No risk, no reward for enigmatic heavyweight beltholder Povetkin
HAMBURG, Germany -- Alexander Povetkin stands 6-foot-2 and tips the scales at around 230 pounds. He is a former amateur world champion (2003) and Olympic gold medalist (2004) with a perfect record (24-0) as a professional.
And that's about all anyone really knows about him.
Is Povetkin an elite heavyweight? Some evidence says yes. The skills are there, obviously. And Povetkin has a handful of quality wins on his resume, including over Chris Byrd, Eddie Chambers and Ruslan Chagaev, the last of which came with a fringe version of the WBA title.
Is Povetkin a pretender? There is evidence of that, too. Recently, when his competition should have been better, it has gotten worse. His first title defense was a knockout of 42-year old Cedric Boswell, who stepped into the ring with a jiggly belly and a torn up shoulder. Up next was Marco Huck, a credible cruiserweight who nearly put Povetkin down before losing a narrow majority decision.
On Saturday, Povetkin will defend his alphabet title against 39-year-old former champion Hasim Rahman (5 p.m. ET, Epix/EpixHD.com), who fights in the 270s -- he was 238 pounds when he knocked out Lennox Lewis as a 15-to-1 underdog in 2001 -- has a bad right wrist and after taking a beating from Wladimir Klitschko in 2008 "earned" this title shot by knocking out five straight club fighters and, presumably, signing over one of his children to the WBA.
There's a simple solution, of course: Put Povetkin in with the best. Povetkin's promoter, Sauerland Event, doesn't seem interested; he's protected better than the President. Wladimir Klitschko has twice tried to make a deal to face Povetkin, only to be rebuffed. Tomasz Adamek's promoter, Kathy Duva, offered Povetkin the slot against Adamek on Dec. 22, a fight that would have zapped Povetkin into 115 million homes in the U.S. in a time slot (4 p.m. ET) that would have enabled Sauerland to collect European money. Duva never heard back.
On Wednesday, Povetkin was asked if he wanted that career-defining fight.
"Of course," Povetkin said. "A fight against Klitschko would be great."
But is he willing to instruct his promoters to make it?
"That's not my job," Povetkin said. "I trust my promoters. They have been making good decisions for me and I will let them continue to do it."
At 33, Povetkin is running out of time to define himself. Interest is already waning. Povetkin-Rahman has only sold about 1,500 tickets. And when asked about Povetkin, Klitschko's manager, Bernd Boente, said Povetkin didn't bring anything more to a promotion than the unheralded Manuel Charr, who was knocked out by Vitali Klitschko last month.
"People have no emotion towards the guy," Boente said. "He speaks no German. He hardly talks at all. When he beat Huck, he made Huck more popular."
The longstanding argument is that Povetkin needs more time to develop. It's the case former trainer Teddy Atlas made in 2010, when he walked away from a $2 million offer for Povetkin to face Wladimir Klitschko. Povetkin's new trainer, Kostya Tszyu, sees similar room for improvement.
"There's big time room," Tszyu said. "Especially with stamina. One drill I like to do is hitting the heavy bag fast, five or six times a second. I used to be able to do 45 minutes. When Alexander started, he couldn't do three minutes. Now he can do 30."
There is no requirement Povetkin take on all comers. He can finish his career fighting Luis Ortiz, Denis Boytsov and all the other unqualified opponents the WBA has manipulated its rankings with. He can retire undefeated and untested, a champion -- and with a decent amount of money in his pocket.
Is that enough? For the great heavyweights, no. For Povetkin, well, we'll see.