Commentary

A Klitschko fight might be too much, too soon for Povetkin

As an amateur, Alexander Povetkin was groomed to one day become a world champion. Povetkin moved one step closer to attaining that dream by earning a unanimous decision over Eddie Chambers on Saturday in Germany. But is he ready for Wladimir Klitschko?

Originally Published: January 27, 2008
By Don Steinberg | Special to ESPN.com

Eddie Chambers and Alexander PovetkinAP Photo/Miguel VillagranPovetkin, right, had his hands full against Chambers. How would he match up against Klitschko?
BERLIN -- Never mind the one nutty judge who outrageously scored the bout 119-109. Alexander Povetkin didn't defeat Eddie Chambers by a whole lot Saturday in a fight that set up the 28-year-old Povetkin as the future of the heavyweight division and mandatory challenger for the IBF heavyweight throne currently inhabited by Wladimir Klitschko.

So does Povetkin have a chance against Klitschko?

An answer from ringside in Berlin: Based on his performance against Chambers, it's hard to give him much of one right now.

Povetkin got hit and hit and hit. He won because he was more aggressive, not more effective. He won because he has heart and guts and really hates to lose. He survived 12 rounds because undersized Chambers lacks the kind of anvil hands that a big heavyweight can slam down on a man.

"He needs to work on his defense," Buddy McGirt, who worked in Chambers' corner, said of Povetkin. "He has to move more, move his head more. Otherwise, Klitschko's left jab will find and destroy Povetkin."

There are reasons to worry for Povetkin in the ring against Klitschko. For about nine rounds Saturday night, it was more like a Chambers fight than a Povetkin fight. Chambers controlled the pace, keeping the fight where he wanted it, in the middle of the ring. He blocked almost everything Povetkin threw and landed crisp counters, giving German television little but Chambers highlights to show in slow motion between rounds (the telecast was on a big screen live in the Tempodrome).

In his dressing room after the fight, Povetkin slumped on a stool and coughed while trying to speak. He had a black left eye and a swollen right eye -- after fighting a guy some experts now think should be a cruiserweight.

Povetkin said he had been sick during training. He said the fight was really hard but that he finally had made adjustments. At the press conference later, he said Chambers caught him with some shots in the first two rounds and he couldn't figure out how to deal with them. He said he'll be better prepared for Klitschko.

[+] EnlargeLamon Brewster and Vladimir Klitschko
Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty ImagesWladimir Klitschko, right, is masterful at keeping opponents at bay with his pulverizing jab.
He better be.

Max Kellerman, for one, gives Povetkin a chance against Klitschko. The HBO analyst who called Saturday's fight wonders whether, maybe, the 6-foot-2 Povetkin could get inside on the 6-foot-6 Klitschko, get under that jab, and nail him with rights.

"He has a good right, not just a left hook, and he catches guys with it," Kellerman said.

You can picture that happening in your head. But, then again, if you can picture that, you probably can picture Klitschko's next opponent, Sultan Ibragimov, doing it the same way.

There actually is nothing in anyone's contract guaranteeing Povetkin gets Klitschko. Klitschko first has a Feb. 23 unification fight against WBO champ Ibragimov, and if Klitschko loses, we'll rewrite the above question and get back to you. If Klitschko wins as expected, he'll have an embarrassment of mandatory defenses -- for both the IBF and WBO belts -- and theoretically could choose to fight Tony Thompson to defend the WBO strap before giving Povetkin any love. The WBO apparently would give a new champ 18 months to face a mandatory, so Klitschko's other dodge might be his quest to become the undisputed heavyweight champ by taking on the winner of March's Samuel Peter-Oleg Maskaev tilt for the WBC belt.

Boxing being boxing, you can't say for sure if any of these things will happen. In boxing, you can't even be sure Tuesday will happen. One thing is starting to seem clear, though, now that the dust has settled in Berlin: Povetkin-Peter would be an awesome fight, no?

Don Steinberg, a winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America's award for best column in 2005, covers boxing for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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