By James Slater – Alexander Povetkin, the former Olympic gold medallist and all-round amateur standout, sure has puzzled not only fight fans but also the heavyweight champion of the world. How? With the way he has been going about his pro career just lately, that’s how!
Unbeaten at 20-0(15) as a pro, the talented 31-year-old could have achieved a lifelong ambition and challenged for the heavyweight championship earlier this year, yet he and his new trainer Teddy Atlas instead chose not to go ahead with the shot at Wladimir Kitschko (Wladimir, upon hearing how Povetkin had chosen not to take the shot he had earned in 2008, spoke of how Povetkin needed to have his head examined, or words to that effect!), and pick up further experience instead..
Atlas spoke of how an unready fighter can become a ruined fighter if he goes into a world title fight before his time. And so, ever since the Klitschko pull out, Povetkin has been kept busy by Atlas, in the hopes that he will pick up this further experience. A perfectly fine plan on paper; but what exactly has Povetkin possibly learnt or added to his arsenal with winning fights against the likes of Javier Mora and Teke Oruh? And, not to disrespect 31-year-old Nicolai Firtha, but what will Povetkin learn in this, his next scheduled fight? (according to Boxrec and other web sites)
Povetkin is set to face the 6’6,” 19-7-1(8) operator on Dec. 18th, on the under-card of the Marco Huck-Denis Lebedev WBO cruiserweight battle in Germany (this main event having the look of an excellent, 50-50 affair). But is this fight a good idea for Povetkin? I’m not suggesting he will be in too much danger against Firtha – a man who has been stopped three times, Tye Fields being one of the fighters to halt “Stone Man” – but every fight carries with it some degree of risk. But what rewards will Povetkin pick up if he does as expected and beats Firtha? And in beating a guy he is fully expected to beat beforehand, what added experience will the Russian star gain?
The idea Atlas has is for his latest charge to fully prepare himself for his eventual crack at “Dr. Steel Hammer.” But how will taking on three fighters with a combined record of 55-14-3, none of whom fight anything at all like Klitschko, get Povetkin get any readier for Wladimir than he is now, or was a year ago?
Other fighters – guys like Chris Arreola for example – are of the belief that you never turn down a world title fight if one is offered to you, simply because you never know if or when you may get another chance. Yet here’s Povetkin (or Atlas) turning down a shot at Klitschko and, even worse, then facing so-so fighters afterwards. A lot of people, Wladimir K included, don’t get the logic in Team-Povetkin’s plan.
But, and it may be a small but, at least Povetkin has been keeping himself busy as of late. After having fought just two fights in 2008 and 2009, Povetkin, by the time he’s dealt with Firtha, will have won three outings here in 2010. Hopefully, after he’s beaten Firtha (by mid-rounds stoppage in my opinion), Povetkin will feel ready enough to go for the big one and challenge Wladimir Klitschko.
At age 31 Povetkin is by no means running out of time, but he may find his skill level regressing if he faces many more unranked, largely unknown, journeymen types