Paul Wheeler previews Dillian Whyte’s heavyweight showdown with Alexander Povetkin
IF you are a British heavyweight embarking on a revenge mission, you would be wise to pick up the phone and give Harold Knight a call. This is exactly what Dillian Whyte did in October last year.
When Lennox Lewis avenged his defeats to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman, Knight was a part of his corner team. And when Anthony Joshua evened the score with Andy Ruiz Jnr, Knight had offered some words of wisdom in his role as an adviser in the lead-up.
In preparation for his pivotal rematch with Alexander Povetkin at Gibraltar’s Europa Point Sports Complex this Saturday (March 27), Whyte enlisted the services of Knight, who has been working with the 32-year-old Londoner at his training base in Portugal, alongside his coach Xavier Miller.
Nicknamed “The Shadow” in his fighting days, Knight challenged Rocky Lockridge for the IBF super-featherweight title in 1988, before being forced to retire that same year – at the age of 25 – due to medical reasons. The New Jersey native ended his career with just one loss in 20 outings.
Ahead of Povetkin-Whyte II, Knight has been stressing the importance of the jab for his man. With Whyte holding advantages in height, reach and overall size, Knight wants him to put his significant stature to good use. After the devastating and dramatic manner in which Whyte was knocked out in the first fight, balance and defence are other central components that the big Brit has been focusing on in camp.
In the initial bout seven months ago, Whyte enjoyed success with long jabs and thudding follow-ups during the opening four rounds – as evidenced by the two knockdowns that he scored in the fourth. But he switched off for one moment in round five and was made to pay. Two-time world title challenger Povetkin, a savvy, seasoned veteran, demonstrated his impressive pedigree and ring IQ by remaining composed, even when under fire. A former accomplished amateur, his subtle movements and superb technique afforded him the angle to launch the knockout blow.
A determined and daring duo, Povetkin, 36-2-1 (25), and Whyte, 27-2 (18), have each proven themselves to be ruthless finishers, especially when unleashing destructive left hooks and uppercuts. However, they are no strangers to being knocked down, and they have both been beaten inside the distance – Whyte twice and Povetkin once.
Although, like the sturdy Povetkin, Whyte is a strong inside fighter, the Brixton puncher will no doubt this time be more cautious when up close, having experienced the full force of his Russian rival’s power. As in the first meeting, both men will slash away at the body in order to create openings up top. With Chekhov’s Povetkin set to turn 42 later this year, Whyte’s energy-sapping shots to the midsection could well form a key part of his game plan.
Considering the brutal nature of his victory in August, it is not easy to pick against Povetkin, who, despite his advanced age, is still so dangerous. Yet with Whyte’s warring tendencies tempered somewhat following his painful previous experience, he possesses the boxing ability and strength of character to exorcise his demons and win the return clash. There will likely be thrills and spills along the way, but by controlling the distance to a greater degree and maintaining his concentration for the most part, Whyte can prevail on points.
The other 12-rounder on this Matchroom card, televised live on Sky Sports Box Office (UK) and DAZN (US), sees Bermondsey’s Ted Cheeseman, 16-2-1 (9), and Liverpudlian James Metcalf, 21-0 (13), vie for the vacant British super-welterweight crown in an enticing encounter. An ex-holder of the belt, Cheeseman is coming off a thrilling unanimous points triumph over the warmongering Sam Eggington in August. Metcalf, meanwhile, has only seen 32 seconds of action since stopping the rugged Jason Welborn in eight rounds to claim Commonwealth honours in June 2019.
Fit and tenacious, the two robust and skilled competitors boast fine variety and composure. Cheeseman has mixed with the better opposition, but has also been involved in the more punishing scraps. With this in mind, Metcalf is favoured to emerge victorious on the scorecards at the end of a fiercely fought contest.
A pair of unbeaten welterweights face off as Bermondsey’s Chris Kongo, 12-0 (7), and Portsmouth southpaw Michael McKinson, 19-0 (2), meet over 10 in another fascinating fight. While Kongo has yet to go past round nine, McKinson has completed 10 rounds on six occasions. Despite being the betting outsider, we predict a McKinson points win.
Up at heavyweight, expect Ipswich’s Fabio Wardley, 10-0 (9), to extend his sequence of early victories to 10 when he takes on Texas veteran Eric Molina, 27-6 (19). The man from Weslaco has twice challenged for world titles, yet all of his six losses have come inside schedule.
The third heavyweight bout on the show pits Hamburg’s Erik Pfeifer, 7-0 (5), against Chertsey’s Nick Webb, 16-2 (12). Webb can dig, but his German opponent – a double Olympian – can get through with enough clean strikes to force a stoppage.
An interesting super-featherweight matchup brings together Wembley’s Youssef Khoumari, 11-0-1 (4), and Birmingham’s Kane Baker, 14-7. It is not a straightforward one to call, but Khoumari looks the likeliest to earn a decision.
Rounding off the bill is Manchester’s Campbell Hatton, the son of British boxing legend Ricky Hatton. The 19-year-old makes his professional debut at super-featherweight.
The Verdict Familiar foes collide in an unfamiliar setting, with drama expected again.