As the build-up continues between current heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua and former WBA ‘Regular’ World champion Alexander Povetkin for the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles, we take a look at the long and illustrious career of Povetkin.
Russian born Povetkin first showed promise as a successful amateur kickboxer, during his time in the sport he won several titles; including the World Junior championship in 1997, World title in 1999 and a European professional kickboxing title in 2000.
Turning his hand to the amateur boxing scene later that same year, he would go on to win his first major boxing tournament at the Russian Championships in 2000 at the age of 21. This would be the beginning of several major amateur tournaments Povetkin would go on to win.
His outstanding amateur success would conclude with Povetkin winning a gold medal at super-heavyweight at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. After taking Olympic Gold, he ended his busy amateur career with a record of 125 wins with seven avenged losses.
Following his triumph in Athens, Povetkin took a year off before turning professional – and after meeting with several promoters, he signed a contract with German-based outfit Sauerland Events: leading him to train in Russia while fighting primarily out of Germany.
He would make his professional debut in Germany on 11 June 2005 by defeating Muhammad Ali Durmaz via second round TKO. He then followed that first victory with 21 further triumphs before challenging for his first heavyweight World title in 2011.
After Wladimir Klitschko was upgraded to “Super Champion” by the WBA following his victory over David Haye, the ‘Regular’ title became vacant and a deal was struck for Povetkin to fight the face WBA champion Ruslan Chagaev on August 27th at the Messehalle Arena in Erfurt, Germany.
Despite a few tough middle rounds, Povetkin would dominate for large portions of the fight, and a successful late onslaught from ‘Sasha’ would see him walk away with a well-earned unanimous decision and the WBA ‘Regular’ World title.
Povetkin, together with trainer Teddy Atlas, would make the first defence of the title against American heavyweight contender Cedric Boswell in December in Helsinki. Keen to impress in his maiden defence, Povetkin connected with a combination that dropped Boswell hard in the eighth round, handing him an emphatic TKO victory in the process.
In 2012 a deal was reached for Povetkin to make his second defence against then-WBO cruiserweight champion Marco Huck at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg. During this time, trainer Teddy Atlas announced he had parted ways with Povetkin and Russian trainer Alexander Zimin stepped in at short notice.
Proving his worth in a tough test, Povetkin won the fight via majority decision. Despite enjoying a healthy lead going into the championship rounds, a late flurry from Huck saw the German almost secure a dramatic victory in the final session. Nevertheless, the badly-fatigued Povetkin was able to survive his opponent’s late surge to cling on to his title.
A straightforward second round stoppage of 39-year-old Hasim Rahman would follow, with Povetkin landing at will with the former WBC World champion pinned helplessly against to the ropes: leading referee Gustavo Padilla mercifully putting a stop the mis-matched.
Another routine win would come in a voluntary defence against Poland’s Andrzej Wawrzyk in May, before the WBA ordered Povetkin to face ‘Super’ champion Wladimir Klitschko in a bout that was considered the biggest in the division at the time.
After a colossal $23m purse bid from Povetkin’s promoter Vladimir Hrunov, the bout was scheduled for October 2013 at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Moscow. However, home advantage would not be enough to spur Povetkin to victory, with the bout itself a rough, scrappy affair with Klitschko leaning on his smaller opponent, pushing his head down and repeatedly throwing him to the canvas.
Povetkin would be sent to the canvas four times officially (once in the second round and three times in the seventh), succumbing to a wide unanimous decision loss in a fight that failed to live up to expectations.
He would bounce back in 2014: completely changing his training routine and diet, he claimed the vacant WBC International title after stopping Manuel Charr in seven, followed by arguably the best win of his career – round tenth KO win over French-Cameroonian contender (and former Joshua opponent) Carlos Takam to capture the WBC ‘Silver’ title.
In his next outing, Povetkin faced former Cuban amateur standout Mike Perez, with a mandatory slot for Deontay Wilder’s WBC World title up for grabs. Povetkin would produce a vicious performance; knocking Perez out in devastating fashion in just 91 seconds in Moscow with three powerful right hands.
Now mandated to face Wilder, the match-up was scheduled for May of 2016, again in Russia.
However, the fight was thrown into uncertainty when it was revealed Povetkin had failed a drugs test for the banned substance meldonium in the build-up to his fight with Perez. Just one week before the bout with Wilder was due to take place, the WBC announced the fight was to be postponed – prompting Povetkin’s promoters to produce new test results, claiming that Povetkin had given a clean sample just four day before the fight was scheduled.
Nevertheless, the fight would not take place, and Povetkin’s team pursued – and won – a lawsuit against Wilder for their cancellation of the contest.
Now cleared to fight by the WBC, Povetkin was ordered to face former World champion Bermane Stiverne for the WBC ‘Interim’ title in December. With Wilder out of action until early 2017, the winner of the bout would be in position to face the American on his return to the ring.
However, Povetkin would once again cause controversy with another failed doping sample just 20 hours before the fight, this time for Ostarine. Stiverne withdrew from the contest, leaving Povetkin to hand out a one-sided drubbing of late-replacement Johann Duhaupas in six brutal rounds.
Following the fight, Povetkin was handed a fine of $250,000 and banned indefinitely by the World Boxing Council for his doping violation tests. The ban meant the governing body would no longer sanction his fights – although it wasn’t long before the lifetime ban was lifted, and in July the Russian returned to the ring to face fringe-contender Andriy Rudenko.
Rudenko, who was on a seven-fight winning streak following back-to-back losses to Lucas Browne and Hughie Fury, would offer up a puzzling performance: seemingly feigning injury during the fight in an attempt to withdraw. However, the fight continued on and Povetkin booked a wide points decision to capture the WBO International and WBA Continental heavyweight titles.
His win over Rudenko would see Povetkin afforded a lofty ranking with both the WBA and WBO, leaving him in line to pursue the winner of Anthony Joshua’s March 2018 bout with then-WBO champion Joseph Parker.
Povetkin would appear on the undercard of the bout at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, facing big-punching British heavyweight David Price. In a surprisingly-competitive outing that saw Povetkin drop Price in the third round – before being given a count himself – the Russian slugger would deliver a highlight reel knockout in the fifth.
A right hand, followed by a howitzer left hook on a defenceless Price, booked a spectacular knockout victory for Povetkin – leaving Price a bloodied heap on the canvas.
The win, coupled with Joshua’s unanimous decision victory over Parker on the same night, meant Povetkin would be named as mandatory challenger for the BRitish star’s WBA and WBO titles.
With negotiations for a super fight against American Deontay Wilder failing to materialise, Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn struck a deal with Povetkin and promoter Andriy Ryabinsky for the two men to meet on September 22nd at Wembley Stadium.
Now 39-years-old and with a record of 34-1-0 (24 KO’s), Povetkin enters this weekend’s bout with Joshua as a clear underdog. However, with a storied career and a seasoned background in the sport, many pundits and trainers are reluctant to right Povetkin off as he seeks to claim the WBA/WBO/IBF & IBO World heavyweight titles.
Article by: Emmily Simcock
Follow Emmily on Twitter at: @emmily_jane