If you’re a heavyweight boxer and woke up Saturday morning thinking you had a legitimate chance to defeat Wladimir Klitschko in a prize fight, chances are no one really took you seriously.
But by the end of Saturday afternoon’s desultory Klitschko title defense at the decades-old Olympic stadium in Moscow, you may have picked up some believers by default.
Such was the paucity of speed, strength, power and, well, entertainment value the consensus heavyweight champion showed—or was forced to draw upon—while turning back the significantly less-than-daunting challenge presented by previously unbeaten ex-Olympic champion Alexander Povetkin.
At 26-0 and with a sterling amateur career that included super heavyweight gold at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece, Povetkin had at least a few people believing—cable giant HBO apparently among them—that he’d provide enough of a push to the Ukrainian to make for compelling television.
Those people and that cable network could scarcely have been more wrong.
Instead, a recurring loop of jabs, short left hooks and straight right hands, not to mention the combination of grabbing your opponent in a side headlock and leaning your 242-pound frame over his back while the referee pays no real attention, reduced the fighter nicknamed “White Lion” to “Stumbling Housecat.”
None of the three ringside judges gave Povetkin so much as one round—a penalty point in the 11th was the only thing keeping Klitschko from the scorecard max of 120—and anyone other than a blood relative of Povetkin would have been hard-pressed to differ too far than two or three for him.
Still, while he won easily and hardly broke a competitive sweat doing so, Klitschko did nothing to make any heavyweight he’s not already beaten think, “Oh no, I’ve got no chance with this guy.”
Rather, when it comes to on-the-record loudmouths like Tyson Fury, the largely ineffectual effort has already generated a fusillade of tweets—some admittedly more publication-friendly than others—proclaiming the damage he’d do if ever he gets a chance to share a ring with the four-belt champion.
While you may or may not believe the Englishman is more able to back up big words than countryman David Haye a few years ago, it seems more compelling on the surface to try to match Klitschko with a 6'9" guy who’ll talk trash and go out on his shield rather than another 6'2" one who shakes hands and plays follow-the-giant for 36 stiflingly dull minutes.
And speaking of tall guys with big knockout records, expect the biggest buzz after Saturday’s sleepwalk to revolve around the latest American hope—former Olympic bronze medalist Deontay Wilder—who officially hit the radar two months ago when he reduced former WBO titleholder Sergei Liakhovich to a quivering 232-pound mass in just 103 seconds.
Wilder stands an inch taller than Klitschko at 6'7", looks solid in his wheelhouse between 220 and 230 pounds and carries a hammer in his right hand that’s yielded KOs in 29 straight victories, forcing him to work just 49 rounds—an average of 1.67 per fight for those scoring at home.
A win over a guy like Liakhovich, who'd lost two straight coming in and hadn’t held a title belt since 2006, doesn’t provide irrefutable evidence that the five-year pro is ready to beat a guy on the Klitschko plateau. But it does push Wilder to the front of the line of next-tier guys who provide the best real chance of giving him a simple run for his money before he rides off into the Kiev sunset.
At this point, especially in the wake of Saturday’s snoozer, that might just be good enough.