Alexander Povetkin hasn't been on the pro Heavyweight scene very long, but he's already attracted a lot of attention and is being touted by many as the future of his weight class. At 28 and only 13-0, he's two fights away from challenging for the title.
Why is he causing such excitement after so few fights? One reason is his stellar amateur record, which included an Olympic gold medal in 2004. His overall amateur record was 125-7.
Another reason is that in his pro career so far he's barely been challenged, knocking out most of his opponents in short order. In his latest fight against Larry Donald, Povetkin unanimously won all 10 rounds. His fighting style and skills are applauded by most boxing watchers as developed well beyond his limited pro experience.
That said, he does not rate very high in a "reward"-based system such as mine; Povetkin is still only #39 on my Heavyweight Top 100, a ranking that simply reflects the lower quality of fighters that he has been matched up with. The fight with Byrd will change all of that, of course; with a win, Povetkin would leap into the top ten, ready to meet the Eddie Chambers-Calvin Brock winner in the second round of the IBF tournament.
Here is an overview of Povetkin's progress in the rankings over his career. The rankings of the boxers are the rankings they held at the time of the fight.
After four wins over unranked fighters, Povetkin won a stoppage over #225 Willie Chapman in December of 2005 to join the list of ranked fighters at #87. His next win, a KO vs. #308 Richard Bango in March, 2006, didn't help his rating any, but a month later he decisioned #228 Friday Ahunanya. While this win only moved him up to #81, it brought him additional respect from the boxing world.
Over the next year he defeated four ranked opponents: #360 Ed Mahone, #294 Imamu Mayfield, #237 David Bostice, and #235 Patrice L'Hereux, all by KO or TKO, the final two both in the second round. Clearly he needed to face better competition.
These victories moved him into the top 50 for the first time. Most observers would rate him higher than this for the quality of the win as opposed to the opponent, but my system looks only at wins and losses. In May of this year, Povetkin defeated #76 Larry Donald in a one-sided fight. It was the first time Povetkin had gone 10 rounds as a pro. While many cited his skill at winning every round over a decent fighter, others were surprised he couldn't achieve the knockout in ten rounds.
Povetkin moved up to #42 with that win, and since he has drifted up to #39. For his noted skill and quality of his victories, Alexander Povetkin is rated in most people's subjective top 20. Unfortunately he hasn't fought the kind of boxers he needs to face to prove that he deserves such a ranking. That will change Saturday night. Chris Byrd will clearly be his toughest test as a pro, but with that risk comes the possibility of a great reward: the opportunity to be a fight away from challenging for the heavyweight title.