PREVIEW: Alexander Povetkin vs. Bermane Stiverne
On Saturday, Alexander Povetkin and Bermane Stiverne will meet in Russia for the interim WBC heavyweight championship. It is a fight of great significance for both men, as it offers a shot at top heavyweight Deontay Wilder when he returns from injury.
Povetkin (30-1) will be the hometown favorite, a Russian former champion who was set to fight Wilder earlier this year. That bout was scrapped due to a failed drug test, but Povetkin was considered by the commission to be without fault.
The WBA (regular) heavyweight champion from 2011 to 2013, Povetkin was defeated for the first time in a unification bout with then-super champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Defeating Stiverne on Saturday gives Povetkin to fulfill the early promise of his career and earn the shot at Wilder that slipped away earlier in 2016.
Stiverne (25-2-1) is not seeking his first shot at Wilder, but rather redemption: The Haitian-Canadian faced the American knockout artist in January 2015 and lost his WBC heavyweight belt. Stiverne was the first fighter to go the distance with Wilder, and is hungry to prove that he’s a better boxer than he showed that night.
"I have only one goal: to re-enter the ring with Wilder," Stiverne said. "I wasn’t even interested in the title, I just want another fight with him. The way I lost to him…I will say this: this is not a loss that I can accept. I was out of shape, and I have something for him in a rematch. But right now my goal is to beat Povetkin, so all my thoughts are only about this fight. I circled the entire globe, and I did not come here to lose."
Though Povetkin is the heavy favorite, this matchup hinges upon the preparation that both men enter the contest with. At their bests, they’re both dangerous and aggressive boxers, and given their size that could mean a dangerous fight for either man.
Whichever fighter wins will have a date with Wilder, and their matchup is worth watching for that reason alone. Either Povetkin will rise to the occasion and live up to his potential, or Stiverne will prove that his best days are still ahead.