Weekend Review: Povetkin and Helenius make statements
Alexander Povetkin: The talented Russian was expected to accomplish big things from the time he was an amateur, when he won the super heavyweight gold medal in 2004 Olympics in Athens. He took his biggest step yet toward realizing his potential at 31 on Saturday, when he defeated Ruslan Chagaev – a former legitimate titleholder — by a clear decision to win what the WBA calls its “regular” heavyweight title in Erfurt, Germany. Povetkin, fighting with trainer Teddy Atlas in his corner, demonstrated in a difficult fight not only his skills but the toughness and fighting spirit he’ll need if he hopes to win a real heavyweight title. Can he beat a Klitschko? Not anytime soon. However, he proved on Saturday that he can compete with the Hayes and the Adameks and the Arreolas and the Heleniuses, heavyweights who could lead the way in the post-Klitschko era.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Robert Helenius: The 6-foot-6½ Finn and Sergei Liakhovic fought on fairly even terms for about seven rounds on the Povetkin-Chagaev card, although Helenius seemed to outwork Liakhovich and apparently broke the Belorussian’s nose early in the fight. I kept thinking, though: “When is the big guy going to assert himself?” That came with fury in the eighth round, when a series of vicious punches forced Liakhovich to take a knee. Then, in the ninth, a crippling left uppercut followed by five punches put a battered Liakhovich down again and ended the fight. It was the kind of knockout that takes your breath, the kind that leads you to think “I must see that guy fight again.” Helenius doesn’t use his height nearly as well as the Klitschkos do but make no mistake: The man can punch, as he also proved against Lamon Brewster and Sam Peter. And, as one knowledgeable observer said after the fight: “Helenius knows how to end a fight.”
Povetkin-Helenius: The two heavyweights turned in good performances on the same card. They’re both in contention to fight one of the Klitschkos for a major title after their victories on Saturday. They’re both ranked by THE RING, Povetkin No. 3 and Helenius No. 9. They’re both European. And they’re both promoted by Germany-based Sauerland Events. If this isn’t a natural matchup, what is? Now, one could argue that they – more likely Povetkin because of his experience – should pursue a Klitschko now because of the lucrative payday. A loss, which would be likely in both cases, is a big setback, though. They might be wise to fight each other or another top-tier contender, make good (not great) money and gain the experience they would need to stand a chance against the Ukrainian titleholders. Plus, Povetkin-Helenius would be a compelling fight after what we saw on Saturday.
WBA’s “regular” title: No one should diminish Povetkin’s victory over Chagaev, which was a fine accomplishment and an important step in his career. However, he is not a world champion. Povetkin won what the WBA calls its “regular” title, which became vacant when Wladimir Klitschko was elevated to the ridiculous “super champion.” The fact is that Klitschko is the WBA titleholder, not Povetkin. It’s bad enough that we allow four major sanctioning bodies to determine a “champion” in each of 17 weight divisions, for a total of 68. We’ll be damned if we’ll potentially recognize TWO titleholders in each division, which the WBA is demanding we do. World titles once had great meaning. Now the belts are little more than trinkets. And the more titles the sanctioning bodies invent, the less they’re worth. Thank goodness the fans are on to this scam.
Mayweather blowup: No one who has followed the up-and-down relationship of Floyd Mayweather Sr. and son Floyd Jr. was shocked at what they saw on HBO’s 24/7 on Saturday. Still, it was sad. What apparently started as a discussion about two females fighters escalated into a profanity-laced back-and-forth yelling match for the entire world to see. Junior didn’t hold back, questioning his father’s ability as a fighter and trainer and giving credit to Roger Mayweather for his success. In fact, Senior was a good fighter. He was a Top-10 welterweight contender until he lost to Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978. Check out this clip of that fight. Most observers would say he’s a good trainer who played a role in his son’s development, even if Roger has guided Junior during his greatest success. Junior was trying to hurt his father with his comments, which included “There are only two (expletive) Mayweathers that count, Roger Mayweather and Floyd Maywather. And (expletive) I’m not no junior.” That’s the sad element here. Let’s hope the next episode of 24/7 involves some sort of reconciliation.
BEST LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Frankie Gomez: The 19-year-old lightweight prospect seems to have learned a great deal from Abel Sanchez at the trainer’s training camp in Big Bear, Calif. Gomez (11-0, 8 KOs) really went to school on Friday in Chicago, though. He was taken to the limit by Adrian Granados (8-2-1, 5 KOs) in an eight-round thriller, winning a majority decision to stay unbeaten. The fighters, as they say, left nothing in the ring. One reaction to such a performance against an unknown young opponent is to wonder whether Gomez’s as good as billed, which is reasonable. However, almost every fighter endures such trials as they develop. The key for Gomez will be to take what he learned on Friday and become a better fighter. That’s how champions evolve.
Good club shows: The fighters on the Fight Night Club card Thursday in Los Angeles won’t win any world titles soon. They’re flawed young athletes with big dreams and unlimited courage. Put two of them together and you get a hell of a fight, as was the case in L.A. The main event, between Juan Garcia and Hector Serrano, was a gripping give-and-take war for six rounds. Garcia, once a prospect, won a majority decision but both fighters captured the hearts of those present. And several other fights on the card were similar. The point? Club shows can be the best boxing has to offer. The fighters are often hungrier than the sport’s stars. The fights are generally shorter, which forcers the participants to fight at a fast pace. And, as at Club Nokia, the venue is intimate. They key is competitive matchups, which matchmakers sometimes seem to forget. Go see a club show wherever you live. You won’t regret it.
Fuentes over Garcia: Strawweight Moises Fuentes (14-1, 6 KOs) was fighting nobodies with little to no experience in his native Mexico as recently as recently as August of last year. Then, when he stepped up to face a good opponent, he lost a split decision to contender Juan Hernandez. That fight proved that Fuentes was a capable fighter but no one would’ve predicted what happened against Raul Garcia (30-2-1, 18 KOs) on Saturday in Jalisco. Garcia, ranked No. 3 by THE RING, is a two-time beltholder who was 6-1 in title fights going into Saturday. Fuentes, 25, obviously wasn’t impressed, outboxing his fellow Mexican to win a split decision and his first major title. Fuentes has arrived.
Oscar De La Hoya, on his Twitter account: “For the record, I never left Floyd Sr. He was and is the best trainer period.”