Heavyweights have become a near afterthought to the boxing community. There’s Wladimir Klitschko, and then there’s the rest of the weight class — a stew of raw prospects, pretenders with tissue-soft resumes and challengers that Dr Steelhammer has already defeated.
There are more questions (and mistruths) than answers at heavyweight. Fortunately, Alexander Povetkin (30-1, 22 KO) has strengthened his standing in the upper echelon of the division by dominating Mariusz Wach (31-2, 17 KO) en route to a 12th-round stoppage via cuts.
Wach, from North Bergen, New Jersey, by way of Krakow, Poland, won the opening feeling-out round by using his 6″ height advantage to keep Povetkin at distance. It didn’t take Povetkin long to adjust, though.
In the 2nd, and in each ensuing round, Povetkin became more comfortable getting inside Wach’s 82″ reach. He changed levels, landing hooks to the body and head with regularity.
Povetkin was cut by a punch in the 4th round. And while the Olympic gold medalist seemed tentative in the 5th, he opened up and grew stronger as the fight went on. The later rounds became glorified target practice, as he continued to land hooks and right hands with increasing efficiency.
Wach fatigued in the second half of the fight, but never seemed to be in serious trouble. Then, late in the 12th and final round, he was cut badly. On the advice of the ringside doctor, referee Jay Nady stopped the fight with less than half a round to go. While the fight was a virtual shutout at the time (I had it scored 10 rounds to one in favor of Povetkin), you can’t help but feel a bit bad for Wach, who didn’t even receive the option to finish.
So where do we go from here?
Povetkin is widely considered the second-best heavyweight in the world. A mandatory challenge with Deontay Wilder looms in early 2016. If Wilder was watching today, there’s not a lot for him to be happy about.
For starters, Povetkin has been on an absolute tear since his lone loss to Klitschko in October 2013, knocking out Manuel Charr, Carlos Takam and Mike Perez before today’s domination of Wach. And it’s not just “who” he beat — I’d argue it’s a more impressive level of opposition than Wilder’s last four adversaries — but “how” he triumphed.
Today, Povetkin wholly neutralized Wach’s height advantage. He flashed good head movement, got inside his jab and alternated high/low attacks. While the challenger was never in serious trouble, that’s more of a testament to his granite chin than it is his boxing ability. He was tagged by power shots throughout the fight.
And the connection to Wilder? Both Wach and Wilder are 6’7″. While he outboxed Wach today, Povetkin’s power seems to be surging. His 70% knockout rate is modest by heavyweight standards, but he’s finished his opponent in his last six victories and his kayo of Perez is one of the more highlight-reel-worthy one-punch finishes of 2015. Meanwhile, questions about Wilder’s chinniness persist.
With only a handful of fights left in his career, we might not see Klitschko toppled before he retires. But clarity about who the next-best heavyweight is? That seems inevitable.