Alexander Povetkin, who for four rounds appeared a shadow of his once explosive self, changed the landscape of the heavyweight division with a single punch as he claimed a truly stunning knockout win over Dillian Whyte in August of last year.
The silence was palpable as a behind closed doors Fight Camp – held in the garden of Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom headquarters – was left in total shock as Whyte lay sprawled across the canvas.
It was a devastating defeat for the Brit, who had previously been mandatory challenger for the WBC belt for over two years, a position he relinquished in the blink of an eye.
Alexander Povetkin stunned the world with a one-punch knockout win over Dillian Whyte
Whyte called for an immediate rematch just minutes after the conclusion of the fight
‘The Body Snatcher’ has the opportunity to claim revenge when the pair meet once more on Saturday night in Gibraltar, topping an entertaining card that includes the likes of Ted Cheeseman and Campbell Hatton.
While Whyte was desperate to arrange the rematch immediately, he has had to wait patiently for the bout to come around.
The fight was first scheduled for Wembley Arena in November, but it was postponed after Povetkin tested positive for coronavirus. It was then pushed back once more from March 6 and also moved to Gibraltar, due to the fact Whyte had been training in Portugal, which had been on the UK’s “red list”.
Whyte now finally gets his wish, but while he stood on the precipice of a world title shot prior to his shock defeat, his rematch against the Russian veteran now resembles a make-or-break bout.
Simply put, everything is on the line.
What happened last time?
A single left uppercut was enough to stop Whyte who was in total control beforehand
Before we delve into the subsequent ramifications of Saturday’s highly anticipated bout, it’s important to briefly remind ourselves of what happened when the pair met last year.
Whyte had reeled off 11 consecutive victories over the likes of Joseph Parker, Derek Chisora and Oscar Rivas following his knockout defeat to Anthony Joshua in 2015.
Povetkin, on the other hand, had won just one of his last three bouts, a unanimous decision victory over Hughie Fury, which sandwiched his knockout defeat to Joshua and, more recently, a draw with Michael Hunter.
It was the Brit who was certainly the favourite, and everything was seemingly going to plan, as Whyte knocked Povetkin down twice in a dominant opening four rounds.
The Brixton fighter looked almost nonchalant as he emerged for the fifth round, with another impressive victory almost an inevitability at that point.
A then-40-year-old Povetkin changed the course of history, however, as he delivered a sickening left uppercut that sent Whyte hurling to the floor and ending the fight in an instant.
It was entirely out of the blue, but it’s worth noting that this was no lucky punch. It was set up and executed expertly by a world class operator, who reminded everyone that he still has plenty to offer the division.
What would victory do for Povetkin?
Povetkin could face Anthony Joshua (left) or Tyson Fury (right) should he defeat Whyte again
Moving onto the bout ahead, both fighters have plenty to gain in what is set to be another enthralling encounter.
For Povetkin, this is really is massive. The Russian defeated Ruslan Chagaev in 2011 to claim the WBA heavyweight strap, which he then lost in his first career defeat to Wladamir Klitschko in a unification bout in 2013.
The now-41-year-old had another unification fight against Anthony Joshua in 2018, but he fell short once more in a seventh-round stoppage defeat at Wembley Stadium.
With victory, Povetkin would significantly bolster his chances of obtaining perhaps one last title shot by potentially earning a position as mandatory challenger to Fury’s WBC belt.
While Povetkin became the interim WBC heavyweight champion with victory over Whyte, he has not been officially confirmed as mandatory challenger to Fury, likely due to the fact that he’s tied into Saturday’s rematch.
However, should he prevail once more, it’s a title he would presumably earn.
Furthermore, he would surely cement his status as a top five heavyweight in the world, which would provide him with opportunities to fight the likes of Deontay Wilder, Andy Ruiz Jr and Oleksandr Usyk – regardless of a mandatory position.
Of course, with Joshua and Fury signing a two-fight agreement for their undisputed showdown, it may be a while before the winner does get their shot at the title.
However, a match-up against Fury or Joshua will be one of the most lucrative bouts in world boxing, and at the age of 41, Povetkin doesn’t have too many big-money paydays left in him.
What does Whyte have to win?
A number of top-level fights remain out there for Whyte, including against Deontay Wilder
For Whyte, there is a lot more to lose than there is to gain, with the 32-year-old looking to get himself back to where he was eight months ago.
However, there is also plenty to gain, perhaps as much mentally as anything else. After his knockout defeat to Joshua, Whyte had developed into a genuine top-level contender, with ambitions to fight Fury, Wilder and of course, a rematch with his great rival.
But that was torn away from him with defeat – one that must have diminished some of his confidence, even if only subconsciously.
Whyte has remained as outspoken as ever heading into the bout, but exorcising his demons and putting the defeat to Povetkin to bed would surely do him the world of good mentally.
Perhaps more so, a win would put Whyte back on the map once more. He would once again stand among the elite of heavyweight boxing, and could potentially regain his status as WBC mandatory challenger.
