In 2016, the heavyweight division has been gradually pushing back into the spotlight. There will be one last major heavyweight bout this weekend in Russia, when Alexander Povetkin faces former WBC belt holder Bermane Stiverne.
Neither man has fought yet this year. Stiverne is 38 and Povetkin 38, so neither of them can be viewed as the future of the division. But they should both be anxious to prove that they remain extremely relevant in the present.
Povetkin was the “next best” heavyweight during the later years of the Klitschko brothers’ reign at the top of the division. Povetkin won a gold medal at Super Heavyweight for Russia in 2004. By 2007, he had established himself as a contender. He defeated Larry Donald in June of that year and stopped former champion Chris Byrd in October. In January 2008, he beat Eddie Chambers.
Povetkin defeated Ruslan Chagaev for the “regular” WBA world title in August 2011. As I have written many times, WBA “regular” world titles are as phony as cubic zirconia, but the victory did make Povetkin the No. 1 contender for Wladimir Klitschko’s real world title.
Povetkin challenged Klitschko for that belt in October 2013, and lost badly, getting knocked down three times in Round 2 and losing every round. Still, it would have been interesting to see how the fight might have played out if the referee had been stricter with Klitschko about his non-stop clinching, which allowed him to make unfair use of his significant height advantage.
In 2014 and 2015, Povetkin put together the division’s best winning streak, knocking out four straight contenders. He was supposed to face Deontay Wilder earlier this year, but the bout was scrapped when Povetkin failed a pre-fight PED test.
Stiverne was briefly the WBC champion. After Vitali Klitschko retired to vacate the belt, Stiverne knocked out Chris Arreola in May 2014. He defended the belt against Wilder in January 2015 and looked absolutely listless, dropping a unanimous decision.
I expect Povetkin to handle Stiverne with relative ease. A knockout would not surprise me. I only hope he can remake a fight with Wilder next year.