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Wladimir Klitschko vs Alexander Povetkin: WBA says fight has to happen by February 26

Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin may finally meet early in 2013, as the WBA has reportedly demanded that the two sign a contract and get in the ring by February 26.

Martin Rose
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

The WBA is reportedly demanding a fight between "super" heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and "regular" titleholder Alexander Povetkin, with saying that the sanctioning body has ordered the fight to happen by February 26, with a January 17 cutoff for negotiations. If a fight can't be made by then, the match would go to purse bid.

It's good news for obvious reasons. It's a fight that needs to happen, and should have already happened by now. Povetkin, 33, has twice bailed on past signed dates to face Klitschko, 36. The first time they were supposed to meet was in December 2008. Povetkin pulled out, leaving Klitschko to face washed-up Hasim Rahman. In 2009, Povetkin skipped out again, and Wladimir beat Ruslan Chagaev instead.

Since then, Povetkin (25-0, 17 KO) has led something of a charmed heavyweight existence. After beating Eddie Chambers to earn that 2008 fight with Klitschko, Povetkin hired Teddy Atlas as a trainer, and Atlas made the much-criticized move to drastically scale back Povetkin's competition, leading to fights against the likes of Teke Oruh, Leo Nolan, Jason Estrada, Javier Mora, and Nicolai Firtha.

In 2011, after David Haye dropped the WBA "regular" title in a fight with Klitschko, Povetkin was given a chance to fight for the vacant secondary belt against Chagaev, winning handily. That win led to defenses against Cedric Boswell, an overmatched American; Marco Huck, a cruiserweight titlist who gave Povetkin all he could handle; and most farcically, a nearly 40-year-old version of Rahman, who was out of shape and presented even less challenge than was expected.

For Povetkin, it's a fight that has to happen because, simply put, it's time for him to take this risk. At 33, he's not going to get better, any more popular, or whatever else someone might have hoped he would be before facing Wladimir.

But for Klitschko (59-3, 50 KO), it's a fight that has to happen because there's just nobody else for him to fight. Povetkin, an unbeaten titleholder (no matter how bogus) with a great amateur pedigree, is a far better opponent than anyone Wladimir ran over in 2012. Badly faded former cruiserweight champion Jean-Marc Mormeck was out of his depth in every way (perhaps the only major heavyweight fight of 2012 that rivaled Povetkin-Rahman for sorriness), Tony Thompson didn't even seem like he wanted to be there, and Mariusz Wach was tough and game, but also in over his very large head.

There are really no challenges left for Wladimir -- or even older brother Vitali -- so the best that can be done is match them with the toughest opponents out there. That did not happen in 2012 for either of the Klitschkos, with by far the best fight for either of them being Vitali's win over Dereck Chisora in February, which quickly became more memorable for the post-fight press conference antics between Chisora and fellow attention seeker David Haye.

Povetkin is the type of fighter that Wladimir and Vitali should be facing with what's left of their time in the sport. Neither has shied from facing the tougher "other" competition out there, nor have either of them been truly challenged in years. Povetkin may not offer any more resistance than anyone else has, but it's at least attractive on paper and more than "Klitschko vs Random Challenger #47."

It's time for Klitschko-Povetkin. Hopefully, both sides agree.

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