By Fraser Cox
The eagerly anticipated finale of Matchroom’s ‘Fight Camp’ is rapidly approaching, as two ‘giants’ of the Heavyweight division take centre stage, in what promises to be a mouth-watering encounter on Saturday night. Dillian ‘The Body Snatcher’ Whyte and Alexander ‘The White Lion’ Povetkin are set to do battle, with Whyte’s WBC ‘interim’ title and the prestigious WBC ‘diamond’ belt both at stake. Eddie Hearn’s innovative ‘back garden shows’ have captured the imaginations of British fight fans and proved a successful vehicle for breathing life into the sporting world again. This weekend’s main event is sure to be a thriller, with the victor moving ever closer to a dream duel with Tyson Fury.
Dubbed ‘the battle of the left hooks’, both fighters have a very similar deadly weapon that they have utilised on countless occasions to dispatch their opponents. However, there are some glaring differences that set them apart and could be critical in swinging the bout one way or the other.
Whyte last fought against Mariusz Wach on the undercard of Andy Ruiz Jr. vs Anthony Joshua 2 in Saudi Arabia: although not wholly convincing, he won by unanimous decision.
As the younger and fitter athlete in this matchup against Povetkin, the longer it goes on, the more it should favour Whyte. ‘The Villain’ will not be afraid to take the fight into deep waters and potentially grind out a points decision, just like he did against Parker and Rivas. On both occasions, he showed courage in the face of adversity proving that, mentally, he is a force with which to be reckoned. Standing at 6’ 4’’, with a reach of 78’’, Whyte has a clear advantage in the size department. He will most likely look to control the distance with his jab and try to avoid too many close-range encounters with the Russian. If Whyte is able to do this, theoretically, it could become a troubling night for Povetkin, who will constantly be looking to close the distance, so that he can operate on the inside, where he is so very dangerous.
Following his devastating loss to Anthony Joshua in 2015, Dillian has continued to evolve, with his boxing IQ and punch power improving dramatically ever since. In arguably the best performance of his career against Lucas Browne, he demonstrated just how far he had come: boxing and moving wisely, but also letting his hands go, and finishing in terrific fashion. If he can replicate that level on Saturday, he stands to look very impressive indeed. In his duology with Dereck Chisora, Whyte displayed that he is more than capable of getting down and dirty if a dogfight presents itself. However, going straight to head with Povetkin would almost certainly make it more of a 50-50 bout, given the Russian’s low centre of gravity and explosive power at short range.
Whyte has waited over 1000 days for a shot at the WBC Heavyweight title and taken multiple unnecessary risky fights during that time. In doing so, he has gained much respect from the boxing world - a loss would have meant losing that precious number one mandatory position. Still striving for that all-important world title, he will most definitely be the hungrier of the two fighters, and his added drive and determination could see him over the line.
Just over a month ago, Dillian announced his split with trainer Mark Tibbs, after a four-year partnership that set him on the rise towards world heavyweight glory. When boxers part ways with their trainers so close to a fight, a seed of doubt is always planted as to whether it will have affected their preparations. He is now trained by Xavier Miller, who is somewhat inexperienced at this level, however, Whyte is very impressed by Miller’s dedication and work ethic. The pair have been training out in Portugal which, again, is another very new prospect for Whyte, and it could be a change that brings an added freshness and inspiration to his game.
Alexander Povetkin’s last outing was also on the ‘Clash On The Dunes’ undercard against Michael Hunter. It ended up being a controversial draw, with many thinking that the American had done enough.
As a veteran of the heavyweight division and former world champion, 41-year-old Povetkin’s best chance of winning the fight is between rounds one and six. As soon as the fight goes past the halfway mark, the odds will shift massively in Whyte’s favour. The ‘Russian Vityaz’ will look to start quickly and try to command the centre of the ring, in an attempt to put Whyte on the back foot. His ability to cut off the ring and set traps for his opponent are two of his greatest assets, as Anthony Joshua learned only too well during the early stages of his meeting with the Russian. Povetkin cleverly lowered his centre of gravity and swayed from side to side, which resulted in Joshua having to focus on matching Povetkin’s movement patterns, rather than the actual shots that Alexander was lining up. This psychological trick is something to implement if he wishes to successfully close the distance.
In Dillian Whyte’s fight against Joseph Parker, the New Zealander was able to successfully counter punch Whyte, due to the way he moved smartly in and out of range. Dillian was left unbalanced and Parker was often able to see him loading up, thus easily avoiding oncoming shots. If Povetkin decides to carry out a similar ploy, he could potentially counter with his infamous left hook and seriously hurt Whyte.
Povetkin’s noteworthy 15-year career has enabled him to acquire a wealth of experience, but he will need to summon all of the skills in his armoury to be victorious this weekend. Time is not on his side, and it remains to be seen whether he can still match it with the top guys physically. If that speed, timing and punch power are still there, he is arguably a harder single puncher than Whyte. Nevertheless, Povetkin will need to land a succession of heavy blows if he is to stop the gritty and strong-minded Brit.
The boxing world is thirsty for elite heavyweight action, and with fight night a matter of days away, the wait will soon be over. For me, Povetkin can only win by KO, and his best chance of achieving this will be in the first half of the fight. Conversely, Whyte could win by either a late stoppage or a points decision. I would almost go as far as saying that it is really Whyte’s fight to lose. My prediction? A gruelling points decision victory for Dillian Whyte.