The really scary part about Wladimir Klitschko's destruction of Alexander Povetkin on Saturday is that last month Dr. Steelhammer called the Russian fighter "the best opponent I've ever had." If that's true, then perhaps the only one who will ever beat the long-standing Ukrainian champion is Father Time. And even that fight looks like it would be a tossup.
Povetkin, the former Olympic Gold winner and unbeaten heavyweight, fought a game, aggressive fight, but Klitschko adapted well an inflicted a sloppy beat-down on the Russian to earn a huge, one-sided defeat, with all three judges scoring it 119-104 before a sell-out crowd at the Olimpiyskiy Arena in Moscow. Povetkin, who had never had tasted canvas in 132 amateur fights and 26 as a professional, was knocked down four times by Klitschko, once in the second round and three times in the seventh.
For those keeping score, Povetkin is the 19th straight opponent Klitschko has beaten in defense of his heavyweight titles, a streak dating back seven years to 2006. Klitschko is the second longest-standing heavyweight champion in history. Only Joe Louis, who reigned for 11 years between 1937 and 1949, held the title longer.
This was far from a typical performance by Klitschko (61-3, 51 KOs), who usually looks crisp and almost machine-like as he fights behinds his jackhammer jab, taking no risks. But against Povetkin (26-1, 18 KOs), Klitschko looked uncomfortable from the start, did not use his jab as his predominant punch, and most interestingly, often plunged into engage the Russian with a quick combo, only to then clinch until the referee separated the two fighters.
Klitschko clinched more often in this fight than and any previous one in memory, and it might have been part of a strategy. Every time the champion clutched, he would employ an illegal tactic by putting one arm behind Povetkin's head and leaning on him hard, a move designed to wear down his opponent's legs. Remarkably, referee Luis Pabon allowed the tactic to go on and on without a single warning or a point deduction.
Povetkin's strategy from the start was undoubtedly part of the reason why Klitschko looked ill at ease. The Russian kept lunging in and throwing an overhand right as he came forward in an attempt to catch the Ukrainian's one known weakness, his chin. As a result, Klitschko seemed wary of throwing his jab, perhaps out of fear of getting hit with a counter right.
Give Klitschko credit for adapting. Unable to keep Povetkin at a distance, the champion cleverly converted his jab to a short left hook, and with just under 15 seconds left in the second round, knocked Povetkin down with that powerful punch. For the remainder of the fight, Klitschko continued to use short left hooks, and the more he did, the more Povetkin seemed to get less aggressive, looking wary of being tagged as he came in by that powerful hook.
Still, the aggressive attack of Povetkin, who has a powerful right hand, produced a rare sight for a Klitschko fight: he forced the champion to back pedal at times, particularly in the fourth round when Dr. Steelhammer looked fatigued and tentative, and did not throw his signature left-right combos. Klitschko weighed in at 241.6 pounds, the lightest he's been in four years ago, and some wondered going into this fight if he had over-trained, which often produces fatigue.
But Klitschko seemed to get a second wind, and turned the seventh round into a disaster for Povetkin. Klitschko knocked the Russian down twice with his short left hook, and once more with a right hand, a 10-6 round on the cards. Only Povetkin's heart kept him in the fight.
After his success inside with the short left hands, Klitschko began lunging in often for the remaining rounds, instead of laying back and trying to box circles around his opponent, as he usually does.
One hand to wonder if the death of Klitschko's long-time trainer, Emanuel Steward in 2012, had something to do with the sloppy performance by the Ukrainian. Without Steward, Klitschko decided to turn over the training duties to 30-year-old Jonathan Banks, a long-time disciple of Steward, and an active heavyweight contender himself. This was Banks' third straight fight as Klitschko's conditioner.
Although it was far from the prettiest fight turned in by Klitschko, the bottom line is he did what he always does: wins. And wins big.