Heavyweights Alexander Povetkin and Michael Hunter battled to a fierce draw in a world title elimination bout in the co-feature of the Andy Ruiz Jr.-Anthony Joshua rematch on Saturday at Diriyah Stadium in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
They were fighting to become one of the mandatory challengers for the winner of Saturday’s main event, but neither could claim the spot after a hard-fought and highly competitive bout.
Hunter, a former cruiserweight world title challenger, went right at Povetkin at the opening bell looking for an early knockout. He rattled Povetkin with an early right hand and made it a rough round.
In the second round, Hunter, who is trained by former heavyweight world champion Hasim Rahman, continued to go after Povetkin, whom he nailed with a straight right hand that sent Povetkin into the ropes. Povetkin responded by landing a heavy right hand in the final seconds of the round.
Povetkin (35-2-1, 24 KOs), 40, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, landed a powerful left hook that caught Hunter on the chin along the ropes and nearly dropped him in a big fifth round. They rocked each other in the close seventh round. Hunter (18-1-1, 12 KOs), 31, of Las Vegas, a 2012 U.S. Olympian, clipped Povetkin with a right to the body that hurt Povetkin, who spent the rest of the seventh round looking to tie him up.
Hunter had a big 11th round when he hurt Povetkin with a left hand to the body and followed up with two right hands that rocked Povetkin along the ropes and forced him to tie him up. Hunter later nailed Povetkin with a right uppercut in a dominating round.
There were several close rounds that could have gone either way, although Hunter dominated in terms of the CompuBox statistics. He landed 140 of 558 punches (25%), while Povetkin landed 95 of 393 (24%).
“I don’t make the score, so I don’t know what to say,” Hunter said. “I just have to get back to the drawing board. I thought I did enough [to win]. But obviously the judges didn’t think so. I hope that we have another chance to fight him again. I don’t like to leave any stone unturned so I definitely want to do it again.”
Povetkin said he was also game for a rematch.
“I think it was a 50-50 fight. I want to thank Michael Hunter for a good fight, a real good rumble,” he said through a translator. “I respect Michael a lot and I want to do it again.”
Hunter was facing his best opponent as a heavyweight in Povetkin, who twice had failed drug tests for banned substances but had suffered his only losses to top opponents — a one-sided decision to Wladimir Klitschko in a 2013 world title fight, and a seventh-round knockout Joshua in September 2018. Povetkin had won one fight since the loss to Joshua, taking a decision from Hughie Fury on Aug. 31.
Whyte wins decision vs. Wach
Heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte, right, outpointed Mariusz Wach in a unanimous decision victory. Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing
Heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte was not in top condition, but easily outpointed former world title challenger Mariusz Wach. Whyte won by scores of 98-93, 97-93 and 97-93.
Whyte, who weighed a career-high 271 pounds for the fight, had been controversially added to the card only a couple of weeks ago, even though he still had a doping violation hanging over his head, stemming from a test tied to his July 20 decision over Oscar Rivas. However, on Friday, United Kingdom Anti-Doping announced that it had withdrawn the charge against Whyte.
Whyte (27-1, 18 KOs), 31, of England, was clearly not at his best, having taken the fight on short notice, but he dominated Wach (35-6, 19 KOs), 39, of Poland. Whyte consistently landed his jab, as well as left hooks to the body — his best weapon — and head.
“I boxed nowhere near my standard,” Whyte said. “I’ve been off for six months, and people have been screwing me left and right. My mind hasn’t been in the right place, but I carried on training. I took this fight on three weeks’ notice, came in about a stone and a half overweight, but with my defense and stuff, I knew I could get through him. I wanted to stop him but he’s tough. It’s just good to be back in there. Everyone has been screwing me, apart from a handful of people. I’ve been through hell these past couple of months but we are here.
“I feel great to have even made it to the fight because where I was two or three months ago was a dark place. I thought about walking away from boxing. A few times I thought, ‘You know, I’ve made a bit of money, I can take it, run off into the night and live my life.'”
Whyte accomplished what he needed to in this fight — he got back into the ring and stayed on course for a likely title shot. He is expected to be re-installed as the mandatory challenger for titlist Deontay Wilder, now that the doping charge against Whyte has been dropped.
Wach and Whyte traded solid shots in the middle rounds when the action picked up, but Whyte appeared to have the edge. He also bloodied Wach’s nose in the seventh round.
Whyte tired in the later rounds and Wach had a solid ninth round. Wach stuffed his jab down the middle, swelled Whyte’s right eye and backed Whyte up as Wach rained shots on him as the round ended. Wach, who lost a near-shutout decision challenging then-world champion Wladimir Klitschko for the heavyweight title in 2012, landed a fight-high 36 of 81 punches in the ninth, according to CompuBox.
Whyte looked exhausted in the final round but was still able to land several solid punches to close strongly.
According to CompuBox, Whyte landed 198 of 635 (31%) and Wach connected with 167 of 555 (30%).
Whyte won his 11th fight in a row since a seventh-round knockout loss to Joshua for the British and Commonwealth titles in December 2015. Wach had a two-fight winning streak come to an end.