Similarly to Povetkin, though with more time in his favour, Whyte would also draw his name back into contention to fight the other top contenders in the division.
However, after losing his mandatory position once, you do wonder whether Whyte would be more cautious in facing another risky opponent.
What does Povetkin have to lose?
With defeat, an eventual rematch with Joshua for all the belts would certainly be off the table
As stated, a win would see Povetkin retain his position as WBC mandatory challenger, with potential clashes against either Fury, Joshua or another top-level heavyweight to come.
However, a loss would prove disastrous for the veteran. After his stunning win over Whyte, would any other elite heavyweight risk giving Povetkin a shot should he lose on Saturday?
While he looked slow and cumbersome in the first four rounds, the power and precision he showed in the fifth was a reminder to the whole division of his threat.
And should he want another title shot, you’d assume he would have to work his way back into the position of a mandatory with defeat, with neither Joshua or Fury likely fight him on in a voluntary defence.
At 41-years-old, this is Povetkin’s last chance.
What does Whyte have to lose?
Whyte had also been targeting a rematch with Joshua after their highly entertaining 2015 bout
For Whyte, this really is a crossroads fight. If he were to lose, it’s difficult to see where he goes next.
Indeed, there is a domestic trilogy bout with Derek Chisora that would undoubtedly sell, and a rematch with Joshua would always be entertaining regardless of what happens.
In fact, fights with both Andy Ruiz Jr or Wilder would also go down very well among the public.
However, in being unable to secure a world title fight despite spending over two years as mandatory challenger, you have to wonder just what it would take for him to get a shot after another defeat.
It would take a lengthy comeback period, fighting perhaps a Michael Hunter, Joe Joyce or even a rematch with Joseph Parker, to eventually get back into the picture.
But with back-to-back defeats, his market value, powers for negotiation and consequential potential earnings wold be significantly diminished.
And for a fighter whose sole purpose in recent years has been to fight for a world title, it really would be a crushing blow.
Who can Whyte look to for inspiration?
Anthony Joshua put in a quality performance to avenge his shocking defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr
Lennox Lewis defeated Hasham Rahman in their rematch, before knocking out Mike Tyson
Whyte’s defeat to Povetkin was certainly damaging, but he can take heart from the fact that the punch would knock out out most, if not every heavyweight in world boxing.
He had dominated every round prior to the stoppage, and should he avoid Povetkin’s best punches this time, you’d think he would emerge victorious.
But if Whyte is experiencing any demons, he can look at two British heavyweights in particular for inspiration.
Of course, it’s his great rival Joshua who is the most applicable, given how recent his shock defeat to Ruiz Jr was.
Though Joshua’s defeat was undoubtedly more of a surprise than Whyte’s, his rematch victory was certainly impressive. The Brit entirely adjusted his game plan entirely, boxing a sensible fight on the outside and essentially jabbing and moving his way to victory.
And in fact, you could argue that Joshua’s two best performances in recent years have come since his defeat, with his following methodical breakdown of Kubrat Pulev also highly impressive.
Indeed, Whyte is not as versatile a fighter as Joshua, who boxed his way to Olympic gold in 2012. However, he has built himself back from defeat in the past, and there’s no reason to suggest he won’t once more.
Another figure to take inspiration from is the great Lennox Lewis, who also took an immediate rematch following his knockout defeat to Hasim Rahman in 2001.
Lewis’ defeat at the time was utterly shocking, with Rahman a 20/1 underdog. The Brit was expected to breeze past his opponent, but a stunning right hand in the fifth round left Lewis floored and unable to beat the count.
A determined Lewis returned to the ring less than seven months later and knocked out Rahman in the fourth, before claiming consecutive stoppage victories over legends Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko and retiring as an all-time great.
It is certainly not over yet for Whyte.
What has been said?
Whyte’s promoter Eddie Hearn also believes this is a make-or-break fight for the 32-year-old
Whyte’s promoter Eddie Hearn has echoed the sentiments that it’s a world title shot or nothing for the Body Snatcher in the build-up to the fight.
He told Sky Sports: ‘Dillian Whyte’s aim and our aim is to get him in the position to fight for the world heavyweight championship.
‘Without that, I don’t think he has any interest, career-wise. That is the ultimate strategy, aim, focus.
‘If he loses against Povetkin, that is out – and it’s not just out for six months or a year. That could be out forever.’
Whyte also recognises that this is a make-or-break fight, acknowledging the threat that Povetkin poses, but he is also highly confident that it will be he who is victorious this time.
‘He’s (Povetkin) a top fighter,’ Whyte told Sky Sports. ‘He had 200-odd amateur fights, winning everything, he has beaten top fighters.
‘But I’m coming for war on Saturday night. I’m coming to put the hurt on him as soon as possible. I’m coming to do damage.
‘I can knock out any man on this planet. I carry power in both hands,’ he added. ‘You’ve seen me knock out guys that don’t usually get knocked out.
‘Povetkin is tough and resilient but also very dangerous. I know what I need to do.’