Let me be honest with you right off the bat: As a boxing fan, I don't like Alexander Povetkin.
I don't like the way his career has been managed. I don't have a lot of respect for his accomplishments in the pro game. I have no respect for the phony title belt he carries around to call himself world champion.
I don't like that we've been treated to seven years of an Olympic gold medalist cherry-picking his way to a bogus title belt, and being called one of the best heavyweights in the world just because he's managed to not lose yet.
He's run screaming from signed fights against Wladimir Klitschko on two occasions. The first was set for December 2008, after Povetkin won a four-man eliminator tournament sanctioned by the IBF. The second was signed for June 2009. Again, Povetkin bailed, not even showing up to a press conference, which then memorably had Wladimir posing with a cardboard stand-up of his would-be foe.
Weights: Povetkin 229, Rahman 256
Alexander Povetkin has never made me a fan. But that doesn't mean I don't think he has the goods in the ring. For technical ability, Povetkin is one of the best in the heavyweight division these days. That might not be saying a lot, but his amateur credentials are legit, and so is his talent.
Tomorrow in Germany, Povetkin (24-0, 16 KO) faces Hasim Rahman (50-7-2, 41 KO). The nice way to put it would be that Rahman is a former world champion with KO power who once beat Lennox Lewis. But, well...
Those things are true, but he upset Lewis over a decade ago. And he hasn't been a real contender in years. Rahman's last chance in a big fight came in December 2008, when he was the guy called in to replace Povetkin against Wladimir Klitschko. It was a miserably one-sided fight, thankfully stopped in the seventh round. On one card, Rahman trailed 60-47 when the bout was mercy-killed. It was about as bad as it gets - not remotely competitive.
Rahman, now 39, has gone 5-0 since then, but how the WBA managed to name him a mandatory challenger is beyond any rational person's comprehension. His wins over Clinton Boldrige, Shannon Miller, Damon Reed, Marcus McGee, and Galen Brown wouldn't seem the sort to entitle him to a title shot. In each fight, he was out of shape and looked every bit like a part-time fighter. He peaked in that department in his last fight against Brown in June 2011, weighing in at 284 pounds, and saying flat-out after the fight that he didn't deserve any title shots:
"I can't be taken seriously as a legitimate title threat coming off of this fight. So I need a fight, as soon as possible. Next week, the week after, the week after - I need a fight. I need to get in contendership shape. To be taken seriously as a legitimate title threat, I need to win and win in Rahman fashion. Which is a devastating knockout. I really don't feel like I even won this fight. This was like a sideways step. I'm so disappointed."
He hasn't fought since then. So why is he getting this title shot? I don't know. Ask the WBA. Ask Team Povetkin. Ask Sauerland Event. Ask Greg Cohen, Rahman's promoter. But don't ask me, because I can't tell you.
This fight shouldn't be happening. I'm not saying Rahman shouldn't fight. If he wants to, he should. But you wouldn't guess that he's all that dedicated anymore. The 256 he weighed in at was a lot better than the 284 from the Galen Brown fight, so I guess Cohen didn't fib when he said that Rahman had gotten himself into better shape, but calling it good shape would still be a stretch. He doesn't look ready for a fight.
The only chance Hasim Rahman has in this fight is a big right hand that knocks Povetkin out. The good news is that Povetkin was hurt in his last fight by Marco Huck, a blown-up cruiserweight. Huck is a lot better than Rahman these days, and if those two fought I'd pick Huck. But I'm just saying, if a smaller guy like Huck can hurt Povetkin and have him in trouble, then Rahman can win with a bomb.
The question is, can he land that bomb? The answer, most likely, is no. For as much as Povetkin might have to fear about the pure power Rahman can generate, he doesn't have much to fear from a boxing standpoint. He should be easily able to neutralize Rahman's limited offense and box his way to victory. He could stop Rahman simply by gradually beating him up to the point he breaks Rahman down. Or he could win a fairly easy 12-round decision, leave with his belt, and find the next undeserving title challenger.
No cruiserweights in their prime, though. That got a little dicey.
Prediction: Povetkin in nine, when Rahman runs out of gas and folds