Boxing - Wladimir Klitschko v Alexander Povetkin: How Russia won the heavyweight war

Soviet savagery comes of age and crushes the American top division challenge once and for all when Klitschko and Povetkin of the Eastern Bloc meet in Moscow for one of the biggest purses of all time

It started 20 years ago with the usual Cold War jargon, a reference to a Rocky opponent called Ivan Drago and a lazy mention of an Eastern Bloc robot. They have all helped create a conflict between the East and the West in the ring. The war ends on Saturday night in Moscow when the 10-year struggle for control of boxing's heavyweight division finally becomes a crushing Soviet victory, leaving the Americans' decade-long search for a champion in ruins.

"The guy who was meant to be the next heavyweight champion of the world is playing football or basketball; it's that simple," said Don King recently, and yet 10 years ago he was confident a champion could be found; the mission has nearly ended, crushed by the volume of Eastern Bloc heavies.

There has been a brutal coup in the heavyweight division during the last decade and on Saturday, under triumphant beams and stirring trumpets, Ukraine's Wladimir Klitschko fights Russia's Alexander Povetkin for the world heavyweight title in a fight that ends the American heavyweight dream. The pair will split the second-highest ever guaranteed purse for the division, over 30,000 will be there live and 100 million will watch the fight on television in Europe and marvel at President Putin's tiny cameo.

The last American men to hold a slender version of the world heavyweight title were a decent but flawed group of individuals who swapped punches and belts in obscurity, mostly ignored by the fans who still remembered and cared about the giants that once ruled the sport.

Chris Byrd, Hasim Rahman and Lamon Brewster all lost their titles in 2006 and the veteran Shannon Briggs let go of his belt in 2007; they were barely the ghosts of champions past, but they did their best to try and halt or delay the Eastern Bloc onslaught.

In the last 10 years, eight boxers from the old Soviet empire have held a version or two of the heavyweight title, a reign of mixed blessings interrupted only briefly by David Haye's lucrative flirtation with the Goliaths of the sport.

Klitschko and his brother, Vitali, now have absolute control of the heavyweight division and regularly attract crowds in excess of 50,000 in Germany, where they are based, and television audiences of more than 15m. The current gang of American heavyweights, all of whom are a year or more away from being sent to Europe for slaughter, can only fantasise about the figures as they fight for peanuts on the undercards of lighter champions.

Povetkin has held a version of the world title since 2011, is unbeaten in 26 fights, was an Olympic champion like Wladimir, and is the reason why Vlad Hryunov, a Russian entrepreneur, bid over $23m (£14m) to promote the fight in Moscow.

The Klitschko brothers put in a bid for $7.1m and Povetkin's German promoter, Sauerland, went in with $6m. It is the largest guaranteed purse since Las Vegas hotelier Steve Wynn paid $32.1m for Buster Douglas against Evander Holyfield in 1990. There was a bid for $50.1m the following year from Dan Duva for Holyfield versus Mike Tyson, but Tyson went to prison on a rape conviction and Duva kept his cash.

Povetkin's apprenticeship was textbook perfect, something that the men and women looking after Anthony Joshua should study, and he beat a solid list of former world champions, challengers and faded bangers to get the crucial rounds.

In private the Russian, who was briefly marketed as the "White Tyson", took part in ferocious sparring sessions that were real fights and the men chosen to "test" him often left with as much as $10,000; they deserved every penny if the stories of savagery are true.

In 2009, a fight against Wladimir Klitschko was first mentioned and the brothers bid just less than $9m to promote it. But Teddy Atlas, the irascible American trainer who at the time worked with Povetkin, refused it. "My man is not ready, not yet. It's not a fight, not yet," he said. The pair split last year but Atlas believes that his former fighter can beat Klitschko. Atlas was also the man behind the closed-door fights and it seems his departure was hastened by his continual scepticism.

Klitschko has been in 23 world heavyweight title fights, winning 21, and his last 14 defences have mostly been controlled massacres with the men in the opposite corner often failing to win a round. Haye went 12 and was mildly competitive but wore the now familiar look of pain and confusion when the last bell tolled.

Manny Steward, the iconic American trainer credited with turning the last of the Soviet machines into a great fighter, never tired of the look. "They have no idea what has just happened, no idea that Wlad was that fast. I feel sorry for them," said Steward, who died last year and left in place two of his protégés, Jonathan Banks and Javan Hill, to continue his work.

The two world title defeats on Klitschko's record took place during a 13-month period and were both nasty stoppages. The loss to Brewster in April 2004 was also Steward's first fight with Klitschko; it was Klitschko's last defeat and in 2007 Brewster was beaten in six rounds. "I was destroyed when I lost twice. I was at the bottom and I had to fight my way back," said Klitschko. "People forget that time, forget how hard it was. I had to fight to save my career." Klitschko has beaten 10 Americans since the loss and all have been stopped or knocked out.

It will be an emotional night for the two Olympic gold medal-winners, the two veterans of a regime that created fighters, ballerinas and swimmers based on physical and mental tests when the subjects were still tiny children. It is fair to say that Soviet sport has come a long way since two little boys called Wlad and Alex first enlisted at their local academies. This fight is a very grand graduation and will be a proper test for Klitschko.

Klitschko v Povetkin is live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky channel 437, Virgin 546). Join at boxnation.com

Khan set for Mayweather fight

Amir Khan is expected to pull out of his scheduled meeting with Devon Alexander in December to fight Floyd Mayweather Jnr instead. Khan's camp insisted he would honour the bout with Alexander but it appears likely he will instead opt for a more lucrative fight with the unbeaten Mayweather in May.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Arts and Entertainment
Ella Henderson's first studio album has gone straight to the top of the charts
music
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

Life and Style
fashion
News
Paul Nuttall, left, is seen as one of Ukip's key weapons in selling the party to the North of England
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
Arts and Entertainment
artKaren Wright tours the fair and wishes she had £11m to spare
News
i100
Life and Style
Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh been invited to take part in Women Fashion Power, a new exhibition that celebrates the way women's fashion has changed in relation to their growing power and equality over the past 150 years
fashionKirsty and Camila swap secrets about how to dress for success
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Year 5/6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Permanent Year 6 TeacherThe job:This...

KS1 & KS2 Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: KS1+KS2 Teachers required ASAP for l...

Year 2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 2 Teacher The position is to wo...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past