Five famous Russian fighters have voiced their support for Alexander Povetkin ahead of his rematch with Dillian Whyte tonight, with some offering insights into what their compatriot needs to do to win the heavyweight clash again.
Former WBA Heavyweight champion Povetkin takes on Whyte in Gibraltar this evening in a sequel to their first meeting, which saw Povetkin rise from the canvas twice in the fourth round in the UK to KO the Jamaican-born Briton in the fifth in brutal fashion.
A list of noteworthy Russian combatants have backed Povetkin to get the job done again.
“Don’t say hop until you jump,” said a typically philosophical Nikolai Valuev, the boxing champion-turned-politican who has warned Povetkin not to overlook Whyte in pursuit of further glories.
“In the case of victory, Alexander can go on to target the title.
“I wish Sasha victory and I [hope] that he also thinks only about this fight, and not about what might happen after.”
Denis Lebedev, who once unified the cruiserweight division, said he was split on the outcome. “Alexander Povetkin is a friend of mine, of course, but my prediction is 50-50,” he told Ren TV.
“My heart will be rooting for Sasha, as always, but anything can happen. Let the strongest win.
“How can you not support your own? I meet a lot of people I don’t even know, but they know I’m a boxer, so they tell me, ‘you support Sasha – tell him we’re rooting for him.’ A lot of people support Sasha.”
MMA brawler Vladimir Mineev has also told the station that he will be cheering Povetkin on “as a countryman, as a paratrooper, [and] as a man who has repeatedly proved that the most difficult situations can turn in his favor.”
“He was an underdog,” Mineev explained further. “He lost four rounds, then changed the whole course of the fight at the last moment.
“I think that’s Alexander’s main strength in this fight. And the fact that he always goes to the end. [With] his steely character, he is dangerous to the very end.
“Going back to the last fight, I think that the 1,000 fans in the hall determined the result, which was at the end of the fourth round in the first fight, when Sasha, from a steep peak, struck the left uppercut and knocked Whyte out.”
Light-welterweight legend and former Povetkin coach Kostya Tszyu is praying that Povetkin will repeat his first win despite being a heavy underdog.
“I really hope that Sasha will repeat what he did in the first fight,” he told R-Sport. “Alexander’s huge experience will allow him to repeat this result.
“Whyte has a desire for revenge. He needs to be out of his comfort zone, so that he loses control of himself. We need to force Whyte into making a mistake. If he does, then Sasha will use it against him.”
While boxing great Evander Holyfield stayed neutral by wishing both fighters well, Russian MMA veteran Sergei Khartinov was unequivocal in a video the pair shot together ahead of Holyfield’s upcoming trilogy bout with Mike Tyson.
“We believe in your victory,” he told Povetkin.