round stoppage of 2004 US Olympic team captain Devin Vargas and a June 2012 points win over Russia’s decent Denis Bakhtov.
The Chekhov based champion has altogether more convincing credentials and enters as a prohibitive 16-1 on favourite. In the amateur code, Povetkin captured two European Senior titles plus the 2003 World Seniors crown prior to striking gold at super-heavyweight at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Punching for pay, the Kostya Tszyu trained 33 year old has won 25 straight with 17 victims failing to finish. Whilst he has made three successful defences of the WBA crown he captured against compatriot Ruslan Chagaev in Erfurt, Germany 21 months ago, only WBO cruiser king Marco Huck provided a credible threat.
At face value, it might appear a fairly routine assignment for the champion. However, that’s certainly not how Don Charles, coach to British heavyweight star Dereck Chisora, predicted the fight would pan out when he spoke to boxing writer Glynn Evans earlier in the week!
“I’ve been doing a little bit of research into this and I see it as a very interesting fight.
I’ve been following Povetkin for quite a while now because I always sensed that one day we (Chisora) would meet in the ring. I have to concede that, three or four years ago, he used to be one of my favourite heavyweights. I used to consider him the ‘White Holyfield’. He has beautiful hands and was capable of throwing these really sharp combinations.
Though he’s a solid heavyweight, he could put his shots together like a middleweight and was a really good all rounder. There was a real smooth flow about his work and, though he doesn’t really have the power to completely wipe out the very top guys with one shot, he has the capacity to destroy anyone foolish enough to provide a stationary target.
If he’s not in really good condition, he’s going to experience problems against Wawrzyk. I’ve seen quite a few clips of the challenger recently and he’s shown a lot of good elements, good boxing ideas.
At 6ft 5in (tall), Wawrzyk’s a big boy and he enters with all the physical advantages. He also seems to train very, very hard. On top of that, he’s got really good boxing ability. He moves well, slips punches well and seems very creative, very imaginative. He’s certainly not your typical robotic Eastern European. He’s loose, relaxed and has impressive punch variety. I think he has all the tools to cause Povetkin a lot of problems, I really do.
On the downside, it seems from his record that he’s not as heavy handed as he could be. While most of his points wins have been shut outs, he’s been taken the full eight round distance by British journeyman types like Paul Butlin and Lee Swaby. I see Wawrzyk was also taken ten by Denmark’s Claus Bertino who was dispatched inside a round by Audley Harrison in Prizefighter earlier this year. That certainly places a question mark as to whether he has the power to compete at the very highest level. We’ll see.
If Povetkin is to retain his title, I think he’s going to have to force a stoppage and I really hope he’s trained hard for this. But truthfully, I can’t see him doing that. Wawrzyk’s got a lot going for him in this fight. He’s got grit, youth and he’s hungry.
I know Wawrzyk’s a huge underdog but I see him popping the jab and outboxing Povetkin over the first four rounds or so, then gradually breaking the champion down. He’s intelligent and he’s got a good flow about him.
To take the title, Wawrzyk needs to ensure that he doesn’t get involved at close range where Povetkin is most effective. My advice to the challenger would be to box and move off the back foot, where I believe he has a clear advantage, and then take it to Povetkin if he manages to hurt him as he walks on to the Pole’s punches. Attempting to outgun Povetkin would be a big mistake.
Wawrzyk isn’t a negative Eastern European type like the Klitschkos so I think it’ll be a good fight to watch. A study of his record shows that most of his wins were complete shutouts so I’m taking him to cause an upset and score a points victory. He’s the better technician and the bigger man physically.”