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Alexander Povetkin’s one-punch perfection reminds Dillian Whyte of heavyweight snakes and ladders

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Saturday night proved one gamble too far for Dillian Whyte.

Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

“It’s one of those things, it just landed,” Dillian Whyte was overheard saying as the dust settled on the finale of Matchroom’s Fight Camp series. The 32-year-old’s chance for a crack at the WBC’s version of the heavyweight title went up in smoke in Brentwood, on an evening where we were all reminded how cruel the division could prove.

“I was bossing it. It is what it is. A rematch, let’s go,” he continued. Whyte was lobbying his promoter, Eddie Hearn, to invoke the rematch clause as soon as possible, with December already being targeted for the return. Povetkin is now the interim WBC champion — a position Whyte has fought tirelessly inside and out of the ring to acquire over the best part of three years.

It was a fight where Whyte looked to be stamping his authority. A slow start from the Briton saw Povetkin get some early joy, but after tasting the canvas twice in the fourth round – once from a left hook and once from an uppercut – the Russian looked certain to be stumbling into the third loss of his ageing career.

Povetkin looked every one of his 40 years; every round of his 15-year pro career, but as soon as his chances were slept on, the Russian found the best punch of his life.

It was a textbook knockout: jab, slip, left uppercut, goodnight. Whyte’s defences were on auto-pilot as he looked to press home the certain victory, with Povetkin serving up a Knockout of the Year contender in front of a silenced Matchroom HQ.

It wasn’t a punch from the Gods; it was technical brilliance from the Russian who has won close to everything on offer in the sport. Whyte’s habit of leaning over and leaving his head exposed cost him, unable to clamber back to his feet as he managed to in similar circumstance against Oscar Rivas.

Povetkin had been going to the body with his left for the previous 12 minutes. His decision to go upstairs caught Whyte cold and has breathed new life into a career that was hanging in the balance just one round prior.

It’s heavyweight snakes and ladders. The more you choose to roll the dice, the bigger the risk of sliding down the board and Whyte found the slipperiest and most venomous snake of them all, just as he was on the verge of reaching the top.

Detractors will say this result was a long time coming. Over the last four years, Whyte, now 27-2, has gone life and death with Derek Chisora and been dropped heavily by Oscar Rivas and Joseph Parker. His résumé has grown impressively, but the chinks in the armour were there and ready to be exposed.

It’s a huge part of the appeal of watching Whyte fight. His flaws and imperfections have helped turn him into a box office fighter in the U.K. – out of necessity as well as merit.

Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

The narrative surrounding Whyte’s wait for a world title opportunity has run away with itself, fuelled heavily by Sky Sports and Matchroom. Sure, no fighter with Whyte’s résumé has previously had to wait as long for a crack at a world title, but boxing politics have muddied that storyline slightly.

Whyte was offered ~£5 million to fight Anthony Joshua at the start of 2019, but that rivalry was left to marinate once more in hope for a larger slice of the pie further down the line.

Depending on how quickly the rematch is signed, this should, in theory, free up the possibility of seeing an undisputed heavyweight fight next summer. If Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury can pass their winter exams, there should be no reason for a further hold-up for the pair of Britons to fight next.

Just don’t tell Oleksandr Usyk or the WBO.

Dillian Whyte will be back. He’s a born fighter. He’ll be considered the favourite once again when the expected rematch lands and this second loss of his career will do very little to detract him from re-climbing the heavyweight pyramid. He may just have to wait a little bit longer.

“That’s what heavyweight boxing is about,” Whyte concluded to Sky Sports the morning after. And he’s right. Alexander Povetkin reminded us how captivating, intoxicating and jaw-dropping this sport – and division, in particular – can be.

Follow Lewis Watson @lewroyscribbles