“Hope is medicine for a soul that's sick and tired.” Eric Swensson
In a year that has been every social norm and routine spun about its axis, boxing has not been immune.
Every crack and fissure that fans, be they avid or causal, have seen has been blown wide open through the disorientating mix of an economic decline, social distancing and a general apathy towards much of what we considered essential only six months ago. Many boxing fans are looking for that big fight to reawaken their love for a sport that has struggled to hold the passion and attention of the public in recent years.
Boxing is a sport searching to reassert its identity in a world that no longer makes sense. Unlike football, where broadcast contracts ensure the clubs remain solvent, boxing is nothing without its fans. To reinvigorate the sport and lift the mood, Eddie Hearn will offer us Dillian Whyte versus Alexander Povetkin on August 22 live on Sky Pay-Per-View.
More than simply a fight, this is the first opportunity to regain the hearts and minds of boxing fans at a time where the price for their attention has risen significantly. This will be the first opportunity that boxing fans have to hope for better times.
While they will be adversaries on fight night, so much unites these two men, a shared kickboxing history, a rudimentary skillset, and a functional approach to delivering brutal left hooks. However, they are also two starts on vastly different trajectories, one destined for a world title shot in 2020 and the other serving out a lucrative final run as a heavyweight star. At this point, it is easy, and maybe sensible to ask, where is the excitement in this fight?
The currency of this battle will be heavy leather. Brutal left hooks and right uppercuts
Fans will get to see two incredibly tough men collide head-on in a way that will remind us of many of the heavyweight clashes of the 1970s. Dillian Whyte, for all of his success and status within the sport, displays a vulnerability that the fans can connect with. He is as likely to hot the canvas as the Russian. Where he differs is in his resolve to resurrect his body and his will and overcome his opponent, reflected in his sole loss to Antony Joshua.
Alexander Povetkin, equally durable and iron-willed is blessed by the rare ability, from his kickboxing background, to manipulate distance and geometry to create knockout opportunities where none existed. Much like a leopard, he can appear inert and disinterested, before springing into life with devastating combinations. This makes him a challenge to all but the elite in the sport.
Where the excitement comes from is in the one man, Whyte, seeking to figure out the incalculable approach of Povetkin, who in contrast, must find a way to break the will of Dillian Whyte. The currency of this battle will be heavy leather. Brutal left hooks and right uppercuts will punctuate this fight and remind fans that this is a sport for that unique breed of human. One that relishes the reception and administration of pain.
The lockdown has created bumps in the road that both camps have had to navigate, and, created some uncertainty that may ultimately even up the odds. Dillian Whyte opted to spend the duration of the lockdown in Portugal, training. In contrast, Povetkin has spent much of the same period in familiar surroundings, but with similar challenges in relation to securing sparring partners to help his preparation.
The biggest variable will be the change in trainer for Dillian Whyte. Having split from long-time collaborator, Mark Tibbs, you wonder if five months is adequate time to embrace and master a different approach. The worst possible outcome is that Whyte becomes caught between the two styles when under pressure and fails to execute either.
For both fighters, the lack of a standard training camp protocol will disrupt their preparation. Both men have had to adapt and be creative in how they retain condition and sharpness. With both men having questionable stamina, the later rounds, if we get that far, will become a war of wills, which could propel this fight into ‘epic’ status like Whyte’s two fights with Dereck Chisora.
This could be the fight that brings boxing front and centre of the British sporting landscape
As fans, the delight in this fight will come from the bombs being detonated from all conceivable angles. If you enjoy the intensity and menace of two big men colliding this will be perfect. Add in the defensive frailties both men have shown on occasion along with the vast power both contain and fans are in for a treat.
This is ultimately, Whyte's fight to lose, but Alexander Povetkin can cause an upset on any given day. The people who cannot lose in this fight are the fans. Order the Deliveroo, get the drinks in and prepare to be entertained.
This could be the fight that brings boxing front and centre of the British sporting landscape. Visibility that boxing needs as it seeks to remain relevant in an ever-changing world.