Fight Camp 4 Preview: Whyte vs Povetkin
By Oliver McManus
Matchroom Boxing’s Fight Camp concludes, in its current guise, this coming Saturday (August 22nd) with a Box Office night at Matchroom HQ.
Topping the bill is a heavyweight clash between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin for the interim and diamond WBC heavyweight titles.
With Whyte having to wait around for his crack at the full WBC title, The Body Snatcher will look to remind the governing body just why he is their number one contender.
On paper you’d suggest there are few heavyweights with such an impressive resumé over the past few years as Whyte. Champions aside, though even they’ve faced several soft touches, very few heavyweights have racked up such a solid catalogue of wins.
Whilst the names of Dereck Chisora (twice), Joseph Parker, Oscar Rivas and Lucas Browne all look good there is more to the tale then the green W on Boxrec suggests.
The first contest against Chisora, way back in 2016, highlighted the fragilities of his defense that we all knew existed and Whyte was fortunate to take the split decision; when they met again two years later it was a similar affair with Chisora out-slugging Whyte for large parts of the contest before getting knocked out in the eleventh round.
Against Helenius he looked dreich and dour; against Parker he was wobbly but just about hung on in the end; against Lucas Browne he looked superfluous with a beautiful body shot but, really, Lucas Browne is a very average fighter.
There are always signs of brilliance with Whyte and his destructive power is clear for all to see. It’s entertaining, no doubt, and so too is the fact he’s yet to quite put all the pieces together to ensure you’re confident he’ll see out a fight without any danger.
For this contest he has split with Mark Tibbs and teamed up with Xavier Miller: a left field decision but Miller a reputable mentor in his own right. It will be interesting to see the effect Miller has on Whyte’s mentality and how that unfolds on fight night but this could well be the step required to refresh and revitalise Whyte’s renaissance.
Alexander Povetkin is a man that seemingly never ages but will turn 41 on September 2nd. Having been a professional since 2005 it does seem as though Sasha has been there or thereabouts pretty much since the turn of the decade: losses to Wladimir Klitschko and Anthony Joshua the only blemishes on his record.
Thanks to wins over Hughie Fury and David Price, Povetkin has managed to angle his way back into vision of the UK boxing fraternity and has impressed in the process.
Against Price we saw a real demonstration of the sheer bludgeoning power possessed by the Russian. Yes, Price had marginal success in the opening rounds but as soon as Povetkin landed anything of meaning it was a case of ‘sladkiye mechty’ (sweet dreams) for David Price.
Add to the mix the fact that Povetkin provided, at the time, the sternest test of Anthony Joshua’s career and this fight shapes up to be intriguing. He followed in the footsteps of Whyte in terms of applying pressure to AJ early on and ensuring he was first to the punch, something that Andy Ruiz later capitalised on to greater effect, and had Joshua racking his brain for a good five, six rounds.
Ultimately Povetkin hit the canvas twice in the seventh round to see the fight waved off but promising signs were there: can he go one step further against Dillian Whyte and finish the job?
The undercard sees Katie Taylor take on Delfine Persoon for the undisputed lightweight title with ALL the marbles on the line – WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF. Despite Taylor edging their first meeting last June it will likely be the Irish fighter seeking redemption with many onlookers considering her fortunate to retain her titles.
Persoon can harness some Jessica McCaskill’s energy – McCaskill another former opponent of Taylor – who pulled off a stupendous upset Cecilia Braekhaus on August 15th. Belgium’s Persoon has been a long time figurehead of female boxing having been at the top of the game since 2012 but it could well be argued Taylor is the only truly elite fighter she’s ever crossed paths with.
In that first fight at the MSG it was Persoon who pushed the pace of the fight to show the first signs of weakness within Taylor.
The Irish boxer dusted off those cobwebs towards the backend of last year with a, return to routine, ten rounds over Christina Linardatou but talk has always returned to this rematch. If you’re a gambler you’d back Katie Taylor to showcase her greater pedigree and adapt to the challenge posed whereas perhaps Persoon is more rooted in her style.
With Cecilia Braekhaus seemingly set to retire and Claressa Shields vocal about her credentials for being the GWOAT, perhaps Saturday night is Katie Taylor’s time to push her name back into the conversation.
Luther Clay and Chris Kongo meet in a hotly anticipated clash for the WBO Global welterweight which, despite the obscure title, has all the hallmarks of a classic. Having brewed in the works for several months now, having initially been slated for the Avanesyan vs Kelly undercard, spectators have had plenty of time to pick sides but the split remains fairly 50-50.
Clay, managed by Al Siesta, has had a high profile 18 months with three victories establishing himself as a name to watch domestically at 147lbs. A 7th round knockout over O’Shane Clarke in a brawl at Bracknell caught the eyes of Eddie Hearn who gave him a crack on one of his Matchroom Italy cards. Against 15-0 Dario Morello, Clay looked classy and dropped the Italian favourite twice en route to a sleek points decision: on December 19th he boxed well into the later stages to out-point Freddy Kiwitt over ten.
It hasn’t quite been as straight forward for Chris Kongo who has had to wait a while for his opportunity despite being highly touted for a while. The 27 year old should have broke out in 2018 when scheduled to face Louis Greene for the Southern Area title but Green withdrew due to injury and then it was a case of waiting… and waiting… and trying to stay busy.
Trying being the operative word: three six rounders reinforced the class and quality of Kongo but doors simply weren’t opening. This fight should be the starting pistol for everything to change and Kongo will be hungry to ensure he simply can’t be forgotten about.
Long and fluid super middleweight Jack Cullen is back in the ring for a ten rounder with Zak Chelli as a late addition to the bill. Cullen has affectionately built a reputation in and around Lancashire thanks to his long, lanky build and passion for a war. He won the English title with an eighth round stoppage over Jack Sellars in May 2019 and backed that up with a similarly timed stoppage over, Dillian Whyte backed, John Harding Jr in August. In his third title fight of 2019 it was his turn to succumb in the eighth round with Felix Cash out-powering and out-gunning Cullen to retain the Commonwealth title.
Softly spoken Zak Chelli is in his first fight since losing to Kody Davies at light heavyweight but has returned to his more natural 168lbs for this contest. At 168, Chelli was involved in a mini grudge match of sorts with Umar Sadiq in October 2018; a fight that raised his profile and showed there’s more than meets the eye at first glance. He did, however, expose the principle flaw of his in that he gases towards the end of the fight and both Sadiq and Davies were able to latch onto that with varying degrees of success.
The second heavyweight fight on the night sees Alen Babic, 3-0, take on Shawndell Terell Winters (13-3) in another contestly that is quickly turning tetchy.
Babic carries a scary aurora with him and has racked up three knockouts within three months of turning professional but Winters is by far and away the biggest test of his career. Shawndell is probably best known for going five rounds with Joseph Parker but that’s unfair to him: he has excellent on the road victories against Joe Jones, Oleksandr Teslenko and Sergiej Werwejko. This is going to be a cracker and you can guarantee it will not go the distance.
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing