Wednesday, February 21, 2024  |


Povetkin meets Chagaev for WBA heavyweight title belt

Fighters Network

Three weeks and two days.

That’s how long Teddy Atlas has had to prepare Alexander Povetkin for his heavyweight challenge against Ruslan Chagaev that will take place on Saturday in Messehalle, Erfurt, Th├╝ringen, Germany.

“In reality, when you’re getting ready for a title fight and you have three weeks and two days, it’s really not three weeks and two days. When you get a week out from the fight, you’ve got to start cutting down,” said Atlas.

“You can’t really do any more sparring. I did make an adjustment and I let him box four rounds on Monday. Normally, I might stop the week before, maybe six days, seven days out. But I did a little bit more. I finished up boxing on Monday because I wanted to grab one extra day because of the circumstances.”

Povetkin-Chagaev is being televised by EPIX, which will also broadcast it from a large viewing screen in New York’s Times Square.

So if there are mistakes made in their match of 6-foot-2, 232-pounders, there won’t be anywhere to hide.

“We think that we can exploit him on the inside with the uppercut, and we think that maybe there will be opportunities to turn the tables on him if he’s looking for the left hand,” said Atlas.

“We know that he’s looking for the let hand, we can expect it, we can slip it, maybe we can even time it. Those are all of the things that we’ve been working on. But the most important thing is whether my guy can physically and mentally execute that plan.”

An ESPN analyst, Atlas is often at odds with Povekin’s handlers. In fact, Atlas did not land in Chekhov, Russia, until landing in Russia three weeks ago.

“I got on a plane, I went to [Chekhov] about three weeks and two days before the fight and as I said, we had a very condensed training camp,” said Atlas.

“Not the amount of sparring that we would normally want to have, especially southpaw sparring. Because we are fighting a southpaw. So that puts another little twist into it.”

A former Olympic gold medalist who turns 32 on Sept. 2, Povetkin (21-0, 15 knockouts), said Atlas, is often was unsupervised in Chekhov, Russia, leaving to work out on his own.

“He’s pretty much on his own where he’ll do some running or he’ll take time off like any fighter will,” said Atlas, who is in his fourth fight with Povetkin. “He may take three weeks off, then he’ll start running a couple of days a week.”

Povetkin has “a strength coach,” said Atlas, “but nobody who really talks boxing to him where he’s getting conflicting signals or the wrong signals from somebody.”

“He’s doing some weight training a couple of days a week and then that kind of stuff,” said Atlas. “And when he does go into the gym, which he doesn’t do a lot of when I’m not around, but if he does, he’ll pretty much go in there on his own.”

About a year ago, Atlas took some criticism for convincing Povetkin to turn down a scheduled title fight with then-WBO and IBF titleholder Wladimir Klitschko, owing his belief that Povetkin was “not ready.”

Klitschko stopped Peter in the 10th round, and Povetkin lost a career-high purse of over $2 million. Atlas, himself, would have pocketed “about $200,000,” the trainer said.

“I didn’t think he was ready for Klitschko, I’ll be honest. I could have taken the Klitschko fight and taken the payday. But I wanted him to get experience before taking that fight,” said Atlas, who is in his fourth fight with Povetkin.

“I didn’t want him in there with Godzilla. I wanted him to be in there with guys that would extend him and challenge him a little more every time.”

Because Povetkin had not signed a fight contract, the IBF knocked him out of the top ten and allowed Samuel Peter to replace him against Klitschko.

Atlas said he wanted to wait until “something else would come along that made more sense,” adding, “so this [Chagaev] fight came along. This fight makes more sense than Klitschko did at the time.”

Wladimir Klitschko is 35, and his older sibling, Vitali Klitschko turned 40 last month. Vitali is the WBC titleholder, and Wladimir reigns as the WBA’s “super” beltholder and also claims the IBF and WBO versions of the crown.

Wladimir has a 14-bout winning streak that includes 10 knockouts, and Vitali a 10-fight winning streak that includes eight stoppages.

“I am ready. I have waited for this moment for a long time,” said Povetkin. “I have a lot of respect for Chagaev. But we have developed a very good game plan.”

Chagaev (27-1-1, 17 KOs) has won twice since suffering his lone defeat against Wladimir Klitschko by ninth-round stoppage in June of 2009.

“Alexander is a strong opponent,” said Chagaev. “I have trained very hard for this big chance and I will make the most of it.”

If Povetkin defeats Chagaev on Saturday, then he may have to face one of the Klitschko brothers sooner or later.
Atlas would rather that it be much later.

In a heavyweight co-feature, Finnish heavyweight Robert Helenius (15-0, 10 KOs) will face Sergei Liakhovich (25-3, 16 KOs) of Belarus.

“The preparation has gone very well,” said Helenius, who stopped Samuel Peter in the ninth round in his last fight in April.

“Back home, everybody asks me when I will be fighting the Klitschkos, but first things first. All of my focus is on Liakhovich.”

Liakhovich said the same.

“It was me who picked Helenius, not the other way round,” said Liakhovich. “I will surprise a lot of people on Saturday night.”

Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]