Povetkin vs Whyte 2: ‘Rumble on the Rock’ – A Preview

Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin will meet for a second time on Saturday night, contesting the World Boxing Council Interim heavyweight title.

This is the first fight that either man has taken since Povetkin’s surprise 5th round KO victory in their initial encounter, in Matchroom HQ’s garden, in August, last year; though due to ongoing travel and Covid-inspired logistical complications, this rematch will be taking place in Gibraltar, the British Overseas territory and headland located off Spain’s south coast.

Now, rather than preoccupying ourselves unduly with the oft-necessary but in this case constraining conventions of a standardised preview – the minutiae considerations such as who is the A side and why, a guide to each fighter’s recent form, and their respective styles and advantages – let us instead analyse the significance of Whyte vs Povetkin 1 – its meaning to a renegade element of boxing fandom, to rationality and to the decline in substance of contemporary boxing’s overall package – and espouse on why sadly such an outcome will be unlikely to recur again.

Whyte vs Povetkin 1: what does it mean and why?

Anyone who has followed boxing, even in a perfunctory sense, will know that whilst each particular sport consists of its own unique physical requirements, which thus lends it its obvious distinction, outside of the ropes, boxing stands alone in the sheer disingenuity, dissemblance and duplicity in which it communicates with its audience. In no other sport, for example, do commentators and pundits willingly reframe action outside of how it is clearly interpreted by consumers’ empirical senses; in no other sport do judges determine victors and losers in such schizophrenic ways and without meaningful accountability; and in no other sport would prospective opponents choose to delay facing each other, even to the point that it would never happen, just to financially marinade their eventual meeting.

I guess, what am I am aiming to convey here, and it is a message that the use of Foucauldian theory will certainly help to frame, is that as boxing fans we are often being manipulated by those in powerful, hierarchal positions to believe narratives entirely as odds with manifest reality, and that this power is constantly creating knowledge and discourse that is both deliberately deceptive and misleading. In fact, to go further, to be a fan of boxing is in many ways to be instituted as the duck or the goose, subject to a force-feeding gavage of both a digital and marketing media, with our equivalent livers, were they ever to be located, extracted, isolated and analysed, rather than being a delicacy, instead likely being a writhing, necrotic mass of obsidian, cancerous tissue. (Worst still, I guess, is the fate for those who internalise such narratives to the point that they frequently find themselves automatedly regurgitating them.)

Anyhow, what these necessary paragraphs introduce is the theoretical context underpinning Whyte vs Povetkin 1. Each and every one of us was lambasted by the great hectoring, the great Matchroom claim of injustice that was Dillian Whyte not having had a deserved chance to challenge then WBC heavyweight champion, Deontay Wilder. We were continually sold a version of Whyte as a pay-per-view star with an impressive professional resume, one which includes two wins over Derek Chisora, victory over the former WBO heavyweight world champion, Joseph Parker (28-2), and success against the avoided Oscar Rivas (27-1). Victory against an ageing Povetkin (but still one whose official professional record counts losses only to Wladimir Klitschko and Anthony Joshua) in this fight was supposed to reaffirm Whyte’s status as a fearless heavyweight who accepts dangerous fights as and when they arise, and was to reannounce his claim as the preeminent world heavyweight title contender, and the best 200lb+ fighter without a serious championship belt.

Yet despite all the A-side marketing and the empty pontifications from Hearn and Sky and Smith alike, what Whyte vs Povetkin 1 has since sublimated to represent is a fine repositioning of reality with intuition; a rare moment where the discerning fan who could see the obvious defensive frailties in Whyte, who had him losing the first fight to Chisora and saw him 30 seconds away from being stopped by Parker, who sees him hurt in nigh-on every fight that he participates within, as flat-footed, as rejecting the chance to challenge Anthony Joshua for three of the recognised main heavyweight title belts, apparently over money and worth, and would openly espouse the view that he would be stopped by Fury, Joshua, Wilder and many others, but whom has always been adjudged and recontextualised as unpatriotic or a hater; for those guys, of who I am one, this fight, and that one measured, coordinated Povetkin left hook which detonated in round five to the lower right jaw of Dillian Whyte, represented gratifying approbation.

Though why can’t it happen again?

Let us be frank here: despite prevailing in the first encounter, Povetkin showed all the signs of deterioration that one would expect from a professional sportsman aged 41 years. He looked (comparatively) slow and appeared drained and fatigued after only 3 rounds. Prior to the knockout, this was hardly a competitive fight. Povetkin, in uncharacteristic desperation, was loading up and looking for the ‘hail Mary’ knockout from round 1; he was seemingly stunned by the unrenowned Whyte jab, and conceded both significant height and reach advantage. He was even down twice in round 4.

After suffering from Covid, and certainly getting no younger nor sharper, it would thus be a major miracle if Povetkin were capable of summonsing a repeat finish in this upcoming encounter. Instead, I fully expect Whyte to appear cautious initially and to wait for Povetkin’s inevitable exhaustion, before cruising to a stoppage win.

However, for those of us who continue to rebel against the norms and the will inflicted upon us from grubby externalities, Povetkin will always be a guttering flame amidst the dark… We will always have Povetkin vs Whyte 1.