This is the second article in our series looking forward at the big matches in 2020, the matches delayed until the need for social distancing leaves us and the boxing arena doors open once again. This time we take a look at the Heavyweight bout initially scheduled for May 2nd, this Saturday, but now tentatively rescheduled for July 4th. Dillian Whyte vs Alexander Povetkin.
On the line here is the WBC Interim Heavyweight Title, courtesy of Whyte. Both Povetkin and Whyte have a number of things in common: sketchy records regarding PEDs, 7th-round-TKO losses to the current WBA, IBF, and WBO belt holder Anthony Joshua, and KO ratios just shy of 70%. Stylistically let’s see how they match up.
Whyte is a heavy hitter who has a lot of good punches in his arsenal. He’s got a solid jab and throws really hard short uppercuts. He often throws a big overhand right and can unleash devastating hooks from either hand, his left hook is especially feared. He throws good combos and switches from body to head frequently, an example is a right hook to the body, right hook to the head, which he throws very quickly.
Whyte generally likes to close the distance so he can throw his heavier shots. While Whyte is a clearly a good fighter, he’s not as technically sound as Joshua, Fury, or the new Heavyweight Oleksandr Usyk. When fighting a taller man, he is good at cutting inside and likes to impose his physicality on his opponent. In the past, when matched against more technically adept boxers, he’s found difficulty finding the range to land the jab and straight right. He’s good at cutting the ring but he’s shown he can be outmaneuvered.
One thing that’s sure about Dillian Whyte, when he feels he’s outclassed, he comes ready to bang. He’s not the most beautiful boxer, he doesn’t swarm a ring the same way as Middleweight champ, Gennady Golovkin does. He can’t apply the pressure with the power and volume of shots of Joe Frazier. Few boxers since have managed that. His combos are shorter, but he really puts his weight behind each shot. When he misses it can affect his balance, but when he lands his opponents are really going to notice.
Having talked about the less spectacular side to Whyte we’ve seen in the past, it’s important to note that Whyte has shown huge improvement since his loss to AJ in 2015. His footwork since that fight is unrecognizable, he’s improved technically and has added some impressive names to his win column. He’s been making a great case for another shot at Joshua and many in boxing believe him when he says Wilder was ducking him. He talks about being underrated and underappreciated, in 2015 I wouldn’t have agreed, but now it’s clear he might be right. He’s a deadly Heavyweight and frightening for anyone on the night. Fury, Joshua, Usyk, and the other Heavyweights know that Dillian Whyte might not outbox them, but he likes to go to war and isn’t at all scared to put both his and their health on the line.
When fighting a taller man, he is especially good at cutting inside and likes to impose his physicality on his opponent. Whyte isn’t tall for this Heavyweight division, standing at 6’4”, he’s shorter than most he steps into the ring with. This time though, he enjoys the height, reach and weight advantage over the 6’2” Povetkin. This will change his game plan; he will look to use his longer reach to neutralize Povetkin with his heavy jab. If Povetkin does make it inside, Whyte has shown he’s dangerous there too.
Povetkin is a pressure fighter. The Russian is used to fighting taller Heavyweights, so he’s built his game on getting inside the jab and staying close. He has great head movement which he uses to avoid shots and throw his counter hooks, his left being famous. He has great footwork, a great chin, and a great work rate. He frequently switches from head to body and back again, can find openings, and throws varied combos.
Povetkin’s head movement really is the star in his crown. His left hook gets him onto the highlight reel, but his head movement is what sets him up. He rarely stays on the centre-line and can see shots coming. However, as we’re quick to give Whyte credit for the improvement he’s shown in the past few years, we need to also look at the new Povetkin. The 40-year-old-and-still-fighting Povetkin.
It’s hard not to notice that Alexander Povetkin has slowed a bit, in earlier rounds, it’s easier to miss but as the fight goes on, he can’t keep the movement up the way he once did. In his most recent draw with Michael Hunter, he was all but spent by the 10th round and struggled through until the end, clinching at every opportunity and generally looking exhausted. Had he been 35 still, he would’ve won that fight.
Povetkin also does something else to avoid shots on the inside. To aid his head movement, by giving himself a better view of the shots coming his way, he tends to drop his hands a bit so they don’t obscure his eyes. This could prove disastrous against a heavy hitter like Whyte who favors uppercuts and low hooks. Povetkin has always shown a strong chin, but ‘Father Time’ waits for no man, especially one whose job it is to get punched for a living.
Stylistically the match up with Whyte is extremely fun. We’ve got two boxers who like to stay close and don’t mind getting hit coming in. The fight itself is unlikely to go the distance and as viewers, we’re likely to be entertained. Both men have a shot at winning this, the bookies are favoring Whyte by some margin, but Povetkin can’t be counted out. Whyte should look to maintain distance, fire off his heavy jab, and tire the aging Povetkin with his bodyweight in the clinch when he does get inside. Povetkin will stick to his tested game plan and hope his waning stamina and chin permit him the same opportunities to use his movement to land his brutal counters.
To tide you over until the boxing schedule gets back on track here are some fights that showcase what these two boxers might bring to the ring when they meet. Watch Whyte vs Chisora 2, Rivas, Parker, Browne. Watch Povetkin vs Joshua, Price, Hunter.