For all the qualities an athlete can harness, improve and perfect in the sport of boxing, nothing can really match up to one big shot.
Dillian Whyte learned that in the most devastating fashion on Saturday night, as all of the maturity, composure and technique that he exhibited in the first four rounds against Alexander Povetkin were undermined – ridiculed almost – by one snarling uppercut.
That shot, the origin of which even its Russian owner will be unsure of, also made a mockery of the idea that a 40-year-old Povetkin – 41 next month – was plodding towards retirement.
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Sure, the 2004 Olympic gold medallist was essentially plodding on the canvas of Eddie Hearn’s Fight Camp ring in the promoter’s Essex garden, but that proved of no concern to Povetkin as his left hand swiftly scraped through the dusk and through Whyte’s jaw in the fifth round.
Twice Povetkin had gotten a closer look at that canvas in the fourth round, dropped to a knee by a right straight from Whyte before being dizzied by an uppercut later in the frame. Perhaps that latter shot gave him an idea.
The bell saved the Russian heavyweight, who – it then turned out – had saved his best shot for the next round to startle those few attendees and anybody watching at home into silence.
Whyte, who has spent the best part of the last year barking at WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury as well as old rival Anthony Joshua and American Deontay Wilder, was impressing against Povetkin with a biting jab, smooth head movement and lucidity in his decision-making.
But what followed in the fifth frame was more akin to something from a lucid dream; the sight of Whyte’s head snapping back and his towering shape tumbling to the deck was startling but undisputable, unnerving but unavoidable.
It defied the narrative that the Briton, making his first outing with a new coaching team, had built over the course of 10 meandering minutes and two more animated ones. But then, that is heavyweight boxing.
It is so often said that one big shot can change everything, so why should we be this surprised when it does?
That such a moment can still affect fans and fighters as it did on Saturday evening is a testament to the uniqueness of the sport, and it wasn’t just the narrative of the night that was torn, it was the narrative of the coming months.
Just as cleanly as Whyte’s head was torn from his shoulders by that saliva-spewing uppercut, the script for the next phase of the Briton’s career was ripped up by the proud Russian, who handed the ‘Body Snatcher’ the second defeat of his professional career.
Povetkin, whose celebration was suitably stoic, is now next in line for Fury.
That is, pending the common complications of boxing – the side of the sport that silences fans for the wrong reasons. Fury must first battle Wilder once more, and Hearn announced a rematch clause for Povetkin to take on Whyte again before the year is up.
For just one disarming, decapitating moment, however, none of that seemed to matter on Saturday.
Povetkin provided a reminder of how captivating boxing can be, and fans of the sport should be able to revel in that for as long as possible before the politics reassert themselves as the true rulers – the true wreckers of fate – in the heavyweight division.
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