I recently watched the first fight and the significant thing I noticed is that Whyte doesn’t do anything especially “good” or things which are noticeably elite. He’s a decent body puncher but it’s not a focus of his style. His technique is fairly questionable though its certainly improved from how it used to be. His foot work again isn’t elite and his power is relatively average for a top 20 heavyweight. With all this you’d think he wouldn’t have all that much success but his two best attributes or skills I haven’t factored in yet. He’s very tough and also has a huge amount of grit. If he needs to bite down and go for it he will and if he needs to hold on for the last 30 seconds to make it through a fight and win he will do even while clearly being out on his feet. The second thing which has elevated him to being successful is his jab. It’s not the best jab in the world but it’s consistent and in a heavyweight division where jabbing seems to be frowned upon it’s led him to victories against top twenty heavyweights who have forgotten the most basic punch.
In his fight with Alexander Povetkin I noticed Whyte wasn’t jabbing as much for some reason. It could have been part of the game plan to not jab a lot so that Povetkin can’t take advantage of it and counter over the top with massive fight ending overhands. It could be because hes with a new trainer or he could have simply forgot. We likely won’t ever know but I think it turned him from a solid top 10 heavyweight to a domestic fighter who can punch a bit but doesn’t have the fundamentals that the elites at the top of the division have. Povetkin took advantage of this by getting into range without any real problems and unleashing a sustained body attack throughout the fight which eventually set up the knockout. Povetkin consistently going to the body conditioned Whyte into thinking Povetkin was going for a body shot and then boom! Povetkin switches it up to the head and the fight is over. Povetkin’s use of feints to predict what Whyte was going to do combined with years of practicing technique enabled him to land the perfect punch and overcome his rising age.
The big question people ask is “can Povetkin do that again? It’s a once in a lifetime punch!” The simple answer to this question is yes he can do it again. This is a man who has dedicated his entire life to combat and perfecting the art form of separating men from their consciousness. A common quote is that power is the last thing to leave a fighter but I disagree. I personally think technique is the last thing to leave a fighter and for Povetkin that’s all he really needs to finish this fight.
While Whyte was winning the first fight it wasn’t the shut out the commentators made it out to be and it was clear Povetkin wasn’t rushing his work. He’d get inside land a few body shots or attempt a hook and get out of range again. I had it 2-1 to Povetkin after 3 rounds before Whyte dominated the 4th with two knockdowns. Povetkin survived the round and wearily went to his corner but had no panic on his face and seemed in no rush. The 5th starts and Povetkin continues his game plan of conditioning Whyte to expect body punches but this time finishes his combination with a punch to the head and finishes the fight with a brutal knockout. Nothing in this sequence was rushed and if you hadn’t watched the previous round you wouldn’t have known Povetkin was knocked down twice. Pietro Metastasio put it best “An old warrior is never in haste to strike the blow.” This applies to Povetkin who throughout the fight didn’t rush his work or over expose himself looking for the finish something Whyte did not do. In the last sequence if Whyte had simply focused on defense instead of looking for a counter hook he may have gone on to win the fight but instead his desire to finish the fight early cost him dearly in a fight he was winning.
We’ve established that Povetkin has the better technique, patience and has much more experience but what advantages does Whyte have? To put it in simple terms hes younger, bigger and is closer to his physical prime. I thought Povetkin looked slow compared to his old self and without his superb fundamentals he wouldn’t be competing anywhere near the world stage. This slowness means that Whyte has opportunities to catch him as he did in the fourth round of their first contest. He also doesn’t need to land as hard as he may on other opponents as Povetkin’s punch resistance has fallen apart in recent years and without his iron will he’d be but a memory of a heavyweight era which fully ended when Klitchscho lost to Anthony Joshua. Whyte has the power to stop Povetkin and if he can start using his jab again Povetkin will have to work harder to get into range to land his punches. This gives Whyte time to land his fight ending punch while not risking all that much.
This fight is one which can be decided by a split second but it’s also one that can be lost before the first bell ever rings. A bad game plan from either fighter could ruin their chances before they step in the ring however it’s Whyte’s game plan that I would be most worried about. Povetkin’s strategy already worked and being the shorter fighter he won’t want to change much as he has limited options to get into range. Whyte is the fighter who need’s to make adjustments but six months isn’t a long time to change a fighters style or come up with a game plan that the fighter will be able to carry out in the heat of combat. Povetkin recently contracted Covid and was hospitalized which suggests to me he’ll look even slower in the ring this time. His punch resistance has been declining harder than Corona sales did when the pandemic started and its only a matter of time before it cracks for good. Eventually time catches up to even the greatest of warriors and they are defeated by younger foes who finish what age has started. I think this will be the case in this fight as while Povetkin is the better fighter prime for prime I think at this stage of his career he’s on his final legs and Whyte will be the one to topple him over and win by stoppage in the seventh or eighth round after Povetkin holds a valiant last stand against both Whyte and father time himself.