Sunday, August 28, 2011

Notes from Povetkin-Chagaev, Helenius-Liakhovich

  • The Alexander Povetkin-Ruslan Chagaev fight was there for the taking.  Chagaev won rounds with his straight left hand while Povetkin scored with his high punch output.  The crucial factor in this fight was conditioning.  Povetkin was able to catch his second wind in the last third of the match while Chagaev's punch volume deteriorated.   
  • Chris Mannix, from the EPIX broadcast made a crucial point in round 11 regarding Povetkin.  He said, "It's almost if Povetkin realized that the best defense is good offense."  Essentially this was the determining factor in the fight.  If Povetkin continued to press on with his jab and combinations, Chagaev wouldn't counter.  In the middle rounds of the fight, Povetkin turned passive, or was conserving energy, and Chagaev unloaded some vicious left hands and right hooks.  As Povetkin raised his activity level, he swept the remaining rounds of the fight. 
  • Povetkin's power didn't faze Chagaev, but he won rounds with an array of punches and crisp combinations.  He's only a medium puncher at best.  For Chagaev, he had success with the lead left from rounds 4-6 and waited for more opportunities to land the punch.  However, Povetkin's work rate curtailed Chagaev's ability to set up the left.  Throughout the entire fight, Chagaev was unable to transition well from defense to offense. 
  • For Chagaev, this is a colossal setback.  Falling to Wladimir Klitschko is one thing, but to lose a winnable fight by getting outworked is embarrassing.  He did not have the energy or creativity to mount much of an offense in the last four rounds of the fight.  For a man they once called "The White Tyson," Chagaev more often looked like he was waving the white flag.  I don't know where he goes from here but any heavyweight who is active and can take his punch will fare well against him.
  • It's clear what Teddy Atlas has been trying to do with Povetkin.  Instead of flinging amateur-style jabs and token combinations, Povetkin is learning to sit down on his punches better.  Povetkin will never have intimidating power, but his punches score with expert placement and technique.  In the past he would nervously wing shots, now he is acting more cerebrally in the ring, taking advantage of the opportunities provided by his opponents.  Additionally, Atlas has made improvements with Povetkin's defense.  Povetkin used to have problems with getting out of range; he was very susceptible to counters after his offensive flurries.  His defense against Chagaev was much improved.
  • Povetkin's greatest attribute in the ring is his high energy level.  For a division that has been plagued by lumbering sloths (with the exception of the Klitschkos), Povetkin's activity level must surprise many fighters who are used to winning by throwing 20-30 punches per round.  Atlas wants to put more substance behind Povetkin's punches and you can slowly see some of the changes taking place.
  • Povetkin would stand no chance against the Klitschkos but he would have a legitimate shot to win against all others in the division.  Perhaps the biggest confidence builder from this fight was how well his chin held up to Chagaev's bombs.  In the future, some lateral movement would help him become less predictable.  
  • For Atlas, it certainly seemed strange to invoke Povetkin's late father between rounds as a motivational tactic.  I certainly don't know Povetkin well enough to determine whether that was a factor in him pulling away over the last few rounds.  Perhaps Atlas saw the obvious: the fight was winnable as long as Povetkin stayed aggressive.  Atlas believes that fights are most often won or lost between the ears.  It's impossible to say whether or not he inspired Povetkin in the last few rounds, but clearly Atlas will sleep well tonight, with his fighter beating a former champion with only three weeks of preparation.
  • Robert Helenius demonstrated why he is a force to be reckoned with at heavyweight.  With a beautiful ninth round knockout over Siarhei Liakhovich, Helenius put the division on notice that his power will be a factor against any heavyweight.  He fights with the knowledge that very few people can withstand 12 rounds of his right hand.  Helenius' accuracy is another asset.  He throws his right hand often and lands it frequently.  His uppercut and jab routinely hit the mark as well.
  • He seemed happy to trade on the inside because he knew that his opponent would be in range for additional right hands.  Helenius ate more left hooks than he needed to but I'm fairly certain that he wanted to draw Liakhovich in.  Team Helenius had studied the Shannon Briggs fight and correctly assessed that Liakhovich couldn't withstand too many hard right hands. 
  • The final knockout featured everything you would want from a heavyweight.  A jab set up the right hand, which led to a left hook.  He closed the show with another right hand and finished with a pulverizing left uppercut.  Ultimately, heavyweights aren't used to defending against so many different types of hard shots.   
  • However, his performance wasn't flawless.  He neglected his left hook in favor of the one-two.  He still needs to work on that punch.  It seems that of all of his punches, he is least confident in the hook.  It could have been a key punch in countering Liakhovich and that opening was there for him all night, but he didn't throw the counter left nearly enough.  
  • Helenius also didn't tie up Liakhovich on the inside.  He could have made the fight easier for himself by leaning on his opponent and using his physicality to wear Liakhovich down.  Additionally, Helenius kept his right hand too low.  Liakhovich had real success with left hooks to the head and body because of Helenius' glove placement.  If Helenius were ever to face a Klitschko, he would have to correct this flaw in order to have any sort of a chance.  Wladimir would pepper him all night with jabs and left hooks. 
  • For Liakhovich, he put forth a game effort and fought with more passion than at any point since the Lamon Brewster fight.  He was in good condition and his punch output was high.  However, his chin just couldn't withstand good right hands.  His success in the fight came at an enormous cost.  In order to get in close and land his power shots, he had to eat dozens of punishing right hands.  Liakhovich probably wasn't going to win this fight on the outside, but he had only a miniscule chance of winning a slugfest in close quarters.  His success in the 4th and 6th rounds was fool's gold, for it emboldened him to take more risks on the inside, playing into Helenius' strategy.  
  • Liakhovich has had a distinguished career.  He won a title and the Brewster fight was probably the best heavyweight scrap of the young century.  However, he was never the same fighter after that war.  In all probability, he is finished as a serious contender.  
  • Sauerland Event has moved Helenius aggressively and it will be fascinating to see who they will match him with next.  Perhaps it will be a fight with Tomasz Adamek, if he loses to Vitali Klitschko next month.  Another exciting possibility would be David Haye.  Whichever direction they decide to go in, Sauerland has a live heavyweight on their hands, one who has the talent and power to awaken slumbering fans of the division.    

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